What to Say?
August 1, 2015: I thought about writing some of the things that are planned at the Club this coming month so as to not burden our members with more words on the very unpleasant events that are occurring among some members. But the title of this column is “State of the Ship” and it would be disingenuous to pretend that all is well. We are in the midst of a very unfortunate situation.
I won’t belabor you with an exact chronology. Much of it is available on the Bulletin Board on the Member Side of the webpage. But I must try and capture where we are and why. Those who have opposed the Board’s actions will inevitably disagree with some of this.
After the vote last year to adopt changes to the former “Emeritus” category (now “Senior”), a group of Senior Members indicated an intent to sue unless the Board “grandfathered” the members in place before the vote to their old dues level.
In letters back to the attorney of this group and in messages to the Members, I indicated the Board could not make a move to “grandfather” these members because it would be changing the bylaws which only a member vote could change. I urged the group in messages in January and February to engage in a petition to amend the bylaws to allow the so-called “grandfathering” (again, you may see these on the member side of the web page).
In response to this development, several members approached the Board to indicate they would petition to have the members threatening a law suit with “conduct unbecoming.”. The Board persuaded this group to not pursue the petition to discipline the members as “conduct unbecoming” under Article XI, Section 3 of the bylaws. We wanted to try and convince the members threatening suit to attempt to address their concerns within the Club as noted above.
All seemed quiet until early June when we became aware of a lawsuit being filed by 23 members of EYC against EYC. As I was about to leave the country on a two-week family holiday, I was not served until June 29 and we have until July 29 to answer the lawsuit in Anne Arundel Court. We will be making that answer available to the Members.
When I returned from holiday, I was also made aware of a renewed effort to present the Board with a petition to have the members who were suing the Club disciplined for “conduct unbecoming” a member. The Board did, in fact, receive a petition from 66 members supporting this effort.
The Board held a hearing with both parties on July 9 so as to allow both sides to present their arguments and responses. The Board considered what we heard and all that had transpired and on July 14 agreed that the members suing the Club had, in our judgement, engaged in “conduct unbecoming a member.”. The members were given 10 days – later switched to 30 days – to quit the lawsuit or they would be expelled from the Club. So far, four members have removed themselves from the lawsuit.
Naturally, the Board’s disciplinary action was extremely controversial. Founding member Jeff Goldring sent me a very angry letter which – out of deference to his status - we have posted on the lobby bulletin board. Many members who have been opposed to a lawsuit being brought against the Club are appalled to contemplate fellow members being expelled.
Let me depart from the recitation of chronology here and state that I, and the rest of the Board, are very upset with the situation at hand. We have communicated our intent and acted in a manner that we continue to believe is in the best interests of the Club. We understand others disagree.
Perhaps we should have just frozen the category that used to be called Emeritus in place and eliminated the possibility of anyone else getting benefits of reduced membership dues. That, essentially, is what Annapolis Yacht Club has done so that the category eventually eliminates itself from natural attrition. We can now understand why the debate in the 2003-2004 Annual Meetings (when the category was debated and finally adopted) were so fierce. I have come to believe (and this is just me) that the establishment of different membership categories is contrary to the egalitarian nature of EYC and its establishment.
But that is water under the “bridge,”, so to speak. In the coming days, we are hopeful that those suing the Club and who have been disciplined will decide to stop their participation and rejoin the Club. The Board is open to any compromise that does not undermine the bylaws. Let us all hope for the best and we can all try to enjoy our summer.