Oregon’s St. Helens Community Federal Credit Union is now facing a recall of five of its directors to be heard after the Labor Day weekend.
Member complaints at the $166 million credit union include treatment of a former CEO and a canceled merger pact with another Oregon credit union.
The credit union has set Sept. 4 as the day for a special membership meeting to consider the recall of the five directors. A petition circulation gained 492 signatures and was delivered to management Aug. 7. The credit union has 15,400 members.
On its website and in public statements, Brooke Van Vleet, the newly installed president/CEO of St. Helens, has voiced strong objection to the recall idea, labeling the ad hoc petition “disappointing, baseless and disruptive” to credit union operations.
Still, Van Vleet has emphasized that “we respect the right of members to voice their opinions” through the recall process but that the St. Helens board stands by its decisions related, in part, to calling off the merger with the $134 million Wauna FCU of Clatskanie, Ore., which had been initiated last spring.
Some St. Helens members had also objected to the dismissal of CEO Jeff Schwarz last May.
In an abrupt policy switch in early July, the St. Helens board dropped the merger proposal with Wauna and hired Van Vleet, a former top exec at First Tech of Beaverton, Ore., prior to its 2011 merger with Addison Avenue FCU of Palo Alto, Calif., forming the $5.4 billion First Tech FCU.
In the online member letter, Van Vleet labeled the recall petition for the five directors–Chair Lea Chitwood, Treasurer Michael Hafeman, Richard Louie, Marty Borrevik and David Graham–an impulsive action. Vice Chair Tom Tussing and Michael Ismert were not targeted by the member group.
“St. Helens Community Federal Credit Union has served local people in Columbia County since 1938,” said Van Vleet, noting that the credit union’s “long-term success owes much to the strength and commitment of our volunteer board members who give generously of their time and have a fiduciary responsibility to make sound decisions.”
“The board believes that it is in the credit union’s best interest to move ahead with a special meeting to allow the membership to resolve this issue,” she added.
Commenting further on the matter of member critics, Van Fleet maintained that credit union managers “should consider the balance between the membership at large and the discontent of a small group.” It is important that the entire membership have the opportunity to voice opinions and not just the vocal minority, she said.