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VANCOUVER, Wash. – The $619 million Columbia Credit Union has set Sunday, March 28 for a special meeting at which members of the credit union could vote to recall eight board members. The meeting is scheduled for 3:00 pm at the Hudson Bay High School gymnasium which is relatively nearby the credit union headquarters. The gym will hold about 4,000 members. The special meeting comes at the end of a battle between Columbia and some of its members in the aftermath of the credit union’s failed attempt to change its charter to that of a mutual bank. The credit union held an initial vote on the proposed conversion in the autumn of 2003 and won that vote by the narrowest margin yet. But some credit union members who had been disturbed by the credit union’s disclosures and the way the vote had been conducted complained to the NCUA. The NCUA investigated the complaints and disqualified the vote in January 2004, and some of the members took the credit union to court to enforce their petition for the special meeting. The court gave the credit union a range of dates from which to choose, from March 28 into early April and the credit union chose March 28, according to Steve Straub, an organizer with the member group Save CCU. Straub said the group feels like it has the momentum going into the balloting and that the court made a special mention of the need to conduct the vote by a secret ballot. “They are going to be under a lot of scrutiny as to how they conduct this,” Straub said. The credit union board also welcomed the meeting. “We appreciate Judge Bennett’s confidence in the process we have established today,” said Dale Magers, Columbia Credit Union Board Secretary. As is often the case, however, some details for how the meeting and vote will be conducted have yet to be worked out. On March 9, the attorney for the Save CCU group wrote the credit union about details for the meeting. Columbia has already met some of the group’s concerns, such as having an independent firm to conduct the balloting and count the votes, the scope of who will be allowed to vote, and hiring an independent parliamentarian for the meeting. But other details remain to be ironed out. The credit union said it has chosen Integrity Voting Systems, based in Everett, Washington to provide confidential ballots to eligible Columbia voters, receive and tabulate the ballots, and announce the results at the March 28 meeting. Eligible voters will be permitted to vote either by mail, or in person at the meeting. Integrity has performed similar elections for the Screen Actor’s Guild, the California State Bar Association, and has performed balloting for several county elections including Snohomish and Kitsap counties in Washington State, the credit union said. Columbia also announced that it will use the broadest possible standard on who can vote, in accord with the Washington Department of Financial Institution regulations. The credit union estimated it will mail roughly 69,000 ballots for the vote. The credit union will also hire an independent parliamentarian. The credit union has not settled all issues, however. The key remaining issue appears to be whether the Save CCU group will be allowed to put background material about why it sought the recall vote in the packet of balloting and other materials that will be sent to members. The Save CCU group is also concerned about the amounts of money that the credit union may be spending on the retention of the current board. The March 9 letter indicated the group would begin to conduct informational picketing and leafleting at Columbia branches to make its case if it was not allowed to include materials in the mailing. But in a March 10 announcement, the credit union appeared to signal that it was open to including material from Save CCU in the balloting information. “[I]ssues presented to the members will continue to be fairly balanced in all publications and information,” the credit union said. There are other issues still hanging as well. It is unclear, for example, if the recall succeeds against some or all of the board members, whether those board members would be able to serve again on the board as a result of an upcoming board election that has been rescheduled for later this year. The previous annual meeting and board election featured four contested seats and had been scheduled as part of a previous agreement with the Washington Department of Financial Institutions for April 27, just under one month after the special meeting. But the credit union announced the meeting would be rescheduled to avoid further confusing members. Save CCU also has yet to announce its slate of candidates for the eight board members it hopes to recall on March 28. Straub says the group anticipates releasing the names of the candidates “soon” and predicts that they will be eight people with a lot of credit union and managerial experience. “We are going to have eight good people who love this credit union and want to see it succeed as a credit union,” Straub said. [email protected]

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