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HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. – For the second time in 18 months, the New Jersey Credit Union League is looking at having a new president. In a letter dated October 26, the league board announced its decision to terminate Tom Shaughnessy as president/CEO of the League. The letter was preceded by a fax that was sent out “to expedite informing member credit unions,” said League Director of Communications Sharon Dilling. Quoting from the letter, League Chairman John DiNofrio, treasurer of FAA Technical Center FCU, Northfield, N.J. stated the board’s decision to terminate Shaughnessy “was a difficult decision and it was not made easily, nor was it made in haste. After lengthy and thoughtful discussions, the board came to the only solution that we could.” He added that “the board intends to begin a nationwide search for a new president/CEO very soon. In the meantime, as of Oct. 25, the board has asked League Vice President Mary Lee Kleinkauf to take on the role of Acting President/CEO. ” Shaughnessy had been president/CEO since April 2003. He previously served for two months as interim president of what was then Credit Union Affiliates of New Jersey when the board decided not to renew the contract of its then-president/CEO Russell Clark who had worked at the league in that capacity since 1997. Shaughnessy had worked as Chief Operating Officer at CUANJ under Clark. There are 202 credit unions affiliated with the New Jersey Credit Union League, which represent 79.8% of all credit unions in New Jersey. When the board decided in February 2003 not to renew Clark’s contract, a league spokesman said there was a “ difference of opinion” between the board and Clark on which direction CUANJ should go. At the time, DiNofrio said board members wanted to place more emphasis on state-chartered credit unions, rather than focus on the national level. DiNofrio did not offer information in his letter explaining the reason for the board’s decision to terminate Shaughnessy, and judging from Credit Union Times interviews with several New Jersey credit union presidents, that’s left them speculating on the reason for his termination. In fact, most of the CEOs Credit Union Times talked with said the news was “unexpected” and they had no indication there had been problems leading up to Shaughnessy’s dismissal. Andrew Jaeger, for one, president/CEO of Credit Union of New Jersey, Ewing, said he wasn’t aware the NJCUL board was dissatisfied with Shaughnessy’s performance. “When he first became CEO, Tom visited Credit Union of New Jersey and explained his vision for the league and some of the changes he wanted to make. His focus was trying to reconnect with the membership and he spent a lot of time visiting with credit unions and talking directly with them, which was something lacking before he arrived. As far as I know from my perspective, I had no indication the board was dissatisfied with him,” Jaeger said. Leo Ardine, president/CEO of United Teletech CU, Tinton Falls, agreed that the news about Shaughnessy “was unexpected.” “Some of the changes made at the league under Tom were in the right direction, and when the board hired a person like Tom for the president’s spot it showed they recognized the need for a change in a positive direction,” Ardine said, emphasizing that, “New Jersey is a very difficult state to lead. There are many diverse constituencies of credit unions, both large and small, affiliated and non-affiliated. So it is a challenge for any president and board members.” “Tom brought about a much needed business focus to the operations and leadership of the league. He was very direct and extremely straight-forward and focused on increasing credit union affiliations in the state, and I think that was good. Perhaps there are other opportunities for leadership of the league the board can investigate,” Ardine said. As a dues paying member of the New Jersey League, Jaeger said he’s concerned with the turnover rate in the president’s seat at the league. “There are important issues happening where the New Jersey League needs leadership,” he said, referring to a project he was working on with Shaughnessy to craft and pass a modernized New Jersey Credit Union Act in the capital. “With a lack of leadership and instability at the top, that will push this initiative back even further,” said Jaeger, adding that as a state-chartered credit union “that is one of the things of interest to us, to have a viable dual chartering system in New Jersey.” Like all New Jersey credit union CEOs, Jaeger is interested in how long it will take the board to find a new president, who that person will be and what their background is. Jaeger said it would be helpful if the new president has credit union experience, “but it’s not necessary.” More important, he said, “they need someone who has a good track record of trade association leadership, someone who understands what a trade association is supposed to do for its members, who shows leadership, and can deliver important and necessary services.” At press time, Shaughnessy was attending CUNA’s Future Forum in Hawaii and was unavailable for comment. -

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