SALT LAKE CITY – Scott Earl, one of the credit union industry'sleading “front men” or “poster boys” battling attacks from thebanking lobby the last 12 years, has called it quits with his chiefemployer, the Utah League of Credit Unions, labeling the suddendeparture sad but “mutually” necessary. Lamenting the “personaltoll on my family from a job that is both arduous and weary,” the47-year-old Earl, who since 1991 has been president/CEO of the UtahLeague, submitted his resignation in a Nov. 25 letter to the LeagueBoard announced during a special membership meeting to increase2004 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 needfor a change in leadership of the organization. The exact reasonsfor such a change were not spelled out, but over the last year theorganization has been wracked-as well as drained-by the battle withthe Utah Bankers Association in the state legislature and in thecourts culminating in a new March law barring CU business loans andnarrowly mandating a first-time CU tax on three Utah CUs. TheLeague along with CUNA and national trade groups have also beenengaged in seeking to block the pending American BankersAssociation/UBA federal court suit against NCUA in a field ofmembership challenge on Utah CUs. Who's to Blame? With some sayingEarl was a “casualty” of the banker wars, the division within theLeague over strategy and tactics in dealing with the long-runningbanker scrap has been a perennial problem causing five CUsincluding two of the state's largest to resign over the last year.Their departures came in a split, in part, over dues policies andhow much of the League budget was being spent in areas which aidedFOM expansion programs of two of the state's largest CUs, AmericaFirst FCU of Ogden and Mountain America FCU of Salt Lake City.Management of the two CUs have long maintained their stalwartfinancial support for the League-and the funds shelled out forlobbying and media expense-should be viewed as a means ofprotecting all Utah CUs from the unrelenting bank assaults as wellas preserving the dual chartering system which has witnessed anerosion 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 itwell,” but he said the mutual element reflects “both personal andbusiness reasons.” While declining to elaborate further,Christensen said the task at hand is to find a replacement for Earlwhich “I hope can be accomplished quickly, perhaps in 30 to 60 daysthough that might be optimistic.” The search, he said, will beconcentrated locally, adding at the moment “we are not lookingtoward a national search.” Serving as interim CEO is Lynn Kuehne,executive vice president for the last five years, and “with a 35year history within the credit union movement,” wrote Christensenin an “important notice” e-mail sent Nov. 26 to Utah CUs. HighMarks Like other CU executives in Utah and from across the country,Christensen had high praise for what many have said has been Earl'ssignificant contributions as an industry advocate not only in thebanker battles but in leadership roles within CUNA. Until hisdeparture, he was the current chairman of the American Associationof Credit Union Leagues and a member of its board since 1996. Hispost as AACUL chairman will be filled on an interim basis by PaulMercer, president/CEO of the Ohio League who is the current firstvice chairman. Long touted for his articulate advocacy of CUs inthe public arena, Earl was a frequent speaker at trade meetings toreview the history of the bank/CU fight in Utah, providing whatmany saw as valuable lessons on how to react. “It is distressing tosee this happen and sure it is a great loss to the industry,” saidGary Wolter, president of the Alabama Credit Union League and whoat 64 is considered by many to be the dean of state leaguemanagers. The resignation “came as a shock to me since hiscredibility and reputation were so high in the movement,” saidveteran League staffer Larry Johnson, the ex-president/CEO of theNorth Carolina Credit Union League, who officially retires at theend of December. State leagues, observed Wolter, “have a tremendousturnover” because “it is a difficult job trying to keep so manyfactions together.” But some league presidents, like him, havemanaged to stay on “through good fortune,” he said, maintainingthat the trend of state leagues losing their CEOs-with four now inthat position- is not alarming. “Take a look at what happens inCUNA. Dan Mica has already eclipsed the typical tenure for thatjob,” said Wolter. Mica has been CUNA's CEO since July 1996. BattleWeary But in Utah, Earl has acknowledged that the job of keepingdiverse groups of large and small CUs with varying internalstructures united in the face of the constant banker assaults wasextremely “tiring,” with the banker/CU battle showing “no light atthe end of the tunnel.” Earl, his voice choking with emotion, tolda Credit Union Times reporter, “I love credit unions and will becommitted to stand up for the institutions in their struggle toexist and prosper.” As for the League, he said he feels “I amleaving the League in good shape” financially and from a staffingperspective, though “this is a time for new blood and a fresh look”at the organization's future. Earl, who started with the UtahLeague in 1982 as marketing director after graduating from theUniversity of Utah, said in his formal statement that while “it istrue the battles we have been forced to endure on Capitol Hill, thecourts and in the media” have proved wearying, they also have“dimmed my enthusiasm for continuing the fight.” Earl alsoacknowledged that he certainly “has been the poster boy for thebankers.” Apart from his service in Utah, Earl at the nationallevel has been a well-known personality. He has been a member ofthe AACUL Board since 1996, a past chairman of the Credit UnionLegislative Action Council, and currently is a member of itsexecutive committee. He is also a member of the CUNA Board, CUNAStrategic Services Inc. and of the Administrative Board of theFilene Research Institute. He is a past director of U.S. CentralCU. In Utah, Michael Milovich, vice chairman of the League andpresident of Eastern Utah Community FCU of Price, said thedeparture of Earl reflects “management differences” on how theorganization should move in the future in the face of new bankerchallenges in 2004. One such “rumored” proposal he has heardbandied by Utah lawmakers and others is a banker-inspired proposalto adopt a resolution urging Congress to tax FCUs. In addition,there are proposals to lower the bracket on big Utah CUs whichmight be subject to a future tax. Original proposals-barelydefeated last spring-would have taxed institutions over $100million in assets, but new proposals would drop the ratio to the$50 million level. Such proposals, said League lobbyists, wouldlikely be brought before a special Financial Institutions TaskForce set up under the March law barring business loans. Milovichforecast that the League under new leadership “will have a toughertone” with bankers. “This is something that simply has to happen,”he said, to thwart the banker attacks. But he dismissed anysuggestions that the League was divided because of Earl'sdeparture, dues discussions or allocation of expenses. “We are moreunited than ever” said Milovich maintaining that “we have got tohit back harder. Call a spade a spade.” The Price CU executive haslong argued that the League needed to file legal challenges of itsown against banks or go into the media to point out bank fallacies.-


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