Once again the Marquette Neighborhood Association Board showcased their disdain for a proper process of governance. This time they couched their shameful antics in the guise of a pandemic urgency. At least they are staying current with the times as an excuse for their behavior. They usually just act rashly with no cause given.
The agenda notice for Monday night’s meeting, which was sent to the membership via the listserv with about 12 hours advance notice, contained a most disturbing item.
“Motion to have our two appointed board members serve the full term of the board members they are replacing. (See attached)”
That there was not an attachment provided at the time is par for the course with this group.
This evening the news flashed around the neighborhood of what this blogger had expected all day. The MNA Board voted to extend the appointment of Lynn Lee and Jen Plants for another year rather than open their positions for a vote in October. In addition, the Board turned down the suggestion that their appointments be kept to one year as specified in the By-laws. It needs to be noted for my readers that what was offered was not a suggestion – it is the law.
And the law was not followed!
Limiting the appointments to one year would have made for 8 seats up for election in October. With this decision, the two appointed seats will not be open for a vote by the membership in October.
To the heart of the matter is the fact this motion is in direct contradiction to the By-laws. The two Board members were appointed by the Board President. That was due to the most embarrassing fiasco of a general membership meeting in the history of the organization. That is not hyperbole, but words that came from the lips of a very long-term citizen of this neighborhood.
In 2019 Board President Lynn Lee was defeated for his bid to remain on the Board. But with machinations that would make an autocrat proud he was appointed to the new Board. The tally from Madison alderwoman Marsha Rummel, an impartial counter at the election, shows the results from the membership balloting.
While the sitting president can make appointments the By-laws only permit the appointment until the next annual meeting.
“(g) have authority, in the event of a vacancy on the Board of Directors due to loss of qualification to be a board member, resignation, removal or death of a board member during his or her term, to appoint a new member, whose household or business is a member of the Corporation, to fill the vacancy until the annual meeting next following the date on which the vacancy arose, provided that: …”
The ‘reasoning’ for the unprincipled motion was based on COVID, which in part reads, “WHEREAS, stability and continuity of MNA business is best served by having the appointed Directors serve the full term; this being especially urgent as MNA confronts the crisis caused by a global pandemic.”
One might think this Board, based on their own words, are staffing emergency rooms and holding hands of the infected. They have instead set up a front lawn sculpture contest and tonight held forth at the meeting on the idea of a summer scavenger hunt. The use of a pandemic which has killed 140,000 in our nation, so to further their aims with this motion is deplorable.
The spin of the Board about the need to deprive the membership of their right to vote based on COVID is complete hogwash, as my grandfather might term it. That is because of the fact a two-year term was already being discussed at the Board meeting in December 2019 where the two people were appointed. As was noted in an on-line comment today from the December regular meeting: “She [Board President Anita Krasno] has decided to that for now their terms [the two appointed Board members] are one year each, but there may be some reasonable adjustment to that to get us back on track.”
As with so much that takes place with the Board, it all comes down to the contortions and spinning that they feel needs to be taken at any given moment so to make their undermining of governance seem less galling.
Over the years this neighborhood has witnessed the norms, practices, and standards of the MNA Board continually lowered, to the point there is a loss of faith in the organization, and open derision and scorn of some of the sitting members. That is a very sad outcome. Using the pandemic to further foster unprincipled and egregious actions of the kind resulting from the 2019 annual meeting, now adds to the dismay many feel about this current Board.
What is sad to so many is that as of late the outcomes from this Board are as likely to culminate in something bad for the neighborhood as it will in something positive. We need to have better batting averages from our local association! When an item like this motion lands so late for public notice that it does not allow for full vetting by the membership it underscores why there is a growing awareness that the power being exerted by some on the Board is for personal gain, and not for the betterment of the neighborhood, which we all thought was the reason they wished to be on the Board in the first place.
We read about illiberal democracy—as it is termed—in places like Italy, Poland, Philippines, Brazil., and even in our nation, and wonder how the undermining of a governing process and diligence to standards and norms ever are allowed to grow to the point they make for national and international headlines. We now can see with the actions and antics that took place today—in our own neighborhood–how it starts.
This area prides itself on idealism and some higher values, but that is all just malarkey as at the end of the day we allow for this chicanery (and worse) to prevail. Denying that By-laws exist for a reason has consequences. Some folks may see what happened today as a small thing, and those who carry water for the interested party tonight will try to fluff this all off. But for the rest of us, we have had a front-row lesson on how the larger headlines about illiberal democracy begin.
And so it goes.