By Midge Pierce
Perplexed Richmond residents filled tables, pushed together in a symbolic gesture of welcome, as the Neighborhood Association held its March meeting despite the absence of a board majority and resignation of its Chair.
The twelve missing board members, on a self-proclaimed “pause”, had resigned their officer posts following appeals for a recall of the Chair and grievances signed by thirty-five residents declaring procedural discrepancies in last year’s elections.
As onsite attending officer Brian Hochhalter tried to stick to a full agenda, the elephant in the room was how the association had gotten to this point.
The dozen or so new attendees pressed for answers. Grievance filer Allen Field, via phone hookup, explained that open meetings, transparent elections and bylaws are bedrock tenets that should be followed.
Former board members in attendance added accusations that some absent board members had blocked, edited or removed meeting and agenda notices, essentially holding the NA hostage.
The lack of a quorum meant that replacement officers could not be elected, a vote to withdraw grievances could not be held and routine business such as paying rent to Waverly Church could not be conducted.
Hochhalter said the neighborhood list-serve was inaccessible and appealed to SE Uplift to retrieve a password kept by an absentee member.
He expressed frustration that SEUL was not being more proactive in providing mediation for a divided community. In its initial ruling, SEUL acknowledged bylaw violations had occurred, but indicated no harm had been caused.
In the wake of grievance charges, former chair Matt Otis has been vocal online that he had been wronged. At the meeting, however, several attendees countered that they had been the ones bullied by heavy-handedness from the chair that stopped discussions on contentious development issues.
Field, who had objected to board members being installed even though they had not been elected, wondered why vote if everyone is just appointed.
The next election is in May.