Leo Walker submits his “resignation” letter. Or did he?

(Chaotic quarterly meeting of 2-million-dollar community foundation was filled with tricks.)

By Edwin Crayton/Opinion

I learned a trick from an evangelism organization. I use it sometimes when I witness to children. In order to get their attention. I hold up two colored curved cards. One red. One blue. I ask them to tell me which is bigger. After they’ve chosen one, I put them together to show that the cards are in fact, exactly the same size. The kids are usually blown away and ready to listen. I use this trick to make the point that things in life are not always what they seem and that truth can often be elusive. But the Bible is all-truth and available. Tricks can be used to educate or entertain. But they can also be used to mislead. At the April 11th meeting of the Natchitoches Community Improvement Foundation (NCIF for short), I believe there were lots of tricks on display. I confess that I can’t say for sure if all of them where meant to mislead, but whether intended or not, some managed to do just that.

This very expensive magic show started when Leo Walker—who is 2 years over his term limit as chairman—asked that a resignation letter be read by the secretary, Mildred Joseph—-who is also 2 years over her term limit. The letter accompanies this article. But basically, it says, “Please consider this letter as official notice of my immediate resignation as President of the Natchitoches Community Improvement Foundation.” I looked up the word “immediately” in the dictionary and it means “without delay”. Well, perhaps Mr. Walker should have looked it up too, because all he and the board did at the April quarterly meeting was delay his supposed “resignation”. After the letter was read, Walker said he would resign if the board accepted his resignation. Let’s be honest. If you have ever resigned or have seen anyone do so, you know that you don’t have to have anyone’s approval if you are serious about resigning. You just leave. It’s simple. Here we go again. Walker is not serious and has no intention of stepping aside and obeying the bylaws. Later on, they voted and of course, they voted not to accept the resignation that night, implying they’ll take it up later. Of course, all of this feels fake. Actually, because he is two years over his term limit, the truth is, Mr. Walker is not really on the board. He’s just holding the seat hostage, preventing truly eligible citizens from serving legitimately. This is also true of the other three board members who have not resigned and therefore are also over their term limits by two years: Mildred Joseph, Oswald Taylor, and Diane Blake Jones. Nine people voted: five voted to not accept his resignation and four abstained. A citizen thought it was odd that Walker’s letter said he was resigning immediately, then he chaired the meeting. Which is just the opposite of resigning.

As I mentioned in previous articles, Walker and the other three board members who are in violation have no intention of resigning. They will have to be removed. I don’t know if all of this was set up, or intentional, but it sure felt that way. That sums up the rest of meeting too. Most board members spent most of the time defending their actions and trying to keep the citizens who attended at arm’s length. However, turnout was one of the positives. There were so many citizens at the meeting, they had to bring in chairs. But I have a feeling not everyone on the board liked that. This group seems to prefer to operate without anyone around. They don’t like spotlights shinning on what they are doing. Maybe that is why as the people got their seats, Board Member Renee Porter immediately made a motion for a closed executive session. They voted to do so and asked the members of the public to leave until after the executive session. In the last few months, the board has used this tactic quite a lot. This particular executive session lasted about 30 minutes. When we were allowed back into the meeting room, they took up the issue of a grant proposal from Henry O Flipper Foundation (HOFF) HOFF is trying to build affordable housing locally and approached NCIF to get matching funds. The foundation said it would if the city would first agree to fund part of the project. Apparently, that has not happened yet and the foundation is holding off on funding until the city puts up some money, or another party does. This led to a brief debate. Local citizen Carl Sias supported the idea of funding HOFF’s proposal and was not happy with the decision to hold off until matching funds came through. Mr. Walker criticized Board Member Helen Obioha for renting a room for a special NCIF meeting. He said she did not do it properly and alleged she did not notify him. But Ms. Obioha produced a receipt for the notice she sent and said it was signed by the Secretary Mildred Joseph. Ms. Obioha and two other board members (Elton Wade and Jerry Walters) have been urging Mr. Walker to obey the bylaws and resign. Mr. Walters called the situation “ridiculous”. Perfect word. It’s now a split board with some wanting Walker to step down and some wanting him to stay: Those who seem to want him to stay are: Mildred Joseph (she is over her term limit), Gwen Williams, Diane Blake Jones (she is over her term limit), Gwen Hardison Davis and Renee Taylor. A new member Devin White abstained in the vote to accept the resignation, but then later in the meeting he supported Walker seeming doubtful about finding a replacement. I pointed out that there are many people who could replace him. Those who are urging Walker to resign as the bylaws require, are: Helen Obioha, Elton Wade and Jerry Walters. Here are qualifications for serving as a board member. Any adult living in Natchitoches who does not have a felony conviction can serve.

Here are key moments from the meeting:

Again, for the third straight month there was no treasurer and no treasurer’s report. But it was listed on the agenda. There was no firm date set for an election, but the board said that the vote to not accept Walker’s resignation will be taken up later. I assume at the July quarterly meeting. It’s all bogus. As I mentioned earlier, he could have just stepped down that night. Randy Stelly spoke for the Real Views—the local African American paper. He reminded the board that according to the court’s directions they are supposed to advertise meetings in the Real Views.

Despite all the drama, there are several positives from all of this. For starters, it’s progress that after resisting resigning as the bylaws require, Mr. Walker has come to the point where he has submitted a resignation letter. It shows what happens when the public gets involved. And it shows the power of prayer too, because I know several people were praying for justice and that the right thing would happen. Another positive is that the public filled up the room and that said to NCIF that the public does care about what happens to money designated for them. I believe that public interest is making a difference. The resignation letter is the first step. Now Walker needs to take the second step: Leave.

“In the final analysis it doesn’t really matter what the political system is…We don’t need perfect political systems; we need perfect participation.” – Cesar Chavez- Legendary Hispanic Leader

Worth noting:
Public involvement makes a difference. The next NCIF board meeting is July 11, 7pm at First Baptist Amulet, 1116 Amulet, Natchitoches.

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