Parker Crest NA troubles reveal where City might consider strengthening NA regulations
Recent upheaval in the Parker Crest Neighborhood Association (PCNA) has sparked an important question for the City of West Linn and its NAs: what happens when two of the three officers of a largely inactive NA quit, leaving one (duly) elected officer all the responsibility?
After lying dormant for 10 years, the PCNA showed signs of life this June by holding a meeting and electing new officers, although not without controversy — some neighbors felt the election was not properly noticed.
Five months later, however, President Michael Ray and Secretary/Treasurer Sue McHugh have stepped aside, leaving only Vice President Tom Meier, who has assumed the role of president. Meier said he has also found an interim vice president and interim treasurer, but no other active members.
Ray and McHugh removed themselves from the PCNA because they felt there was an extreme incompatibility between themselves and Meier that appeared to only grow worse after several months.
"I stepped down from the Parker Crest NA because I found it to be an intolerable volunteer situation due to lack of civil discourse among board members," McHugh said.
The final straw for both McHugh and Ray was an email Meier sent the pair while the three officers were attempting to re-write the PCNA bylaws, which are about 20 years old.
"He had taken a crack at the bylaws and any time in a situation in a group like that, everybody collaborates and puts their own two cents into it. So, I took his piece, gave him all the creditfor what he'd done, and rewrote some of it," Ray said. "I shared (the edits) with the team, and he didn't like that."
"In violation of my intellectual property rights in copying a document that I never gave permission or license to copy, Michael is on tenuous legal grounds, and will be the subject of a personal lawsuit if his antics persist, and his dictatorial and boundary violations continue," Meier wrote in the email to Ray and McHugh, which the Tidings obtained through a public records request.
"Since the Board does not have a liability policy in place, the perceived nefarious activities of Michael as Prez will be a personal liability of him alone. If the PCNA Board wishes to move forward using the revised document, I will give permission to use the document and waive all my intellectual rights for the fee of $3,500."
In an effort to move forward after the resignations of McHugh and Ray, Meier said he hopes to hold a meeting to officially elect officers in November.
"One thing I wanted to avoid was what happened in the previous iteration of this board, when six people elected three people that knew nothing about one another and it was just a toxic mix,"Meier said.
Seven members attended the meeting where officers were elected and there was at least one abstention in the voting for each.
"Now I have three people (including himself) that I know I can work with and hopefully generate some interest and build the community."
Like all West Linn NAs, Parker Crest has access to West Linn City funds budgeted for neighborhood associations, and because the PCNA has been inactive for so long, its account has built up and currently holds about $11,000.
Ray expressed worry about ambiguity in the City Code and NA bylaws around authorization for stipend spending and what Meier could potentially do with unfettered access to the account.
"I'm not saying he would do this, but there's nothing I'm aware of in the city code or the NA's bylaws that would prevent him from donating to an organization, or spending on a pet project, the NA's $10,000 stipend balance," Ray said
Meier, a strong proponent for pickleball in West Linn and a member of the West Linn Pickleball Club, said his goal is to acquire a tensile cover for the pickleball and tennis courts at Tanner Creek Park.
"I don't think that I'm gonna get a lot of interest in doing that with NA funds," Meier said. "I think maybe we can start small and buy a couple benches because there are only two benches on the entire two courts."
He added that he would like to see both courts at Tanner Creek covered with donation money, grants, or possibly SDC (system development charge) funds.
As of right now, the City Code makes no mention of regulation of NA spending, though a resolution passed by the City Council in August states that "NA grant spending should be approved by the membership."
However, at this stage, it is hard to tell who is a member of the PCNA. According to PCNA bylaws, anyone of voting age living within, owning a business or property within, or running a nonprofit based within the neighborhood boundary can become a member by signing the attendance sheet at a meeting or notifying the secretary of intent to join the NA.
The bylaws state once someone becomes a member, they remain a member until they no longer meet the requirements for membership or resign from the NA, meaning a resident who hasn't attended a PCNA meeting for 20 years could still be a member.
The PCNA rules for voting state that 10% of members must be present to constitute a quorum.
However, if Meier is only counting himself and the interim officers as the membership, the three of them could, presumably, officially elect themselves at the next meeting if no one else shows up, and begin to pass resolutions and approve spending all on their own.
Staff with the City have begun attempts to clear up this ambiguity around NA membership and its implications for votes on spending.
"NAs maintain their own membership rosters, but can be required by Municipal Code 2.100 (4)(c)(iii) to provide them to the City. We are aware that keeping membership lists has been an issue for some NAs and agrees there needs to be some improvement here to ensure compliance," said Assistant to the City Manager Dylan Digby.
"The City Attorney has also been made aware of the quorum tenet present in Parker Crest and many of the other NA bylaws and has been asked to provide guidance on the subject."
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