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VANCOUVER, Wash. – The ongoing fight between the board of the Columbia Credit Union and some of the credit union’s members continues to percolate in advance of the credit union’s annual meeting on September 15. Four members of the board of Columbia Community Credit Union, the $659 million credit union that was involved in an exhausting fight over whether to convert to a bank, have said that the experience served to benefit credit unions overall. In an exclusive interview with the Vancouver Business Journal the board members, who are up for reelection in the September 15 contest, said that their attempt to change the credit union charter to that of a bank had served to raise the issues pressing credit unions to a higher focus. “The high-profile nature of what happened to Columbia in effect, benefited all credit unions on a national level,” said Board Member Dennis McClachen. “We were the largest and most successful credit union to ever try to convert to a bank and that literally forced the issue.” Bruce Davidson, another board member agreed, explaining, “The only way it (the credit union) can grow is to be profitable, and to retain that profitability the credit union’s not able to go out and raise outside capital,” he said. Board members Ed Bell and Bill Byrd also took part in the interview. But members of Save CCU, the organization of Columbia members which opposed its attempt to change its charter and has sought to recall its board, have written a letter to the Journal contesting some of board members claims in the interview. The organization pointed out, for example, that one of the board members told the paper that the credit union had only been given permission to increase its commercial lending cap from 15% to 20% “this year,” when the NCUA’s report on the failed election found that permission had been granted in September 2003, months before the conversion vote. The letter also pointed out that, contrary to the board members’ assertions, Judge Bennett has not dismissed Save CCU’s claim that the credit union has been harmed by the Board’s breach of its fiduciary duty. It also noted that the board had persisted in pressing the conversion question until the NCUA finally issued an eight-page report sharply rebuking the credit union’s conduct of the conversion election.

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