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VANCOUVER, Wash. – The $682 million Columbia Credit Union has chosen Parker Cann, a former regulator of credit unions as Director of the Washington State Division of Credit Unions, as its new CEO. Cann starts in his new role at Columbia on May 31, 2005. “I am very excited about being chosen as the CEO of Columbia Credit Union. Columbia has a strong `members first’ philosophy and a strong commitment to its community,” Cann said. “The Credit Union is in excellent financial condition and is positioned to perform well in the future. I am looking forward to working with Columbia’s committed board, exceptional senior management team, and dedicated employees.” The former regulator and COO for the $865 million Arrowhead Credit Union did not mention the attempt to change charters to that of a mutual bank that had marked the tenure of David Doss, Columbia’s former CEO. But a few comments he made as he was getting on a plane to a reporter from the Portland Oregonian, the local paper in Portland, Oregon, got some Columbia members talking. The new CEO told the reporter that changing to a bank charter is “an important option for credit unions” and a “decision for each individual credit union board to make.” He also told the Oregonian that “I wouldn’t say at this point it’s necessary to convert to survive. But I think it’s important for them to have that option.” That started a flurry of concern among some Columbia members that the credit union board had still not abandoned the idea of becoming a bank, an idea that the credit union immediately sought to quash even though neither Cann nor a representative of the board were available for interviews. The answer to whether the board of directors or the new CEO of Columbia Credit Union still looks for a way to convert charters is “a resounding no” the credit union said in a prepared statement that also included a statement from Cann which sought to clarify his previous comments to the Oregonian: “Let me make this clear,” Cann said in the prepared statement. “I don’t believe that charter conversions are necessary for credit unions to survive. However, as a point of public policy, I feel it’s important for credit unions to have that option. That decision is unique to each credit union’s needs and operating environment. It’s up to the Board to determine if a charter change is appropriate and then to fairly and adequately inform their members. After that, it’s the members’ job to vote and make the final decision,” he said. In its prepared statement the credit union also pointed out that its board had circulated a flier with all of the board members’ signatures that showed their intention to remain a credit union, authored articles in the credit union newsletter which said the same thing and voted to rescind the previous plan of conversion. Columbia went though a bruising and controversial charter change attempt, a board recall vote and regular board election that lasted more than a year. Columbia members initially narrowly retained the board that had voted for conversion but then voted out four of them in favor of credit union members who opposed the conversion in a board election a few weeks later. -

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