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OLYMPIA, Wash. – The push by credit union volunteers here and in other states to gain a louder voice in policy-making procedures within industry trade groups is losing one of its champions. James Goche, an Olympia attorney who is credited with last year’s creation of Volunteer Networking Council in the Washington Credit Union League and the author of a white paper citing problems in CU governance, has resigned as a director at the $103 million O Bee CU of Tumwater. In a resignation letter submitted March 21 to the board, Goche lamented that after 10 years as a director, “I have to admit that credit union governance is not keeping pace” with other financial institutions. Though his own CU in suburban Olympia has shown asset and member growth as have peer CUs throughout Washington State, the “philosophy and practice” of the institutions have moved in separate directions with CU boards lacking needed support. “As credit unions have worked diligently to acquire all powers of the banks, they have neglected the responsibility to also increase their capacity to govern themselves,” Goche argued. As a result, he said, CU’s “have a difficult time attracting and keeping qualified board members and cannot provide their boards with support necessary to keep pace with the growth in all other aspects of administration.” In an interview, Goche, a retired county prosecuting attorney turned-lobbyist, maintained that despite the positive growth rates, CUs seem to have neglected some basics of volunteer support including director education, industry information and compensation in addition to lacking “enfranchisement within the league.” “Credit union boards,” he wrote, “find their legal responsibilities increasing while their power to meet those responsibilities is declining. Members must subsidize the execution of their duties out of pocket and take time away from business and family activities to attend meetings.” Moreover, “board members no longer participate in the state and national trade associations which represent them and do not guide the creation of credit union policy” at the state or national levels, a point often refuted by CUNA, NAFCU and Washington League officials. On director compensation, he noted that in talking to some bankers he learned some receive as much as $1,500 for board meetings and $500 for committee meetings. But Goche stressed that director pay was not the issue, calling it a “red herring.” In defining CU support, he said there are a number of elements including: “access to comprehensive information, education, legal support, peer support and networking.” In addition, apart from participation in state and national trade associations, support also means “the ability to shape legislation and CU policy” and “the time and financial support to do all of these things.” The discussion should not be “just about paying board members. Focusing on just that is a red herring. All of these things need attention for board members to do their jobs.” Goche, whose May 2005 white paper on CU governance set in motion new moves by the Washington CU League to recognize volunteer involvement, said he is leaving the board on good terms. He said he hopes now to spend more time with his family and on pet interests including refurbishing an old family farm homestead and getting involved in agronomy projects. He also will be spending time at his law firm, Bay House Associates. Though Goche’s resignation was accepted by the O Bee Board, a number of directors voiced renewed support of his positions on volunteer concerns. The directors have included both the incoming and outgoing chairmen of O Bee, Joe Deck and Dale Putnam, as well as its president/CEO, Bruce Cramer who has in the past publicly backed Goche. In his letter, Goche complimented Deck, owner of a motorcycle dealership, on “the good work overseeing O Bee’s efforts to get the league to start paying attention to its elected officials and move them back into a statewide governance role.” Deck said it is important that more volunteers get on the league board and that O Bee is waiting to see what will be done. The league has said its Volunteer Networking Council is in a formative stage with participants expected at the annual Volunteer Conference June 15-17 in Spokane. In his resignation letter, Goche concluded that he has “enjoyed serving as an O Bee board member” finding it “a good education – in financial services, corporate government, cooperative philosophy and CU politics.” He also acknowledged O Bee’s success during his tenure. “O Bee has increased its membership and assets, acquired multiple locations to serve members, and developed its senior staff structure. “This was accomplished during a difficult time of transition for our community which experienced a major earthquake, Y2K, 9-11, and the closure of O Bee’s namesake, the Olympia Brewery,” he said. -

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