CEO Contests Rival's Eligibility In Election For CUNA Board Seat

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LINCOLNWOOD, Ill.-CUNA board races are typically pretty straightforward, but not the race for the District 4 Class A board seat.

Dennis Fisher, CEO of the $5-million First Security CU, is contesting the candidacy of Pat Wesenberg, CEO of the $168-million Central City CU in Marshfield, Wis., for the seat representing the smallest CUs, those with fewer than 21,000 members. Fisher, also running for the District 4 seat, told Credit Union Journal that Wesenberg's CU has totaled more than 21,000 members since the March 2009 Call Report.

"Why people on the CUNA board and the nominating committee would allow this to happen is just plain wrong," Fisher stated. "This is outside the law and their own set of limits for a small credit union position on the CUNA board. I wonder if it could be because Ms. Wesenberg is up to become the next board chair?"

But CUNA and Wesenberg have responded by pointing out the Central City CEO is qualified to run for another term since she is also government affairs liaison for the nearby 5,400-member Marshfield Medical Center CU. Wesenberg said she has held that position since August. "Our bylaws state that anyone who is a director or an employee of an affiliated credit union within the appropriate class can run for the CUNA board," explained Eric Richard, CUNA general counsel. "Nothing in the bylaws addresses or prohibits situations where someone is employed by more than one credit union."

Wesenberg said she has collaborated with Marshfield Medical Center CU for years, and its CEO, Carol Adler, offered her the position. "So I cleared it with my board, the CUNA executive committee, and the CUNA executive board, and then checked with CUNA to make sure this was within the bylaws, and everyone cleared it. But it has certainly stirred up controversy with people who are running against me."

Fisher, who runs an 877-member CU, challenged the arrangement, alleging that Wesenberg holds the position only as a means of qualifying for the CUNA board. "It is laughable that she gets to run because she is a government affairs liaison for a small credit union. How many small credit unions can afford a government affairs liaison? Why not have a small credit union appoint the president of a billion-dollar CU its government affairs liaison so we can have all big credit union leaders serving on the CUNA board."

Wesenberg acknowledged she took the position at MMCCU when she realized Central City's membership exceeded 21,000, but added she is doing work for Marshfield. "I provide monthly reports on state and national government affairs activity to the Marshfield board," she said. MMCCU's Adler confirmed Wesenberg is supporting her $50-million credit union, stating that Wesenberg was hired in September 2010 and has provided one report to the board at press time. Adler declined to provide a copy of Wesenberg's report to Credit Union Journal and would not disclose Wesenberg's salary.

Fisher, however, is questioning the timing of Wesenberg's MMCCU hire, and why she did not make the move earlier when Central City first passed 21,000 members; it reported 22,910 members on the March 2009 Call Report. The spike came from a merger with Stevens Point CU in Stevens Point, Wis. But Wesenberg said she was not aware of Central City's actual member total from the point of the merger up to June 2010, due to different data processing platforms. As of June, she said, she became aware of the total number of members.

Fisher said he is considering a legal challenge to Wesenberg's candidacy. "I hope it does not have to go that far," he said. "I don't want this to become a legal challenge because it will be an embarrassment to (CUNA President Bill) Cheney, CUNA, Ms. Wesenberg, and to the whole credit union movement." Wesenberg countered: "I would not do anything that embarrasses me, my credit union, my board, or the CUNA board. However, I can't see anything that would cause me to step down at this point and I have made my decision."

Brian Smith-Vandergriff, Kansas City, Mo., and Pat Drennen, Comanche, Iowa, have also been nominated for the District 4 Class A seat.

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