Chamber retains interim board

A special meeting of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce on March 20 set the stage for a stronger organization.

Close to 150 chamber members packed the Guy Cole Convention Center after a group calling themselves the Concerned Chamber Committee called on the chamber president to set the special meeting.

Although there were several agenda items, the key purpose was to vote on removing the interim board and replacing it with an entirely new board.

Walt Schubert, who recently stepped up as interim board president, chaired the meeting that began with a vote to amend the bylaws in order to be able to remove the board members with a two-thirds majority vote.

Interim board vice president Mike McAleer admitted the bylaws needed to be revised after several in the audience remarked they hadn’t been updated for several years.

“Our bylaws are far from perfect,” McAleer said.

McAleer noted when he was chamber president in 2004 the bylaws didn’t get updated as they should have.

“We have conflicts with the RCWs. There’s certainly nothing that in our bylaws that deals with what occurred on Feb. 12,” McAleer said, referring to the chamber meeting that ended with the resignation of 11 board members after the board fired executive director Lee Lawrence.

The change to the bylaws passed 133-20.

The second agenda item called for approval to allow a special election that would take place only once.

“This is just for tonight,” Schubert told the membership.

The motion passed 143-9, laying the groundwork for the third item, the removal of the standing board members who included Hattie Dixon, Ron Gilles, Annette Hanson, Deborah Rambo Sinn and McAleer. Schubert and Irrigation Festival representative Jean Wyatt were excluded from the vote.

Robin Ferre, co-owner of Latte 101 and a member of the CCC, made the motion to remove the interim board members.

“Do you really want to remove them?” asked chamber volunteer Esther Nelson. “Does everybody want to get rid of some good people?”

Another chamber member asked what the board did to deserve removal.

“It’s not so much what they did, it’s what they didn’t do,” said Ron Ferre, co- owner of Latte 101 and co-chairman of the CCC.

Larry McHugh, a former board director, called the meeting the “dumbest, most ridiculous meeting I’ve ever seen.”

After more discussion, the vote was taken, with members in good standing checking a yes or no box and placing ballots into cardboard boxes for validation by an impartial election judge, Sequim Bible Church pastor Dave Wiitala.

The resolution to remove the board failed, with 69 voting for removal and 84 voting to keep the board.

“There is not a two-thirds majority, so the existing board exists,” Schubert said after the votes were counted.

The board now has seven vacancies to fill. Rambo Sinn read 21 nominees for the vacancies. Any further nominations may be sent to Rambo Sinn by March 30.

Elections will take place in early April, she said. A committee to review nominees has been appointed by Schubert.

McAleer said he would resign shortly after a new board has been seated, which was his plan from the beginning.

Byron Nelson, former Sequim Police chief, thanked Schubert and the present board “from a grateful community.”

In turn, real estate broker Linda French asked for a round of applause for the CCC for demanding more accountability from the chamber board.

”We can’t just close our eyes and pretend nothing happened,” French said.

As for hiring a new executive director, Schubert said that would not happen until a full board is seated.

“It wouldn’t be fair to hire a director without a board,” he said.

Schubert told the group he will step down as soon as the new board is commissioned.

“I want to be done by the end of May,” he said.

Schubert also is gathering a bylaws committee that will report back to the board 30 days after the review of the bylaws is complete.

“It’s not an easy thing to do,” Schubert said of rewriting bylaws.

The meeting adjourned at 8 p.m., much more quickly than many thought when arriving at 6 p.m.

Hattie Dixon breathed a sigh of relief when the gavel closed the meeting at 8 p.m.

“This is a good first step,” Dixon said, fielding congratulatory remarks from chamber members.

“But there are still challenges ahead.”

The 21 current nominees for positions on the board are Dale Barrell, Ron Bell, Arturo Briseno, John Carson, Scott Clausen, Jacques Dulin, Robin Ferre, Ron Ferre, Dorothy Gonzalez, Allen Grant, Liz Beth Harper, Linda Harvey, Bill Head, Bill Humphrey, Damien Humphrey, Charles Martin, Sandy Placek, John Rosaschi, Gil Simon, Kevin Wall and Emily Westcott.

Chamber members have until March 30 to petition (signed by 10 chamber members in good standing) for additional nominees. Send petitions to Deborah Rambo Sinn c/o Olympic Music School, P.O. Box 2796, Sequim WA 98382, or deliver to a lockbox at 319 1/2 W. Bell St.

Ballots for the upcoming election will be sent by mail to all chamber members after April 1. Members are instructed to cast their ballots and return them by mail.

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