Bylaw Maneuvers

Bylaw Maneuvers

To the Editor:

Last week the MVCCA conducted a special council meeting to consider proposed changes to their bylaws. Months ago, the MVCCA board constituted a special bylaws committee to formulate proposed bylaw changes. I attended the meeting given the MVCCA's desire that they be considered as representing the entire Mount Vernon community on issues of importance and concern. That notion was quickly dashed when the presiding officer announced she would only recognize for comment duly authorized representatives of community associations present at the meeting.

That the MVCCA only represents its member associations as a lobbying organization for those associations, currently numbering 44, rather than the community as a whole was confirmed in an e-mail string shared with me by a resident of the Wellington community. One Wellington resident took note of my letter to the editor published in the Sept. 25 edition of the Gazette concerning proposed bylaw changes and suggested, based upon my letter, that Wellington should vote against the proposed bylaw change concerning its conflict of interest provision. A Wellington resident, also a former MVCCA co-chair and former Wellington president responded: "The letters to the editor are from people who are not members of the MVCCA. The MVCCA is a member organization." There you have it straight from an MVCCA veteran. They don't represent the Mount Vernon community - they only represent the views of their member associations.

I have written the Gazette on numerous occasions expressing the importance of the MVCCA conflict of interest bylaw provision. Little did I know that the leaders of the MVCCA have no understanding of conflicts of interest. This was demonstrated when the chairman of the special bylaws committee that formulated the proposed changes to the bylaws also presided over last week's meeting. She surely should have been present to answer questions but she should not have been the person conducting the meeting and fielding all questions from attendees, in each case, as I observed, rebutting those concerns with her arguments in favor of the changes. Not a single attendee raised a question or concern about this blatant conflict. Since I wasn't authorized to speak, I was unable to raise a point of order. The meeting can't be considered to have been conducted with any credibility.

After barring non-members from participating in the discussion, the next thing that happened was the presiding officer announced that any proposed amendments to the proposed bylaw changes would be required to achieve a 2/3 vote in order to be incorporated into the proposed changes. From Robert's Rules of Order: "An amendment is adopted by a majority vote, even if the motion to be amended requires a two-thirds vote." Thus, a strong deterrent against any possible amendments, in direct violation of Robert's Rules of Order, was introduced at the beginning. Several proposed amendments came close to achieving a simple majority. Most importantly, a motion made by Julia Miller of the Wessynton Homes Association that the conflict of interest provision in these then existing bylaws be retained failed by a vote of 10-14. Another proposed amendment introduced by Queenie Cox stating that standing committees advise the General Council, achieved a vote of 13-11 but did not achieve the "required" 2/3 vote. That proposed amendment should have been included.

When the attendees debated Julia Miller's motion, the presiding officer actually misled the attendees by stating that in the then existing bylaws, the question of removal of MVCCA directors was solely within the discretion of the co-chairs and this scenario required change. This was, in fact, untrue. In Article VI, paragraph 8, members of the MVCCA board who were not officers could be removed by the co-chairs only with the concurrence of a 2/3 vote of the General Council. In Article VIII, paragraph 3, the General Council was given the sole discretion to remove an officer. This misleading of attendees likely contributed to the defeat of Julia Miller's amendment. The presiding officer also stated that the MVCCA had obtained an opinion from the County Attorney regarding the expression "policy determining" and they said the term is vague. Putting aside whether the County Attorney's office would render an opinion for someone other than a supervisor, the words "policy determining" are easy to understand. They refer to a board that determines policy in its area of jurisdiction. There was no need to eviscerate a conflict of interest provision that had existed for 40 years. Instead, there was need to begin enforcing it.

There is no way last week's MVCCA meeting can be considered to have legitimately amended the MVCCA's bylaws. The MVCCA needs to vacate the decisions made at that meeting, start over from scratch, ensure its member associations are honestly informed concerning proposed bylaw changes, and conduct such a meeting with a presiding officer who is not conflicted out. Unless this occurs, the bylaw changes should be considered void. Whatever the MVCCA decides to do, at least we now have confirmed, from the words of one of its most fervent supporters and leaders that the MVCCA only represents its member associations, and no one else. Supervisor Hyland, take heed.