Thursday morning, 150 members of the Senior Citizens of Davis arrived at the Senior Center prepared to vote out the organization’s board of directors.
Instead, all they had to do was accept the board’s resignation.
The entire board and president stepped down earlier this week — just days before the membership had planned to remove them — in the wake of an overwhelming disagreement with the proposed changes to the nonprofit organization’s bylaws.
Among other amendments, the board had proposed to eliminate the Senior Center from the organization’s official purpose and to shift management of the group’s money from a finance and budget director to a committee that the president would oversee.
The organization has about 970 members and $560,000 in its coffers.
Many members believe the new bylaws would have jeopardized the organization’s relationship with the Senior Center, 646 A St., a key reason many of them had joined SCD in the first place.
But on Tuesday, former board president John Gerlich posted a letter on a bulletin board in the Senior Center formally announcing his decision to step down. Gerlich’s note was accompanied by email resignation notes from each of the other three board members.
“I wish to thank all those who have actively served with me during my tenure on the SCD Board of Directors,” the letter read. “I have received notices of resignation from SCD Secretary Marie Harlan, Treasurer Barbara Takasue and Chairperson of Membership Services Noreen Mazelis. It should therefore be noted that the active SCD Board of Directors and the elected Executive Committee members have all resigned.”
But the letter didn’t end there. In closing, Gerlich also took a shot at the membership, calling the situation “sad” and “disgusting.”
When the members voted to accept the board’s resignation, they also voted to “object to the unfair blame attributed to SCD members embedded within the resignations.”
The Enterprise has reached out to Gerlich on numerous occasions during the past few months to discuss the situation at length, but these efforts have not been successful.
In an email response to Thursday’s inquiry, he stated the letter’s “pretty much spell things out.”
In the past, Gerlich has said the board had no intentions of changing the mission of SCD and that the purpose would have remained to provide support to the Senior Center. He also has said that the organization still would have had a co-sponsorship agreement with the city of Davis.
But according to Christine Helweg, the city’s community services superintendent, recent events have prompted the city to rethink that arrangement, even with the resignation of the board.
“We don’t want to be put in a situation like this again,” Helweg said after the meeting.
The city counts on funding from SCD to pay for copier maintenance at the center and for production of the monthly “Senior Scene” newsletter.
Once the board had officially been removed, the members then elected a new interim board to oversee the organization until a new permanent board can be properly elected.
Margot Loschke was unanimously elected interim president. Loschke also was appointed by the City Council earlier this week to the Davis Senior Citizens Commission.
“I look forward to helping the organization through this transition as smoothly as possible,” Loschke said after the meeting adjourned. “This was a tough situation.”
Bill Powell was named vice president, Wanda Winton secretary, Carol Harting treasurer and Matt Williams finance and budget director, beating out Edgar (Steve) Hamilton for the job.
“What we’ve accomplished is phenomenal, it really is phenomenal,” Winton said after the election. “You should all be proud of yourselves.”
The organization then appointed a nomination committee, which will coordinate a December election for a new SCD board.
Elaine Roberts Musser, the attorney who represented about 30 SCD members in the dispute with the former board, walked the membership through the process of removing the board Thursday to make sure the California Corporate Code was followed properly.
After the meeting, she said that though the situation was difficult, the organization will emerge from it for the better.
“I’m disappointed that the board chose not to resign in a professional manner,” Roberts Musser said. “(But) I’m excited that the members are energized. This has been a blessing in disguise.”
— Reach Tom Sakash at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter @TomSakash