By Edwin Crayton/Opinion
According to the term limits section of the bylaws of the Natchitoches Community Improvement Foundation (NCIF), no board member can serve more than one consecutive three-year term. That means a total of six years. The bylaws say in section 3.3 that “A director may succeed himself (or herself), but for only one consecutive term.” Leo Walker was elected chairman in 2014. The same year an independent audit found that $19,500 was unaccounted for (and still is unaccounted for). It is now 2021. That’s seven years. He should have stepped down last year. Yet, Walker chaired the April 13, 2021 meeting of NCIF.
Diane Blake Jones is also on the board. But she was on the board in 2014 too. That means, she too, after having served two consecutive terms is supposed to step down for a year. Ms. Jones was very much still on the board at the April 13th quarterly board meeting. When I asked Mr. Walker about this issue at the meeting, he got irritated and yelled incoherently. That is not an answer.
The board needs members and sure enough, people are applying. That night in fact, the board voted to allow six people on. But then it said it needed to check with them to make sure these people wanted to serve. Couldn’t that have been done before the meeting so that at the meeting all they had to do was confirm the new members? Three current members have missed several meetings. Later the board said it wanted to also check on these three members to see if they want to remain on the board. Why? They are consistently not showing up. Doesn’t that answer that question?
Because one of the citizens newly voted on to the board was present, I asked her if she accepted the position. She said yes. Her name is Helen Obioha and she runs the Natchitoches Coalition on Homelessness. At some point, the board asked all members of the public to leave while they went into an executive session. One member of the public was Dorothy McGaskey who is a school board member, questioned Walker as to why the “executive session” was not on the printed agenda. By the way, the new member was not invited into the “executive session”, even after being voted on to the board.
So here is the situation: You have Walker, a so-called “chairman” running a meeting even though according to the board’s own bylaws, he is in violation of NCIF term limits and should not even be on the board at this point at all. You have a board that can barely put a quorum together to conduct business and at the same time you have citizens coming forward to volunteer and yet the board is still asking current members who have not been attending meetings if they still want to be on the board. And oh, they get to manage 2 million dollars of money designated to be distributed to you and the rest of the citizens of Natchitoches.
The ironic truth in all of this is, NCIF has basically good bylaws, approved by a district judge. But good bylaws do not matter at all, when the organization they are written for doesn’t follow them or follows them selectively. It’s simple NCIF. Just keep your word and do what you agreed to on paper and before the judge. I ran across something interesting in The NCIF Code of Ethics and Conduct. It says under “Purpose”: “The Natchitoches Community Improvement Foundation is obligated as a charitable, tax exempt organization to maintain the public trust. Later on it reads, “It is incumbent upon the Board of Directors of the Foundation to conduct the affairs of the Foundation with a commitment to the highest standard of integrity.” Really? So, is allowing board members to violate term limits and even run the organization while in violation, and allowing still other board members to remain on the board even though they are not attending meetings, is this “maintaining the public trust” and displaying the “highest standard of integrity?”
The Natchitoches Community Improvement Foundation Board members are: Oswald Taylor, Mildred Joseph, Gwen Antee Hardison-Davis, Shaniqua Hoover, Brenda Milner, Gwendolyn Williams, Rene Porter, Edwin Deon Powe, De’Marquis Hamilton, (The following are sitting on the board even though their terms have expired due to term limits: Leo Walker Sr., Diane Blake Jones. The board voted to allow Helen Obioha and five other citizens on to the board. Ms. Obioha accepted in the meeting).
“Let everything be done decently and in order.” 1 Corinthians 14:40