Foundation with missing $19,500 allows board members with expired terms to remain on board

By Edwin Crayton/Opinion

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If you wonder how in the world an organization can have $19, 500 missing and not feel compelled to account for what happened to the money, it may help to take a look at what happened not many days ago at the January 8, 2019 meeting of the Natchitoches Community Improvement Foundation (NCIF). As I have written previously, the foundation has admitted to not knowing what it did with $19,500 in money it manages, which is designated for the public. Yet, its current board members have also denied any responsibility for having to account for the funds. That little bit of information or insight may prove essential in helping you understand what happened when on Monday, January 8, 2019 the board gathered at First Baptist Amulet Street to fill five vacant board seats.

That night, according to the organization’s court-approved bylaws, the following board members were supposed to go off the board because their terms have expired: Chairman Leo Walker, Vice President Kelvin Porter, Board Members Diane Blake Jones, Billy Sue Johnson and Ed Ward Jr. Section 3.3 of the organization’s bylaws which talks about term limits says, “A director may succeed himself, but for only two consecutive terms, a director must vacate his position for at least one (1) year before seeking re-election to another term.”

But vacating positions is not what actually happened. Chairman Walker and Vice President Porter told the board that most of the citizens who applied to fill those five vacant seats on the board did not meet the criteria to be a board member. Although Porter mentioned that one or two did not live in Natchitoches, neither he or Walker went into real details about all the applicants. For one thing I don’t’ remember them going over each application with the members. However, two new people were approved to sit on the board: Dionte Powe and DeMarquis Hamilton. It was also reported that two long time board members had decided to resign from the board: Estelle McGill and Catherine Hoover. Then, Porter nominated one of the new members: DeMarquis Hamilton to succeed Walker as chairman. But Chairman Walker objected, saying that because Hamilton was new it would be unfair to put him in the chairman’s position. Board Member James Below seemed interested in the chairman’s role, but nothing came of that. So the board decided that with the exception of Powe and Hamilton, they had no other qualified applicants for the board in general and in their logic, this meant they could as a result, allow the five members whose terms had expired to “temporarily” remain in their positions until replacements can be found. Expired Board Member Diane Jones claimed that their training from the Rapides Foundation advised that I was alright to do so. I don’t remember anyone citing or referring to the bylaws on this issue. The board claimed they needed to allow the board members with expired terms to remain because no qualified applicants were available and that if they didn’t allow the expired members to stay “temporarily”, they would not have enough members to conduct business. The word “temporary” is in quotation marks because the board meets quarterly, only four times a year and that means these expired members will be in their positions for at least three months. Not very temporary is it?

I did have a copy of the bylaws with me and I pointed out to the board that it appears the bylaws don’t actually give them permission to do what they did. In other words, the bylaws do not specifically say that the board can let board members with expired terms remain on the board at all. And as best I could determine in reading, it also doesn’t give permission to allow expired members to serve until they find a successor for a vacating board member.

There are several practical reasons for concern over “temporarily” allowing these expired board members to continue. One main reason is that NCIF does not widely advertise their meetings or openings on the board. Actually, think about it. When was the last time you saw an advertisement or announcement in the media about a NCIF meeting or openings? So will they really do a good job of letting the public know about the openings and do so in an efficient, timely manner? Or will it drag out for months, allowing these expired members to possibly even stay on the board basically another year unofficially? Secondly, there seems to be a lack of transparency when the people voting for the officers and the people running for the office are the same people. It’s like being in charge of the election for your city or state and also running for office—all at the same time. In fact, it’s exactly that. Thirdly, why didn’t the board present documents introducing each applicant and why he or she was rejected? At an election such detail isn’t tedious, indeed, it is essential to ensure fair play and transparency. But truth is, much of what doesn’t work at NCIF is the result of faulty bylaws and a lack of good oversight and supervision which has resulted in NCIF board members having too much control without adequate checks and balances on what they do– in order to protect the public. And that includes the error of the current process that lets the board members choose their successors. In other words, to put it bluntly, human nature being what it is, it just does not work to allow people to choose their successors and then to advertise and run the election too. And it doesn’t work to allow any organization to operate without consequences, corrections or penalties when they do odd things like allow members to remain on the board even after their term expires, or for that matter it also doesn’t work to allow that organization to end up not having to account for what they did with $19,500.

