First Basin Withdraws Charter Conversion But the Aftermath Turns Peevish
ODESSA, Texas -- It has become axiomatic that credit unions attempting a charter change to a mutual bank and fail often fall into periods of fighting and controversy.
That appears to be what is taking place at the $115 million First Basin Credit Union, which suspended balloting on a charter change proposal and withdrew its application from the Office of Thrift Supervision.
Members of First Basin Credit Union who opposed the conversion are continuing to press the CU to hold its annual meeting where they could vote for new board candidates. The members said the CU generally holds its annual meeting in March but that it has not set a meeting date for this month. The credit union has not yet confirmed this.
Members praised the credit union for withdrawing its application to convert to a mutual bank but are still pressing for the annual meeting where they plan to mount their own candidates.
"This is a victory, but the story does not end here," said Tara Simmons, one of the members of Save First Basin. "At the annual meeting this month, members can vote in new directors who will work for the members' interests, not their own. We encourage members to come out to vote for honest, responsive leadership."
The notion of electing new board members does not seem to have found support from the CU's leadership.
In addition to pushing for a board election, the members who opposed charter change have pressed the credit union to release information about the attempt. But the credit union has steadfastly declined to provide the information and challenged the motives among members who opposed the conversion. First Basin CEO Shem Culpepper blamed bitter former employees among the Save First Basin member group for the attempt to turn out sitting board members, according to an article in Odessa American, a local paper.
Culpepper pointed to the CUs growth over the past four years, arguing, "I'm not sure why anybody would be interested in replacing a board that has had such extraordinary success, unless there is an agenda in place."
NCUA records bear Culpepper out. According to NCUA records, the CU stood at $75.5 million in assets in December 2003 and grew to almost $115 million in December of 2007. Loans over the same period increased from $54 million to more than $86 million and the number of members from 19,869 to 23,897.
Letty Moreno, one of the organizers of the group, acknowledged that she is a former vice president with First Basin weeks ago but denied she either wants a board seat or is motivated by revenge.
"I think that's the only thing at this point that Mr. Culpepper can use," the paper quoted her as saying in a March 7 article. "He cannot dispute our facts, so the only thing he can do is attack me personally."