<p>JEFFERSON CITY, MO. – Credit unions may not have seen the end yet in the case involving the Missouri Bankers Association’s challenge of the field-of-membership expansion approval granted TelComm Credit Union (formerly Springfield Telephone Employees Credit Union). For now though, after months of appeals filed by the MBA and Century Bank of the Ozarks, credit unions in the state are celebrating a Missouri court’s refusal to grant Missouri banks standing in the field-of-membership expansion case. The Missouri Bankers Association and Century Bank of the Ozarks had appealed a regulatory approval of a field of membership expansion to TelComm Credit Union (formerly Springfield Telephone Employees Credit Union). Judge Byron L. Kinder, a judge of the Cole County (Jefferson City) Circuit Court ruled January 29 that the bankers lacked standing to appeal the decision of the credit union commission created by the Missouri legislature in 1999 as part of new, more expansive field of membership regulations. The Springfield credit union, which serves approximately 120 employee groups, initially won approval for a geographic expansion that would allow it to serve anyone who resided or worked in the 417 telephone area code. Springfield Telephone Employees applied in 2000 to serve a larger area, including a portion of the 573-area code in its membership field. However, Director John Smith of the Missouri Division of Credit Unions, who first reviews FOM expansion requests, did not believe the credit union had the administrative abilities or the financial resources for so large an expansion. “I didn’t feel they had the ability to serve” so large an area, Smith said. He approved only the more limited expansion. The bankers appealed that ruling first to the state Credit Union Commission, which upheld the division’s decision in May 2001, and then to the circuit court. The legal action did not stay the credit union’s ability to expand, however. Smith said the revised statute allows “any party who is aggrieved” to appeal his initial regulatory decision to the newly created Credit Union Commission. However, he said, “it is not clear who is aggrieved, it is a term of art . We did not feel that under the definition the MBA or a bank has standing.” Judge Kinder agreed, noting that banking is regulated by a different section of state law. Wade L. Nash, general counsel for the bankers’ association, said the decision to appeal to a higher court would be made by his board of directors. However, he said, “Based on my Ouija board, I would say we’re going to appeal.” TelComm President Don Ackerman said his $41.1 million-asset credit union has moved ahead slowly. The credit union’s name was changed to reflect the wider field of membership. The “Tel” of the new name reflects the past, while the “Comm” refers to the new, larger, community the credit union will serve. The expansion has been announced in the credit union’s newsletter to members, telling them to spread the word. Ackerman expects to begin an advertising effort soon. “Our primary goal will be to let people know they can be served,” he said. TelComm has three branches, all in Springfield, and Ackerman said he is considering adding a new office. Ackerman said he hoped the expanded membership field would enable the credit union to grow its assets between 5 and 7% annually. -</p> <p>[email protected]</p>

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