Following a dispute over nominations, McLean Citizens Association (MCA) members at the group’s May 25 annual membership meeting approved five nominees to the McLean Community Foundation’s (MCF) board of trustees – including one who had not been recommended by the foundation’s board.
The membership meeting, held in hybrid format with people joining in online and in person at the McLean Community Center, featured a presentation by MCF board president Steven Bloom, who highlighted the organization’s fund-raising successes and emphasized its long-standing, productive interactions with MCA.
“We respect our historic relationship with the MCA and seek to work collaboratively with you to advance the mission of each of our institutions,” he said.
But the spirit of amity dissolved not long afterward when it came time for members to vote on a slate of five nominees for MCF’s board of trustees, which had been selected by the MCA Nominating Committee.
The committee – which was chaired by Winifred Pizzano and included MCA board members Ron Bleeker and Kristin Dubelier, as well as non-board members Jennifer Longmeyer-Wood and Mark Zetts – put forward nominees Steve Hoffman, Merrily Pierce, Jennifer Salopek, Tracy Shively and Despina (Desi) Woltman.
But several people, including MCF members, favored nominees advanced by MCF leaders, which included three of MCA’s choices, but listed Amanda Clarke and Alisa Schultz instead of Pierce and Woltman.
Amy Swaak, an MCF trustee for seven years, said for the first time in the organization’s known history, there had never been a time – until this year – when the MCA nominating committee did not seat the nominee vetted and approved by MCF’s board of trustees.
MCF’s board never received the MCA’s two nominations, she said.
“This unprecedented action was taken without warning to the MCF president or the nominating committee and without consideration of the operational needs for continued governance of the foundation,” Swaak said. “We did not know that our candidates were being removed from the slate until the MCA annual-meeting notice was distributed publicly on April 24.”
Swaak asked those present to support the MCF board’s independent governance, which was established when MCA formed the organization in 1978. She asked them to support MCF’s proposed slate of nominees.
Del. Rip Sullivan (D-McLean), who previously served on MCF’s board and as its president, noted that the meeting marked the first time any such disagreement had occurred between the group and MCA. He urged for people to support MCF’s slate.
An MCA member called the question and another member seconded his motion, but association president Scott Spitzer pressed to allow further comments on the matter and members defeated the motion to vote immediately.
“We’re a community of respectful citizens,” Spitzer said. “Allowing members to speak, to voice their reasons why they support a candidate is a collegial thing to do in a community like ours. Eliminating debate, for me, in a democracy is a serious matter.”
Zetts said MCA’s bylaws were “very clear” that the Nominating Committee put forth a slate nominees for MCF’s board. Pizzano, in a subsequent e-mail to the GazetteLeader, concurred.
“The Nominations Committee received a multitude of MCF applications, reviewed and vetted them, and made a choice in accordance with the committee’s duties and responsibilities per the bylaws,” she wrote.
MCF vice president Mary Rouvelas defended the foundation’s slate.
“Our nominating [committee] worked very hard to find candidates who were not only great volunteers, but were also uniquely situated to fill roles that we needed,” she said.
One of the nominees was tech-savvy; another had financial experience and would succeed a similar person who was leaving, Rouvelas said.
“I have nothing disparaging to say about the MCA-nominated slate, but I would say that we don’t know them, and that’s a problem because we do know what we need for the MCF,” she said.
Kelly Green Kahn, an MCA board member who also serves as MCF’s treasurer, said the foundation did not receive applications from the two MCA nominees, as was proper procedure.
“There is a process in place,” Kahn said. “It is an important process so that we can continue to meet the needs of the organization and we have a fiduciary responsibility that is guided by law. And so I think it is important that MCF continue to be able to identify its leadership.”
Following the comment period, MCA members voted on the five MCF nominees put forward by the Nominating Committee, plus petition candidates Clarke and Schultz.
Clarke tried to introduce herself to the room, but Spitzer said she should have spoken earlier and asked her to sit down.
“You’re out of order,” he said. “We’re having voting.”
Spitzer warned members that if they voted for more than five candidates, their ballots would be invalidated
When there was a glitch with the online voting (members present at the McLean Community Center also cast in-person ballots), Spitzer directed that the initial online votes be negated and that the 48 people voting remotely cast ballots again.
The final results: Hoffman received 95 votes, Salopek 94, Shively 94, Schultz 58 and Woltman 53. Pierce and Clarke barely lost, earning 52 and 51 votes, respectively.