WALLINGFORD, Conn. – Put a group of credit union or league CEOs together in a room to discuss an issue, and you’ll likely get a healthy debate from both sides defending their position. CEOs’ positions on the Renaissance Commission’s vision statements and CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica’s decision to share those statements with select members of Congress have stirred just such a heated debate. Mica can count among his supporters for his decision Pennsylvania Credit Union League President/CEO Jim McCormack. A member of the CUNA Board, McCormack said, “all the board members were aware of Dan’s plan and we supported him.” Personally, McCormack called Mica’s decision to distribute copies of the Renaissance Commission’s vision statements on Capitol Hill “a good move.” He explained that, “Congress and staffers would have found out about them anyway through the Internet. It was better that Dan was open about the statements and that Congress heard about them directly from him first instead of learning about them through the back door.” Georgia Credit Union Affiliates is also in Mica’s corner on this issue. GCUA President/CEO Mike Mercer said he would be surprised if Mica by sharing the Commission’s vision statements with Capitol Hill intended to create the impression that they were being used as a game plan by credit unions for their course of action. Mercer said CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel met with board members of the league’s support organizations in August to provide an overview of the Commission’s work and to address any concerns. Discussions centered around four areas: credit unions’ mission; powers and authority; field-of-membership; and alternative deposit insurance. “While some of our credit unions have questions and concerns about the Commission’s report, they don’t have any cynicism about it or the outcome,” said Mercer. Bob Steil, president/CEO of the Maryland Credit Union League also defended Mica’s decision to show the vision statements to members of Congress before the CUNA Governmental Affairs Committee reviewed the vision statements and the CUNA Board had the chance to approve them. Sometimes, said Steil, situations warrant a person not to follow procedures. “It was a timing issue. Dan needed to share the information the way he did because it was the politically right thing for him to do at the time, even if he didn’t jump through all the hoops he should have. “This was Dan’s decision to make. There’s a gray area we come upon from time to time when we have to rely on the integrity of the CEO to make the right decision,” Steil continued. “Constituents have to trust it was done in their best interest and that’s the case in this situation. Steil offered that, “Every credit union has a right to form its own opinion on the Renaissance Commission and voice it any way they wish. But I don’t see how anyone can think the Commission was off-base or question if the report is a true testimony of people throughout the industry. Taking an adversarial position isn’t one of growth or moving forward. What kind of industry would we be if we didn’t ask our constituents what we should be looking at for our future and what changes we should be making? That’s the message Dan delivered to Congress. ” Connecticut Credit Union Association and its affiliated credit unions aren’t convinced. CCUA is not only adamantly opposed to the vision statements recommended by the Commission and Mica’s decision to share the statements with members of Congress, it has given CUNA notice that if the association goes forward and implements the proposals included in the Renaissance Commission report, some credit unions in the state will not pay their CUNA dues next year. In two separate letters-one to CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica and the other to CUNA Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Barry Jolette CCUA President/CEO Kevin Stewart on behalf of the CUs in the state articulated his observations, concerns and problems with the Renaissance Commission Report’s proposals and the vision statements recommended by the Commission. In his letter to Mica, Stewart expressed his disapproval of his decision to send the vision statements to members of Congress “ before credit unions and leagues were provided the opportunity to comment on them, before the CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Committee started the process of reviewing the report and before the vision statements were officially approved by the CUNA Board of Directors.” Stewart also did not find credible Mica’s explanations for why he sent the vision statements to Congress when he did-Congress was anxious to receive the report and it was important to put a credit union spin on the report before the bankers did themselves. “I seriously doubt many members of Congress were interested in this report and frankly, I believe most could have cared less if they received the report in June or were forced to wait until after the CUNA annual meeting to receive it. Unlike the situation we faced with H.R. 1151, currently, there is no adverse court decision to deal with, no pending legislation related to the issues covered by the Renaissance Commission Report, and no groundswell of credit union constituent lobbying activity that would attract the attention of Congress. In fact, Congress seems to be entirely pre-occupied with other matters.” Concerning Mica’s concerns over the bankers’ reactions to the report, Stewart wrote, “I don’t think this explanation holds any water either. We should not care what the bankers have to say about our visions for the future.As long as we remain overly concerned about banker reactions to our plans, I doubt we will ever get to the point where we are able to independently determine our own future.” Stewart continued to emphasize his point that, “I believe your decision to send the vision statements to Congress was wrong. Rather than being focused on the needs of Congress and being fearful of a potential banker reaction, I think you should have been more concerned about providing an opportunity for credit unions and leagues to comment on the report, and then getting the report approved, before releasing it. The result of the approach you have taken is as growing level of dissatisfaction with CUNA and the belief that commenting on the report is a waste of time as it is already `a done deal.’” Stewart also questioned whether the Renaissance Commission reflected the view of small credit unions. While the preponderance of the nearly 200 credit unions in the state are small CUs with less than $50 million in assets, Stewart said even larger credit unions in the state are opposed to the Renaissance Commission report. Stewart further discussed in his letter to Jolette, CCUA’s position that the Commission’s vision statements are “inappropriately and overly focused on justifying the current tax, regulatory and insurance structures applicable to credit unions.” Larry Hertel, president/CEO, Charter Oak FCU in Groton, Conn. does not agree that credit unions should withhold paying CUNA their dues because they disagree with how Mica handled releasing the Renaissance Commission’s vision statements. “We’re part of the credit union movement and support the association (CUNA),” said Hertel. “The dues are what we pay to be part of the credit union movement. I think it’s stupid to say we won’t pay our dues because we disagree with CUNA on this.” Hertel, however, does offer that the issues addressed by the Renaissance Commission “transcend the size of credit unions.” He continued to explain that, “Some credit unions look at us and think because we have $370 million in assets that makes us a large credit union. We don’t differentiate between us and credit unions with less assets. We’re all credit unions,” Hertel said. – ekingoff@cutimes.com