Association, eight of them very publicly as president. But it all ended quietly in a single closed-door meeting. On Oct. 29, at the annual convention, while credit union executives combed vendor stands for freebies to bring back to their kids, the trade group's top leaders decided Mr. Swoboda's fate, CUNA sources said. But the 1,500 conventioneers were not told that Mr. Swoboda was being forced out. Instead, he and CUNA chairman Peter DiSylvester wrote up a skeletal news release Monday morning that said Mr. Swoboda had chosen not to renew his contract - a story virtually no one believed. Mr. Swoboda left town on a plane not long after the release was finished, and a few copies languished in a press room for reporters to pick up. Glum-faced CUNA employees, some of whom had worked with Mr. Swoboda for more than a decade, generally kept their mouths shut. And some convention attendees were miffed that they had to get the news from outsiders. "Well, I'm glad I had to hear it from you," one California industry official grumbled to a reporter. Still, credit union officials are a gossipy group, and once word started to spread through the 45 acres of the Wyndham Anatole Hotel, there was no stopping it. The official line finally was disseminated Tuesday in a daily newsletter CUNA distributed at the convention. Attendees snatched copies off the stands immediately. Most credit union officials interviewed for this article said Mr. Swoboda was the fall guy for a series of high-profile reverses suffered by the trade group this year, including a $2.4 million operating loss for the first nine months and lobbying setbacks. Other sources said there also were personal frictions between Mr. Swoboda and some of the leadership. Some speculated that state league officials, troubled by a review of the association that might dilute the leagues' power, supported the ouster. "It's kind of a surprise to me that it happened," said John Simmonds, chief executive of Bay Gulf Federal Credit Union, Tampa, Fla. "I think he did as good a job as someone could do in the circumstances he was operating under for as long as he did." John Hale, a senior vice president of Teachers Credit Union, Texarkana, Tex., said: "He is a class act. He's a gentleman. I think that, looking back, people are going to appreciate him more." Sources said that further bloodletting might take place in the trade group's Washington and Madison, Wis., offices. "There are probably some people who are worried about their mortgage payments," said one industry source. *** In an ironic prelude to the turmoil to follow, National Credit Union Administration Chairman Norman E. D'Amours took a conciliatory tone in his Oct. 28 address. At CUNA's annual gathering last year, sparks flew when Mr. D'Amours defended a rule to sever shared management between the trade group and corporate credit unions. The association later sued the agency over the regulation. Now that the suit has been settled in the regulator's favor, Mr. D'Amours emphasized the common interests between the agency and the industry, such as extending services to poor communities and resisting legislative assaults by bankers. "Whatever divides us pales into insignificance compared to what unites us," he told trade group officials. In a media conference after the speech, Mr. D'Amours denied he was trying to extend an olive branch. Nevertheless, that's how many trade group officials took his speech. "I thought it was an excellent speech," said Carroll Beach, president of the CUNA-affiliated Colorado Credit Union League and a frequent critic of Mr. D'Amours. *** Eyebrows were raised by a front-page story in the Oct. 26 New York Times disclosing that Sen. Alfonse D'Amato has played poker with two sometime credit union lobbyists - John Cholakis and former congressional aide Curt Prins. The story suggested that the late-night poker games allowed lobbyists a degree of intimacy with the Senate Banking Committee chairman that ordinary citizens did not enjoy. Some credit union executives in Dallas felt the story further sullied the industry's "white hat" image. Cracks about gambling and cards could be heard throughout the week - along with lamentations that the poker games had not helped the industry kill a D'Amato bill that would beef up federal oversight of federally insured state-chartered credit unions. Indeed, CUNA leadership seemed to think the revelation would have little impact. "I don't mind that they played poker with him," CUNA vice chairman Buck Levins said at one meeting, "I just hope to hell they lost." *** As controversy lapped around the convention, conventioneers flocked to an Oct. 31 session to hear about something undeniably good: how the industry rushed to the aid of a credit union destroyed in the Oklahoma City bombing. After that attack, which killed 18 of Federal Employees Credit Union's 33 employees, more than a dozen credit unions from across the country contributed staff, space, or equipment to help get the credit union going again. An industrywide fund-raising effort pulled in more than $1.5 million for survivors and for the families of the slain. Besides getting help from other credit unions, Federal Employees received hundreds of sympathy cards from its members, said Florence Rogers, its chief executive, who was present at the blast. Some of the members worked with federal agencies that helped dig people out of the ruined Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. "They literally took care of the credit union, and they literally cried with us because they loved our employees," Ms. Rogers said. The credit union is back on its feet in another location, but its staff still needs more time to heal completely. "We have some beat-up file drawers" of records from the old headquarters at the new location, Ms. Rogers said. "Right now we're literally emotionally unable to deal with those, but some day we will."
Save $400 off your subscription. Special offer ends April 30, 2017.
No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.
Have an account? Sign In