By Edwin Crayton
July is known for fireworks. And the July 9th board meeting of the Natchitoches Community Improvement Foundation (NCIF) had plenty. It began when Kevin Porter, objected to the rejection of a proposal from a re-entry program. This began a loud and long back and forth argument between him, Leo Walker and other members of the board who supported rejection of the grant applicant. At some point Board Member Renee Porter spoke out too. He is a new member and was obviously frustrated. He said, “We always get sidetracked. I think we all need to respect each other’s opinions. There is so much bull! He added, “… I am sick of the bull.” After his comments, James Below stood up and told the board he was resigning. He gave his letter to the board and it was approved. I later asked Below if it was in response to the arguing. However, he said no, and texted me a copy of his resignation letter.
The entire meeting was a bit confusing and chaotic. At one quite strange point, the board went into an “executive session” and asked anyone from the public to leave. (This executive session did not appear on the printed agenda.) They remained in this session for about an hour and then allowed the public back in. At that point they resumed the agenda but never once mentioned the issue they discussed in the so called “executive session.”
Not discussed or on the agenda was the fact that three of the board members present that night, are serving on the board despite the fact that due to terms limits in the bylaws, their terms have expired. Those members are Leo Walker, Kevin Porter and Diane Blake Jones. Mr. Walker even chaired the meeting. Five seats total are available due to term limits. And with Mr. Below’s resignation, that now makes six available seats. Walker has admitted they have received nominations from the public for those vacancies, and yet, the board has not voted on those nominations to fill the seats that are available. After the meeting, I asked Resigning Board Member Below if he thought the members with expired terms should resign. He said, “I think all the board members should follow the (organization’s bylaws). And if their position has expired, they should relinquish their position.” I then asked if he felt that was happening. He said, “No.”
NCIF has been generating other heated discussions and debates lately. For instance, it is being sued by Henry O Flipper Foundation, (HOFF) an organization that has several complaints against NCIF. Mainly they maintain NCIF improperly handled a grant request, is not following its own bylaws and is not following the plan of allocation for the distribution of funds to the public. Natchitoches Community Improvement Foundation is court ordered to distribute 1.8 million in funds to residents in the Natchitoches Community.
“And you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32