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SALT LAKE CITY – Scott Earl, one of the credit union industry’s leading “front men” or “poster boys” battling attacks from the banking lobby the last 12 years, has called it quits with his chief employer, the Utah League of Credit Unions, labeling the sudden departure sad but “mutually” necessary. Lamenting the “personal toll on my family from a job that is both arduous and weary,” the 47-year-old Earl, who since 1991 has been president/CEO of the Utah League, submitted his resignation in a Nov. 25 letter to the League Board announced during a special membership meeting to increase 2004 dues. In a statement extolling Earl’s “burdensome” service, League Chairman Steve Christensen said the resignation was accepted “with reluctance” but was “mutually agreed” upon based on a need for a change in leadership of the organization. The exact reasons for such a change were not spelled out, but over the last year the organization has been wracked-as well as drained-by the battle with the Utah Bankers Association in the state legislature and in the courts culminating in a new March law barring CU business loans and narrowly mandating a first-time CU tax on three Utah CUs. The League along with CUNA and national trade groups have also been engaged in seeking to block the pending American Bankers Association/UBA federal court suit against NCUA in a field of membership challenge on Utah CUs. Who’s to Blame? With some saying Earl was a “casualty” of the banker wars, the division within the League over strategy and tactics in dealing with the long-running banker scrap has been a perennial problem causing five CUs including two of the state’s largest to resign over the last year. Their departures came in a split, in part, over dues policies and how much of the League budget was being spent in areas which aided FOM expansion programs of two of the state’s largest CUs, America First FCU of Ogden and Mountain America FCU of Salt Lake City. Management of the two CUs have long maintained their stalwart financial support for the League-and the funds shelled out for lobbying and media expense-should be viewed as a means of protecting all Utah CUs from the unrelenting bank assaults as well as preserving the dual chartering system which has witnessed an erosion to the federal charter. As for Earl’s departure, Christensen, the League chairman and also president of Tooele FCU, lauded Earl for performing “a difficult job” and “performing it well,” but he said the mutual element reflects “both personal and business reasons.” While declining to elaborate further, Christensen said the task at hand is to find a replacement for Earl which “I hope can be accomplished quickly, perhaps in 30 to 60 days though that might be optimistic.” The search, he said, will be concentrated locally, adding at the moment “we are not looking toward a national search.” Serving as interim CEO is Lynn Kuehne, executive vice president for the last five years, and “with a 35 year history within the credit union movement,” wrote Christensen in an “important notice” e-mail sent Nov. 26 to Utah CUs. High Marks Like other CU executives in Utah and from across the country, Christensen had high praise for what many have said has been Earl’s significant contributions as an industry advocate not only in the banker battles but in leadership roles within CUNA. Until his departure, he was the current chairman of the American Association of Credit Union Leagues and a member of its board since 1996. His post as AACUL chairman will be filled on an interim basis by Paul Mercer, president/CEO of the Ohio League who is the current first vice chairman. Long touted for his articulate advocacy of CUs in the public arena, Earl was a frequent speaker at trade meetings to review the history of the bank/CU fight in Utah, providing what many saw as valuable lessons on how to react. “It is distressing to see this happen and sure it is a great loss to the industry,” said Gary Wolter, president of the Alabama Credit Union League and who at 64 is considered by many to be the dean of state league managers. The resignation “came as a shock to me since his credibility and reputation were so high in the movement,” said veteran League staffer Larry Johnson, the ex-president/CEO of the North Carolina Credit Union League, who officially retires at the end of December. State leagues, observed Wolter, “have a tremendous turnover” because “it is a difficult job trying to keep so many factions together.” But some league presidents, like him, have managed to stay on “through good fortune,” he said, maintaining that the trend of state leagues losing their CEOs-with four now in that position- is not alarming. “Take a look at what happens in CUNA. Dan Mica has already eclipsed the typical tenure for that job,” said Wolter. Mica has been CUNA’s CEO since July 1996. Battle Weary But in Utah, Earl has acknowledged that the job of keeping diverse groups of large and small CUs with varying internal structures united in the face of the constant banker assaults was extremely “tiring,” with the banker/CU battle showing “no light at the end of the tunnel.” Earl, his voice choking with emotion, told a Credit Union Times reporter, “I love credit unions and will be committed to stand up for the institutions in their struggle to exist and prosper.” As for the League, he said he feels “I am leaving the League in good shape” financially and from a staffing perspective, though “this is a time for new blood and a fresh look” at the organization’s future. Earl, who started with the Utah League in 1982 as marketing director after graduating from the University of Utah, said in his formal statement that while “it is true the battles we have been forced to endure on Capitol Hill, the courts and in the media” have proved wearying, they also have “dimmed my enthusiasm for continuing the fight.” Earl also acknowledged that he certainly “has been the poster boy for the bankers.” Apart from his service in Utah, Earl at the national level has been a well-known personality. He has been a member of the AACUL Board since 1996, a past chairman of the Credit Union Legislative Action Council, and currently is a member of its executive committee. He is also a member of the CUNA Board, CUNA Strategic Services Inc. and of the Administrative Board of the Filene Research Institute. He is a past director of U.S. Central CU. In Utah, Michael Milovich, vice chairman of the League and president of Eastern Utah Community FCU of Price, said the departure of Earl reflects “management differences” on how the organization should move in the future in the face of new banker challenges in 2004. One such “rumored” proposal he has heard bandied by Utah lawmakers and others is a banker-inspired proposal to adopt a resolution urging Congress to tax FCUs. In addition, there are proposals to lower the bracket on big Utah CUs which might be subject to a future tax. Original proposals-barely defeated last spring-would have taxed institutions over $100 million in assets, but new proposals would drop the ratio to the $50 million level. Such proposals, said League lobbyists, would likely be brought before a special Financial Institutions Task Force set up under the March law barring business loans. Milovich forecast that the League under new leadership “will have a tougher tone” with bankers. “This is something that simply has to happen,” he said, to thwart the banker attacks. But he dismissed any suggestions that the League was divided because of Earl’s departure, dues discussions or allocation of expenses. “We are more united than ever” said Milovich maintaining that “we have got to hit back harder. Call a spade a spade.” The Price CU executive has long argued that the League needed to file legal challenges of its own against banks or go into the media to point out bank fallacies. -

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