By Edwin Crayton/Opinion
In the last article, I mentioned that “Chairman” Leo Walker is still running the Natchitoches Community Improvement Foundation (NCIF), in violation of the organization’s bylaws. The court-approved bylaws specify that no member is allowed to serve more than six consecutive years. Walker has been in the chairman’s seat no less than seven consecutive years (see tax document and section 3.3 of bylaws, accompanying this article. Scroll). But interestingly, these documents also show that in addition to Walker, four other board members of the 15-person board are also sitting in violation of term limits.
Why does this matter to you? It matters because the 2.4 million these board members manage and distribute, is actually money designated for you if you live in the City of Natchitoches. It’s your money. The 2.4 million is money from a settlement resulting from a suit over a PCB spill in Sibley Lake. The district court ordered that the settlement money be given to people living in the City of Natchitoches. NCIF does this by giving grants and scholarships (although very little of the money actually reaches citizens annually). To put it another way, these board members, whose terms have expired, are being allowed to manage your money and make decisions about what happens to it, even though they should not even be on the board.
As you will see in the tax papers and bylaws documents attached, the following board members have been on the board at least since 2015—seven consecutive years: Those board members are: Leo Walker, Brenda Milner, Diane Blake Jones, Oswald Taylor, and Mildred Joseph. They are required to step down for a year and after that time period, they can go back on the board. Such a simple rule, right? Yet, apparently, this group of board members is not willing to give up their seats even for a mere year. The obvious problem with that attitude is that it unfairly prevents eligible citizens from having an opportunity to serve their community through the giving of grants and scholarships to the people of Natchitoches. The rationale many of the board members with expired seats use to justify clinging to their seats, is that they cannot find people who are “qualified” to fill them. Really? Check out what the bylaws actually require in terms of qualification. Section 3.2 of the bylaws says, “In order to be eligible to serve as a member of the Board of Directors, the individual must be 21 year 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.” Considering that simple standard, Is the claim that it is hard to find “qualified” people really believable? Especially when you consider that Natchitoches is a university town filled with intelligent, caring people both on campus and among the general population. And as the bylaws require, many people here are over 21 and most of them are not felons. But even if those board members were right, the bylaws still do not give them permission to overstay their terms for any reason. Period. The simple truth is that finding new board members is not the job of people whose terms have expired. It is the job of the legitimate board members who are serving within their term limits.
Rest assured, when these board members step down, new people will materialize. Perhaps they don’t want to sit in seats while these board members are clinging so desperately to them—-still sitting in them. After all, that would mean they would be sitting in their laps.
Dear five board members: Just do what you agreed to do in your own bylaws. Your time is up. This money belongs to all the people living in the city of Natchitoches. For their sake, please give up your seats, now.
“Let all things be done decently and in order.” -1 Corinthians, 14:40, The Holy Bible
“Justice delayed, is justice denied.”-William Gladstone, 19th Century British Prime Minister,
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