A Private Meeting

It is my understanding that the Vermillion Area Arts Council met last night in a private home for the purposes of turning over power to an ad hoc Board of their own choosing. A few people were contacted about the unadvertised meeting, and some of those people were asked to become part of this ad hoc Board.

I do understand that with the recent bitter cold, the Washington Street Arts Center would have been extremely uncomfortable as a meeting place. I took the liberty of calling the public library to find out if their Community Room was open last night (it was). This might have provided members the opportunity to attend a public meeting (if they knew about it).

I also understand that a note was left taped to the Arts Center door indicating the address of the private home in which the meeting took place–though had a member not been part of the grapevine, they would not likely have ventured out in below-zero weather to a meeting they did not know was going to take place.

I can certainly understand if the recent Board felt somewhat threatened by remarks made at last week’s public, advertised meeting. But a summary of the remarks made to the Board by members there would read something like: Be public. Be open. Follow the ByLaws. Be responsive to the membership. And the caveat: Be careful–because if you don’t do these things, you are in danger of incurring a lawsuit by the membership–especially if you proceed with selling the membership’s property.

That these requests for openness and adherence to the ByLaws have become more and more vociferous over the past few weeks is indicative of the Board’s continued disregard for clear, open, public action and communication, and a failure to adhere to the ByLaws.

Because I was not at last night’s meeting, I can only relate that I heard about the meeting and the subsequent change of venue only yesterday afternoon, and that a friend “crashed” the meeting toward the end and was filled in by those who were invited on what had taken place there. She, in turn, filled me in. I have related only those details that seem easy to prove.

If I am wrong, and written notice of this meeting was given fourteen days in advance as is required by the ByLaws, I would like to be corrected. I do understand that the ByLaws provide a provision for notification of meetings of the Board two days in advance–did this happen, and how? In this case, the meeting appears not to have been a simple Board meeting, but a mechanism for turning over the entire Board to a few individuals of the Board’s own choosing. On the resignation of the entire Board, shouldn’t the membership have a say in an open, public meeting?

I should make clear that it is not my, or any other member’s that I have talked to, intention to “take over” the Board. What we want to see is open meetings and an open nominating process by the membership. We want to see a Board that knows its own ByLaws and follows them and is clear about their intentions. I have expressed my willingness to come back and serve on the Board, but that should not be misconstrued as a desire to power-grab. The Board serves at the pleasure of the membership, and the power resides in the membership.

It seems a good time for the membership to take that power back.

I should add that it is my hope that the intention of this meeting was to enable an ad hoc Board to call a public meeting in order to allow the membership the opportunity to create an ad hoc Board of their own choosing.  However, the privacy and secrecy in which this action was carried out seems contrary to the calls for public, open, and clear communication that respects the sovereignty of the membership and the Bylaws of the organization.


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