Special Meeting Now Set On Conversion, Board Recall

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Officials at Columbia Credit Union last week scheduled a special meeting of its members for March 28 after a state court ordered them to set the session to allow members to vote on the unprecedented recall of the credit union's board of directors.

In ordering the special meeting, Clark County Superior Court Judge Roger Bennett gave wide latitude to credit union officials on the details of the ballot, only finding that state law requires the credit union to honor the disputed member petition, signed by 3,600 Columbia members angry over the failed bid to covert the credit union to a mutual savings bank.

The petition also called for the recall of the directors who voted for the conversion.

That's what members will vote on at the March 28 special meeting.

While dissidents had originally sought to recall all nine directors, one director named on the petition, Columbia President and CEO David Doss, has resigned from the board and been replaced.

Since his replacement is not named on the recall petition, that position will not be up for vote.

The meeting will be held in the gym at nearby Hudson's Bay High School, which seats about 4,000.

Avoiding Confusion

To avoid confusing members, who were scheduled to vote on four board vacancies just 30 days later, Columbia officials last week postponed the regular annual meeting.

Credit union officials said last week they have taken several measures aimed at avoiding the controversy caused by last fall's conversion vote, which NCUA found was plagued by irregularities and illegalities.

The credit union said it hired an independent ballot management firm to distribute, receive and count the ballots, something that was not done in the disputed conversion vote.

Credit union officials also said they will use the broadest possible voting eligibility criteria guidelines, as NCUA ruled that thousands of eligible voters were not allowed to cast votes in the conversion ballot.

To oversee the ballot process Columbia hired Integrity Voting Systems, based in nearby Everett, Wash., which has overseen elections for the Screen Actor's Guild, the California Bar Association and several Washington counties.

Broadest Possible Voting Eligibility

The credit union said it will use the broadest possible voting eligibility criteria, which will stretch the eligible voters to as many as 69,000.

The credit union will also hire an independent parliamentarian to conduct the special meeting.

The unusual ballot will allow members to either vote by mail prior to the meeting or in person at the meeting.

"We are committed to an election process that offers every assurance of fairness and neutrality. The use of a confidential mail ballot will promote and protect member involvement," said Columbia Credit Union Board Chair Karen Martel, who is up for recall under the ballot.

Hoping For An Equal Opportunity

Members of Save Columbia Credit Union said they were pleased with the setting of the meeting and hope credit union officials will provide an equal opportunity for their group to explain their case to members.

"We hope we're given an equal opportunity to tell our story," said Steve Straub, a spokesman for the group and former CEO of Columbia.

Doug Schaefer, an attorney representing the dissident group, said there will be several factors deciding the outcome of the recall effort.

"It's going to depend on which side is able to rally support," said Schaefer, who expressed confidence in the balloting procedures announced last week by the board. "I look at it from the perspective of what the management and the board have said. They say they want to be fair and hold a public process."

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