By Edwin Crayton/Opinion
Recently, I reported that on April 11 of this year, Leo Walker who is 2 years over his term limit submitted his resignation notice, which said he was resigning immediately from the Natchitoches Community Improvement Foundation (NCIF). However, he also told the board that he would only do so if the board would accept his resignation. But according to the bylaws, section 3.6, the board does not in fact have the power to reject a resignation letter. Section 3.6 reads, “(b) A director’s resignation will take effect when the notice is delivered unless the notice specifies a future date. Unless it is otherwise specified in the notice, the acceptance of such resignation will not be necessary to make it effective.”
In other words, the board does not need to accept a resignation and furthermore, cannot actually refuse one either. As the bylaws say, the resignation is effective when it is submitted unless the resignation notice says the person resigning will do it at a specific date in the future. (By the way, this article is accompanied by several supporting documents that should provide useful information.) Now, take a look at the resignation notice that Walker wrote. You will notice that it does not specify a future date. Also, it even says it is effective “immediately”. So, the board has to accept it. That means when it voted not to accept it, that was a meaningless vote that had no such power or authority. He said he wanted to resign. Let him. That’s the point. They have to let him. It’s not their call to stop him. But all of that drama was nonsense in a way, because there is the simple unavoidable fact that Walker and the other four board members are 2 years over their term limits. It doesn’t get any clearer than that. They are not on the board. When he and others went over their term limit, they went off the board. Look at the document showing Section 3.3 of the NCIF Bylaws. It says that a board member can only serve two consecutive terms of three years each or six years total. Now look at the document showing IRS form 990. It shows that all four “board members” were on the board in 2015. I am referring to: Leo Walker, Oswald Taylor, Diane Blake Jones and Mildred Joseph. That was eight years ago, which means each of them is two years over their term limit. Hey, it is what it is, so let’s call it what it is: they are ex-board members and term limit violators. You will also notice that section 3.3 does not give anyone power to override the term limits—not even the board itself. Why does this matter to you? It matters because the money NCIF manages—2 million or so, is money that is supposed to go to the public—-the people of Natchitoches. In other words, you. It’s your money. It was awarded by the district court in a settlement involving the spill of PCB chemicals in Sibley Lake in the late 1990s.
What it all means is that money designated for the people is currently being overseen in part by people who have no authority to handle these funds simply because their term limits expired two years ago. I say “in part” because I do want to point out that unlike Walker, Taylor, Jones and Joseph, some board members are legitimate. To allow these four to continue to oversee these funds designated for the public would be like me walking off the street into a City Council Meeting and without any authority or anything chairing the meeting, while also voting on funding. Outrageous? The people of Natchitoches would not stand for such a thing? Well, truth is, the people are. When unauthorized people are allowed to manage public money, write checks, withdraw thousands of dollars in funds from financial institutions and not be held accountable for any of that or for staying within term limits, we have a very serious and sticky problem. But on the other hand, the solution is simple: Walker and the other term limit violators need to step down, now. That means they need to do the right thing and allow the process to work as the court signed off. They need to step aside and let eligible citizens have their seats. The bylaws do allow them to return after a year if the board votes it that way. But high-jacking public funds is not acceptable. Why should any of us tolerate such absolute nonsense? The cost of letting this weird business continue is high: Here’s what I mean: 1) One term violator, Oswald Taylor, has been acting as treasurer. He has not sent in any financial reports for half a year. 2) They are supposed to have audits every three years. But the last audit I could find was one conducted in 2014. 3)From my notes, they had 2 million in a brokerage account. While it is good that they built up the money to that amount, it’s also bad because they’ve given very little of it away to the public. Remember this was a settlement. Settlements are supposed to go to the people who are to benefit from them. All of that money should be in the hands of the people—you—not sitting in some account somewhere and since 2003. Enough already.
This whole situation shows that we need a law to protect money designated for the public when it is put into organizations that are not government run. We need accountability to the people in the way that the city council is accountable to citizens and transactions have to meet a high standard of transparency and where citizens get to input on what happens to the funds. Personally, after covering this group for years, I have come to believe settlement money should be given to the awardees immediately. In other words, why not give every citizen in the City of Natchitoches a stimulus type check and be done with it? However, can the current NCIF work? Sure. But the bylaws have to be strongly enforced. Board members need to be penalized when they behave badly and refuse to stop. No one should be able to operate above the law.
What can you do? Pray for justice to be done. God is good. You can put feet to those prayers and get involved. Just going to the public quarterly meeting and sitting and listening can go a long way towards making this right and getting these funds into the hands of the people of Natchitoches. The next NCIF board meeting is Tuesday, July 11, 7pm at First Baptist Amulet, 1116 Amulet, Natchitoches.
“But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream.” – Amos 5:24
Please look for this opinion article at least twice monthly in the Journal, usually on Tuesdays. Go to church this week. God bless you.