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Letter To The Editor - May 04, 2024

Dear Sir,

I’m responding to the Letter to the Editor submitted by the Lake Chapala Society (LCS) Board in the April 27 edition of this newspaper, which contained inaccuracies about myself and my actions.

The Board “… has already posted board meeting dates and times to the LCS website home page, along with agendas and minutes …”  I worked with Steve Balfour after the meeting to post a permanent notice on the home page saying that meetings are held on the second Tuesday of every month, usually in the west campus building. A generic agenda pops up, with a link to the published minutes. It does not have dates, times, or locations for specific meetings.   

It’s impractical to post the specifics of each meeting, since the board won’t issue an agenda until 24 hours before the meeting. A notice less than 24 hours in advance is not useful, and this new generic post is better than nothing.

“We would hope that the webmaster will waive his customary three business day edit turnaround time” is misleading. The agreement when I took on the voluntary webmaster role in 2022 included that I would try to post items ASAP within three working days after receipt. Many posts appear the same day, but can slip a day or two. I feel this is a reasonable response time, but the board doesn’t agree – although the previous webmaster updated the site only once a week.

They have ignored the transparency and communications issues I raised, and misrepresented my two governance concerns.

The board wants to unfairly shorten the term of the next president by six months. Their reasons for Steve retaining power beyond the last AGM are: board members are given a two-year term, and the previous president had her term extended. Apparently, these reasons don’t apply to the next president. Instead of spending our money on “legal professionals,” and spending more of our money on a special meeting in August, Steve should have done the right thing and made way for a new president at the last AGM. This would have avoided a lot of mess for no reason other than he feels owed six months more power. He had that choice.

I opined that the board cannot create a CEO position. It modifies the constitutional relationship between the board and the executive director, and would need an amendment to the Constitution. I based this on the communication to the members in the February issue of Conecciones: the CEO “… will manage all staff including LCS’ current Executive Director ... [and] oversee the efforts around fund development and marketing ... demands of LCS as one of Lakeside’s leading organizations require a person with the expertise that Steve has ...”

I also explained that neither of these two governance issues were discussed or voted on by the board in any legal way – recorded as a motion, discussion, and vote in any of the official minutes posted for the public.

At the last board meeting, they said a special meeting was held on January 27, and both issues were discussed and agreed. They claimed there were no minutes because the Secretary was absent – there was a set of “notes.” In the letter to the editor they now say that the meeting was on January 20, there are minutes, but it was a confidential closed session. Their stories shift like the sands of the Sahara. There are, however, two key facts: without a motion recorded in public minutes of a regular board meeting, decisions don’t legally happen; and the CEO position was created and assumed by Steve Balfour months before a January meeting of any date.

At an Events Committee meeting on November 14, 2023, Steve announced to staff and volunteer managers that he had assumed the role of CEO. He said this was to assist the executive director with his workload, and said nothing about it being temporary. The 2024 LCS Directory was printed in early-mid December, and lists Steve’s title under “Staff” as “Chief Executive Officer” – this doesn’t seem very temporary. The February issue of Conecciones describing the CEO position was at the printer around the time of either alleged meeting in January.

It seems convenient that Steve has now resigned from this contentious position. Although they now claim the CEO’s purpose was temporary to deal with a personnel issue that has been resolved, this differs widely from what the members, staff, and volunteers were all led to believe. Why would such a loftily titled position be needed temporarily? The facts don’t support this new spin.

“The Board respectfully requests that if anyone in the future has questions or concerns about governance, transparency, or any other issue, they be raised through proper channels …” That is what we’ve been trying to do, but have been met with rudeness, stonewalling, and obfuscation. At the last board meeting, I was told they would discuss my questions and concerns, and have decisions at the next board meeting. I was taken aback by this because I always believed board discussions and decisions take place at board meetings. Since this doesn’t appear to be the case, I wonder where and how decisions are made by this board.

Garry Musgrave