HARRISBURG, Pa. – After almost a year of waiting, Pennsylvania credit unions got a long awaited Christmas present after the state Secretary of Banking handed down a ruling in favor of one state-chartered CU’s application to convert to a community charter. In the case concerning TruMark Financial Credit Union, Trevose, Pa., which submitted a Community Charter Proposal to the Pennsylvania Department of Banking in late 2003, Secretary of Banking A. William Schenck III issued a final opinion just before the holiday in favor of the state-charted credit union’s conversion to a community charter. After much testimony and review of submitted documents, Schenck determined that TruMark did indeed meet its burden of proof that the proposed five-county Greater Philadelphia area (consisting of Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties) does constitute a “well-defined local community.” “The Banking Department made a fair decision in this case,” said Jim McCormack, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA). “Like much of its work to date under Secretary Schenck, this decision is very pro-consumer, providing greater access to credit unions as a low-cost financial services alternative in the Greater Philadelphia market.” “In its decision, the Department has staked out a significant policy position on community chartering,” said Rick Wargo, general counsel for PCUA. “This decision clearly bodes well for the value of the state charter in Pennsylvania.” TruMark submitted its community charter proposal in November 2003, as did two other Pennsylvania credit unions-Freedom Credit Union of Philadelphia and Corry Jamestown Credit Union of Corry, Pa. Subsequently, the Pennsylvania Bankers Association and the Pennsylvania Business Bank filed a joint petition objecting to the charter conversions, and battles were waged over access to certain portions of the charter proposals – the contesting banks argued that areas the CUs applied to expand their FOMs to include did not qualify as a “well-defined, local, community, neighborhood, or rural district” as defined by state law. A consolidated hearing for all three credit unions was held in July 2004. The final decision was issued December 22, 2004. While Schenck’s decision is clearly a victory for TruMark, a similar fate is uncertain for the other two credit unions in this matter. Schenck directed Freedom Credit Union to revise its business plan and to provide additional support from its proposed community, which consists of the same five-county area in the TruMark conversion plus three in New Jersey. He also directed Corry Jamestown Credit Union to rework its business plan and to provide more well-defined community boundaries. One of the largest state-chartered credit unions in Pennsylvania, TruMark currently has assets of $760 million and a membership of 76,491. -kmrospond@verizon.net