Sequim chamber plans election, opposition awaits word from lawyers

Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM, WA - 3/31/08 — While the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce prepares ballots for mailing, perhaps as early as this week, an opposition group awaits responses from six attorneys who are interpreting the organization's bylaws.

A spokesman for the Concerned Chamber Committee, Gil Simon — the proprietor of Sequim Village Glass in Carlsborg who calls himself a "recovering attorney" — says that the bylaws don't permit members who are not in business, or nonprofits, to vote or hold office.

The chamber's attorney Alan Millet differs, saying that "unless a person has applied for associate membership, they are full members with rights to vote [and] hold office as members."

That's why, Simon said Friday, the group sent copies of the bylaws to six attorneys for interpretation.

Simon expects to begin to receive responses early this week.

On Thursday, he had sent an e-mail to Walt Schubert, president of the chamber's board of directors, questioning the eligibility both of some of those who voted during a March 20 board election — an election that kept current board members in place — and some of the nominees for the rest of the board positions.

Schubert, former mayor of Sequim and a member of the Sequim City Council, sent the e-mail to Millet, asking what the chamber should do.

Election go on as planned
Millet's answer, Schubert said: "I think the election should go as planned."

"That's what we're going to do," Schubert said Friday. "We're going to proceed with the election."

He doesn't know when the ballots will be sent out in the all-mail election to the chamber's membership, although he hopes it will be sometime this week "or soon after."

Deborah Rambo Sinn, a music teacher who Schubert said is handling the election, estimates chamber membership at between 460 and 480.

Seven elected positions are open, she said.

She said the chamber now has 26 nominees, with some that had presented themselves earlier having declined to be nominated.

The ballots will be mailed in a double envelope system and will be directed to a mailbox that can be accessed only by Dave Wiitala, pastor of Sequim Bible Church.

"He's trusted by both sides," Schubert said.

Schubert said that, before the ballots are mailed, the board first must go through the list of nominees to determine that they are all legitimate members.

Issue won't go away
Said Simon:

"Assuming that they go through the full and complete list of nominees as presented, except for anyone who has indicated they wish to withdraw or is not interested in serving, that's fine."

But, he added, "we still as a group have serious questions about several nominees, including one name that we proposed.

"It has to do with the bylaw provisions. If a nonprofit or not in business, they may not vote or hold office.

"We're not going to let that issue go away.

"If people who, in our opinion are not eligible to vote or not eligible to hold office, we'll challenge it."

Of the six attorneys, two in the local area and one in California — Simon's ex-wife, he said — are working pro bono.

A Seattle attorney, who Simon describes as a specialist in nonprofits, is "giving us a serious professional discount."

The other two, both California attorneys, are being paid by the group, Simon said.

"What the chamber did was wrong," Simon said.

"They allowed people to vote [at the March 20 meeting] who were specifically prohibited or restricted by the bylaws from voting.

"They are insisting that the candidacy of the people who are not eligible to hold office — that it go through for an election.

"And that's wrong. It's wrong on two counts."

The CCC formed in late January to demand more information about the controversial termination of Lee Lawrence as the chamber's executive director and to urge  greater responsiveness from the chamber board.



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