As planned, members of the Seniors Citizens of Davis will meet at the Davis Senior Center on Thursday, ready to vote out the board of directors and put to bed the controversial changes to the bylaws the board approved several months ago.
What: Senior Citizens of Davis membership meeting
When: 9 a.m. Thursday
Where: Davis Senior Center, 646 A St.
Among other changes, the board has proposed to erase the Senior Center from the organization’s official purpose and shift management of the group’s money from a finance and budget director to a committee that the president would oversee.
The organization has 972 members and about $560,000 in its coffers.
SCD members believe the changes proposed by the board could jeopardize major funding sources to the Senior Center and its services.
In fact, according to Christine Helweg, the city’s community services superintendent, the George & Lena Valente Foundation, which has been the largest benefactor of the organization over the past few years, did not donate to SCD this year amid the controversy around the proposed changes.
Instead, Valente has given $100,000 to the city for the creation of an expendable agency fund — which the City Council likely will approve Tuesday — that will directly support the Senior Center and the services it provides.
“Historically (the foundation has) given to the Senior Center through Senior Citizens of Davis,” Helweg said Friday. “But this year they have chosen not to.”
In August, the SCD membership held a special meeting and unanimously voted to reject the proposed bylaws, but the board did not recognize the vote because it had canceled the meeting.
Subsequent meetings where the membership could have officially voted on the proposed changes to the bylaws also have been canceled by the board.
The Enterprise has reached out to board president John Gerlich for comment on the reasons for the proposed changes and about the membership’s decision to meet and remove the board, but those efforts have been unsuccessful.
Gerlich has said in the past, however, that the board has no intention of changing the mission of SCD and that the purpose will remain to provide support to the facilities, programs and activities of the Davis Senior Center.
The president also has pointed out that the organization still would have a co-sponsorship agreement with the city and remain registered with the state as a nonprofit that lists the center as its principal meeting location.
But Helweg explained in August that the city would have to rethink that agreement if SCD approves the new bylaws.
According to Helweg, the city counts on funding from the Senior Citizens of Davis to pay for the “Senior Scene” newsletter and for copier maintenance at the center.
SCD funds also have paid for part of additions to the Senior Center itself.
According to Elaine Roberts Musser, the attorney representing about 30 SCD members in this matter, under California Corporations Code and the current Senior Citizens of Davis bylaws, to oust the board the SCD membership must call and notice a special meeting, as they have, and then a majority of the members present must vote in favor of removing the board.
Roberts Musser, however, is prepared for pushback from the current board.
“I’m sure they will try not to recognize it,” Roberts Musser said Friday. “(But) that matter will be taken care of. We’ll pass the appropriate resolutions that are necessary to make sure that the former board can’t take action on their own.”
Last week, Gerlich sent a letter to all SCD members explaining that “attacks on the SCD membership and the organization as a whole” have forced the board to retain services of an attorney who will defend it.
The letter also states that the board has hired the services of a professional forensic auditor to perform a full audit to ensure that the organization is in full compliance with the law.
“The SCD board feels these steps are necessary to protect the interests and the integrity of the organization and the membership from those who wish otherwise,” the letter concluded.
Gerlich also asked for written proposals for changes to the bylaws from members to be submitted within 30 days of Sept. 12.
The letter was submitted to the “Senior Scene” to be included in the “From the Prez” column, but city staff elected not to publish the letter.
— Reach Tom Sakash at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 747-8057. Follow him on Twitter @TomSakash