But on the upside, despite the tendency of senior board members to cling to their positions (most of the expired members have been on the board for much of its 15 years), the good news is that new blood is still getting on the board and that can bring new ideas and hopefully better service for the public. Two new members coming on and two long time members going off has potential to give birth to fresh thinking. Like the New Year, t’s time to ring in the new. And yet, I’m not too hopeful as NCIF has shown a reluctance to follow rules or change and it has taken lawsuits, complaints, prayers and court orders to force the changes we have now. But thanks to God change is still happening.
At any rate, five seats are still in need of filling. If you are interested or would like to nominate someone, here are the qualifications. According to the bylaws, Section 3.2 says, “The Board of Directors of the Corporation shall be composed of 15 individuals. In order to be eligible to serve as a member of the Board of Directors, the individual must be 21 years of age and a domiciliary and full time resident of the City of Natchitoches, Louisiana. No person who has been convicted of a felony under the laws of any state shall be eligible to serve as a member of the Board of Directors.”

The Natchitoches Community Improvement Foundation Board of Directors are: James Below, Gwen Ante Hardison Davis, Brenda Milner, Shaniqua Hoover, Oswald Taylor, Gwendolyn Williams, Mildred Joseph, Renee Porter, Dionte Powe, and DeMarquis Hamilton, These members are still on even though their terms have expired: Leo Walker, Ed Ward Jr., Diane Blake Jones, Kelvin Porter, and Billy Sue Johnson.

You cannot serve both God and money. –Matthew 6:24.

17 thoughts on “Foundation with missing $19,500 allows board members with expired terms to remain on board

  1. This has gone on too long. Rapides Foundation and police authorities should investigate. The members with expired terms should not be able to say yea or nae about persons filling their space. They just need to go. What has the existing committee actually done for the improve of our city?

  2. Of course no one in Natchitoches ever get prosecuted for stealing money . Bill Long and Em Horton were allowed to pay back the 50 thousand plus they stole from the college. Then there was the issues in the tax office . These people should have gone to jail not moved on to other jobs.

    • I remember that. As I recall Alvin Brossette was also involved in that scandal and he was rewarded with a principalship at a Natchitoches Parish school.

      But, what happened at the tax office? Do you mean the Tax Commission Office on East 5th Street?

  3. MY OPINION

    With a board that is constituted in violation of its by-laws, any act of the corporation will be ultra vires and invalid.

  4. It is past time to clean house here. Why has something not been done? If they didn’t do it, they probably know who did, and that would be aiding and abetting I believe. It would be very difficult for a small group in a small town not to know what was going on. So why is the DA not investigating this? Or why has someone not cared enough to do something. To allow over $19,000 to disappear, and not one person know anything sounds like maybe a theft and a cover-up. Anyone care enough to investigate this group?

  5. Why does this entity exist and where does their money come from? What are they supposed to be doing that isn’t covered elsewhere?

  6. So being 21, a resident of the city and not having any felony convictions is all it takes to be a member? Well, then I could be a member. Sounds like basically anyone in the city with a pulse can be a member. I thought there would be some sort of qualifications required. A foundation that’s all about community improvement should have members that know a little about how to do it. What do they do anyway? What projects have they come up with and started that will improve our community? The community I live in has so much litter clogging the drainage pipes that we’ve been flooded during the past few weeks of heavy rain. Some lines painted on the road would be nice, too, for those of us who drive home after sundown. How about sidewalks so people walking or riding bikes aren’t gambling with their lives.

    Oh, you say, those things aren’t what the NCIF is for? Then how about they address the fact that there’s nothing for kids to do but get into trouble after school, on weekends, or in the summer. I posted some ideas about that a few months ago. Am I the only person here that believes we can offer safe places for kids to hang out and not be bored?

  7. Since this involves “public money” which I assume means tax money, shouldn’t the DA investigate what has happened to $19,500 and all the other shenanigans? If the local DA refuses, then the State AG should be involved.

    • I totally agree Jason .How can a public organization just afford to lose
      $19,500 dollars ? its not like your car keys,that money was there for a reason
      and why hasn’t the D.A. got involved yet ? why haven’t people been fired and if their term is up show them the door !!
      I would run for office I live outside city limits .

  8. Great work sir. We need more transparency and accountability for those who are looking to take advantage of the taxpayers.

  9. I think you should reach out to Rapides Foundation to see if this is the advice they actually received. Also most bylaws tell you in them what do to if. For vacancies and expired terms.

  10. great job Edwin.This kind of BS needs to be heard by the public,people hiding money not knowing where it went and trying to control who sits on the board and who doesn’t ,not stepping down when your term is up and letting people on the board who don’t live in the city .
    this is quite the circus and I am getting my popcorn ready !

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