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BEAVERTON, Ore. – Emphasizing that the “door is still open to a possible consolidation in the future” with the Washington Credit Union League, the Credit Union of Oregon Board turned down a consolidation proposal and passed a resolution stating the board’s decision “to maintain their independence while pursuing future working relationships with the Washington League.” The CUAO Board’s decision means the on-going possible consolidation talks the two groups have been having on and off for what WCUL President/CEO John Annaloro said have been more than 20 years, will continue. The CUAO Board’s decision came just days after its Chairman Paul Williams, president/CEO, Clakamas CU told Credit Union Times he was in favor of a consolidation and that the long term benefits made it worthwhile. “We still feel a consolidation between Credit Union Association of Oregon and the Washington Credit Union League is an appropriate event to happen and we’re still looking for ways for the two groups to work closely. But the timing is just not right at this point to pursue a consolidation at this time,” said Williams. A joint 10-member task force comprised of representatives from the boards of CUAO and the WCUL which had been studying the possible consolidation since February, presented its recommendations for consolidation to the Washington League’s Board on May 21 and to the CUAO’s Board on May 25. Although the chairman of each board strongly supported a consolidation, it was still up to each board to decide whether to accept or reject the task force’s recommendation. The Washington League Board, chaired by Byron Edgett, president/CEO, Spokane FCU, unanimously accepted the recommendation and voted to present its membership with a `strong do pass’ recommendation. “The members of the two-state task force were very diligent in drawing out the issues and necessities of our regional credit union community,” said Annaloro. “It led to the creation of an excellent working plan for consolidation. CEOs on the task force should be commended for their thoughtfulness and vision.” Williams emphasized that even though the CUAO Board turned down the proposal, “the door is still open for a possible consolidation in the future.” He added there’s a “good potential” for a consolidation “down the road.” “It took the task force four months to gather the information that went into the white paper it prepared, and it was a lot to ask our board to digest it all so quickly,” said Williams. “The board didn’t want the issue hanging out there with the staff being so uncertain. We needed closure and felt we had to make a defined decision whether to move forward or stop. We chose the latter.” Asked what the CUAO Board planned to tell the WCUL Board, Williams said they planned to meet with the Washington League’s Board on May 26 and tell them that “the timing for the Oregon Board wasn’t correct at this time to pursue a consolidation and we don’t know when it will be the right time. We don’t want to hang it out and commit ourselves to say six months from now. We don’t want the CUAO staff sitting around wondering if this will happen in the near future.” Williams said the possibility of a consolidation “has been put on the back burner indefinitely.” WCUL Chairman Edgett said he was “disappointed but not surprised” at the CUAO Board’s decision. “The white paper had a lot of detail and minutia. The thought is the CUAO Board didn’t really absorb all the recommendations. Until everyone fully appreciates the full content of the recommendations, it would be premature for anyone to accept,” said Edgett, who stressed that the CUAO Board’s decision “is not a final decision. Everyone wants to slow down and take a more thorough look at the issue.” But Williams said there was nothing in the task force’s white paper that was really an issue. “It was more the big picture that we looked at. We like our independence in Oregon and if we can maintain that then the board felt in the short term it’s better. We have an identity in Oregon and that would be lost on the legislative side if we consolidate with the Washington league. There was a concern we wouldn’t have political effectiveness,” he said. Williams said the CUAO Board liked the idea that was recommended by the task force for there to be a Credit Union House in Oregon and another in Washington, “and hopefully we can pursue having one.” Beyond that, even though the task force discussed there being two separate shell organizations, “we would still be the Northwest League,” and that was a concern. Edgett explained that one thing the Washington League’s Board had going for it in terms of the task force’s recommendations was that credit unions had more time to absorb the information and to think about it because he and Annaloro traveled around the state meeting with the various League chapters to discuss strategic issues that could affect the league in the future. The chapter visits were made between the first and final drafts of the task force’s recommendations. So the CUs had a better understanding of what was going on before they received the recommendation, said Edgett. Edgett said he planned to propose that the task force meet again and that CUAO make note of its primary concerns about why it’s not comfortable with a consolidation with the Washington Credit Union League. “We want to make a binding agreement to address the concerns they expressed and to resolve how to address their concerns,” said Edgett. “All the little details of how the recommendations were presented weren’t fully absorbed. I think if everyone fully understands the depth of the recommendations, they’ll be comfortable.” Annaloro emphasized that, “In the end we have a common goal: advancing the interests of credit unions in the most efficient and effective manner. We have a fine credit union system in the Pacific Northwest.” -

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