DFCU, Opponents Prepare For Meeting

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DFCU Financial Credit Union has confirmed it will hold a special meeting of members to vote on a recall of the board, but at press time had yet to provide a date or location for the meeting.

In accordance with its bylaws, the credit union has until before May 18, 30 days from the date that more than 1,700 petitions supporting the recall were presented to the board, to hold the meeting. The recall was launched in response to DFCU Financial's plan to convert to a bank, a plan it has since withdrawn following member protests and the petition drive.

In the meantime, DFCU Financial has been sponsoring a marketing and media campaign urging members to vote against the recall, suggesting changing the board could put the members' money "into jeopardy." It has also created a website (savedfcu.com), erected a billboard, and plastered the same message on a truck that it has been using elsewhere: "Vote NO. No change. No recall."

Representatives of the credit union have declined to provide any comment to The Credit Union Journal, but Kim Ward-Gabbert, PR director at DFCU Financial, told The Detroit News, "There will be a special meeting. We haven't decided on a date yet. We're still trying to gather information so we can fully inform our members of what they are voting on when we notify them of the special meeting."

Margaret Blohm, representative of DFCU Owners United, the group that has been fighting the conversion and which organized the board recall, told The Credit Union Journal last week the group still had not received word from the credit union about the special meeting or a letter it submitted to board chairman Harold Lowman that listed 12 suggestions to reduce the possibility of disagreement between the two sides.

List of Suggestions

Among the suggestions, it asked that the meeting be held at a hotel that can accommodate as many as 1,000 people and that it be held during non-working hours, preferably on a Saturday morning at 11 a.m.

In addition, it suggested that an independent professional run the meeting to assure it is conducted in a manner that does not favor any particular position, that neither party be allowed to campaign on meeting premises, that an independent auditing firm to act as an inspector to conduct and control the voting process, and that an NCUA representative monitor the meeting.

The letter, written and signed by Delores Gariepy, treasurer of DFCU Owners United, also stated, "At the meeting, a representative of DFCU Owners United should have the right to speak to the members on why the members sought the special meeting to remove the directors." She added that each director subject to removal should be given equal opportunity to speak on his or her own behalf.

Deadline of May 18 For Meeting

According to DFCU's bylaws, officials must call the special meeting on or before May 18, 30 days from the date that more than 1,700 petitions supporting the recall vote were submitted. DFCU officials must also notify members by mail at least seven days before the meeting.

Last week, DFCU Owners United launched the first part of a media campaign to encourage members to attend the special meeting to oust the nine board members that supported the bid to convert the CU to a mutual savings bank. Last week, ads with similar messages began appearing in local papers.

The campaign came on the heels of a separate campaign by DFCU Financial to drum up support for the board. It included a special website at www.savedfcu.com that offers a dire prediction should the recall effort succeed. "...By attempting to remove the board, your money could be in jeopardy." Credit union employees also passed out flyers urging members to "Protect your money, save your credit union - Vote NO! NO Change - NO Recall." A Ford delivery truck parked in plain view at its Fairlane branch directly across from a major shopping mall on Wednesday touted the same message in large letters on three sides.

DFCU Owners United members have questioned not only the tactic that draws attention to the fact that the CU now wants to be saved after withdrawing its application to convert it to a bank, but is using members money to spread its message.

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