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TACOMA, Wash. – The simmering debate of how much authority and control volunteers deserve in helping manage both state and national trade organizations moves here this week following a bid by directors of a suburban Olympia credit union requesting “equal treatment” of volunteers and more “outreach” at all levels of the Washington Credit Union League. The matter in the form of a petition and six-page “white paper” submitted to the League’s Board of Directors last May by O Bee CU of Tumwater and considered having “merit” is due for an airing Friday Sept. 16 at the closing business session of the League’s annual meeting. “We are seeking a positive discussion of all the governance issues as they impact volunteers,” explained Jim Goche, an Olympia attorney, director and former chairman of O Bee. The actual petition was sent to the League by Joe Deck, OBee’s current chairman, and appeals to the League Board for wider volunteer participation, specifically asking for a revamp of volunteer “networking” and a major increase of articles on volunteer activities appearing in League publications. Volunteers in various parts of the country, including a contingent in NAFCU who complained last July about a lack of sufficient representation in that organization and CUNA, have long argued the CEO-run trade groups by design or habit inhibit volunteer networking and limit high-level exposure when the outside directors seek election. The O Bee petition, in addressing those complaints at the state level, stresses that volunteer directors in regulatory and CUNA manuals are given clear authority and responsibility to maintain a safe and sound CU and to lobby for the CU cause with lawmakers. And yet, said O Bee, those duties go unrecognized by the League whose management tends to “neglect and ignore” the “marginalized” volunteers. While suggesting the League structure is often undemocratic, the O Bee petition stresses that “this is not a condemnation” of the paid staff or the current leadership but a recognition “of a situation that has developed over time” and needs correction for the sake of a healthy industry. In meetings and recent communication with O Bee, the League leadership has emphasized it has already taken a number of steps in embracing OBee recommendations including creation of a “Volunteers Network Council” to meet quarterly starting in January. League President and CEO John Annaloro in an Aug. 22 letter to O Bee called the directors’ “collective expressions of concern on all matters relating to volunteer participation” a healthy development-a kind of “renaissance” in volunteerism which needs to be appreciated and welcomed. However, the League challenged one O Bee proposal made earlier this summer and since changed which asked for a compilation and distribution of a list of all Washington State volunteers. “The matter of openly disclosing and exchanging names as well as contact information for all officials, however, was problematic,” wrote Annaloro. Goche of O Bee and a former lobbyist for a state public employees group, expressed surprise the League did not have a complete list but later said he understood Annaloro’s concerns about distribution without a signoff by individual directors. Annaloro said the League will develop rosters including addresses and phone numbers of volunteers who participate in conferences and are willing to share personal information Nonetheless, the Tumwater CU is insisting the League develop greater opportunities for networking by opening more committee jobs and enabling volunteers to speak out more freely at conferences. As to publicizing volunteer activities, Annaloro said the League will start offering electronic delivery of Focus, its monthly newsletter giving directors access to more information. Printed copies will still be available but Internet access will begin “as soon as we run out of paper.” In bringing the volunteer representation to the fore, Goche, a director for eight years for the Tumwater CU which once served employees of the defunct Olympia Brewing Co., said he has long been mystified at why volunteers are left out of what he said is the “information loop.” He said volunteers need more information to do their job in serving members, in exercising due diligence and helping shape credit union policy at the state and national levels. -

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