Judge Orders Special Meeting To Vote On Columbia Board

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A state court last week sided with dissident members of Columbia CU and ordered the beleaguered credit union to hold a special meeting where members can vote on the recall of the board of directors.

"Defendants (Columbia CU) are compelled to give notice and schedule a special membership meeting, consistent with statutory requirements, at which special membership meeting a vote will be held on whether or not to remove the designated members of the Board of Directors still holding office," wrote Judge Roger Bennett, of the Clark County Superior Court, in an order enforcing a petition signed by 3,600 members of the credit union.

The judge scheduled a meeting of the parties for today to discuss the date, time, location and other details of the special meeting.

Lloyd Marbet, a Columbia member who initiated the petition drive for special meeting after the controversial vote to convert the credit union to a mutual savings bank, said his fellow dissidents, calling themselves Save Columbia CU, still want the special meeting even though the conversion vote has been invalidated by NCUA, in order to hold the directors accountable for their support of the ill-fated conversion.

"This credit union has consistently failed in its efforts to convey the idea that they represent the members best interests," said Marbet. "I had basically thought that the board had been misled by (Columbia President David) Doss, but now it appears that they're in lockstep, that they're in cahoots with him."

In requiring the special meeting, Judge Bennett tried to address the credit union's concerns by ordering that a mail ballot be held in conjunction with the meeting in order to allow as many of the credit union's 59,000 members to vote on the unprecedented recall. Because Doss resigned his seat on the board last month, only eight of the nine board seats will be at stake in the special election.

The board had rejected the dissidents' petition in January, ruling that by allowing 3,600 members to force a vote on the board would disenfranchise the other members of the credit union, who were given three different opportunities to vote by mail on the failed conversion.

The dual voting on the recall, according to a long-time credit union legal observer, is in itself, unprecedented, as petitions typically ask for a public vote at a special meeting.

Steve Straub, another leader of Save Columbia CU and a former CEO of the credit union, said he hopes the credit union will provide equal opportunities for dissidents to publicize their candidates to replace the sitting board members. "I'm hopeful they will allow us to put out information as to why we seek to remove the incumbents; and that the process is fair an equitable," said Straub. "The credit union has obviously been spending tens of thousands of dollars in advertising to portray the group as a bunch of radicals bent on a hostile takeover."

"Our group is assembling a very qualified group of candidates for the board," said Straub, who is expected to run for one of the board seats. "I think ultimately, when members see the group of candidates they're going to be impressed."

Credit union officials did not return several phone calls seeking comment.

A bare majority of the credit union's members, 52%, voted to convert to mutual savings bank last fall but that vote was invalidated by NCUA after a 10-week review that found widespread irregularities and improprieties in the ballot. As a result, the Columbia board decided to indefinitely table the conversion.

Judge Bennett ruled that a vote to rescind the conversion ballot, which the petition also asked, was now moot and does not need to be revisited in the special meeting.

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