More than 90 signatures have been collected on a petition to remove three individuals from the Mullis Community Senior Center Operations Committee — 50 signatures are required by the bylaws. The petitioners demand an immediate election to replace the three positions on the committee held by acting chair Stephen Shubert, secretary Nancy Geist and treasurer Carolyn Adler.
“You have exceeded the authority given to the Operations Committee in the bylaws,” petitioner Minnie Knych wrote in a recall letter.
The committee’s bylaws say that the group is meant to represent the needs and interests of its membership and to manage the senior center’s facilities, according to Knych.
“Rather than representing the needs and interests of the membership, you have arbitrarily begun to force your own agenda on the majority of the seniors,” Knych said. “Under your leadership the Operations Committee ignored two petitions requesting reinstatement of the Pledge.”
In spring, the Mullis Center’s Operations Committee decided to cease the saying of prayer and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance before its senior meals three times a week.
“Our decision to eliminate this practice was made to better fulfill our mission to serve ALL seniors on San Juan Island without regard to race, color, creed, religion or national origin, gender, sexual orientation or disability,” previous operations committee Chairperson Rita Weisbrod said in an April letter to the editor. “The decision does not have anything to do with religion or patriotism. We certainly do not intend to disrespect veterans or the flag.”
Weisbrod resigned for health reasons brought on by being “a punching bag” for the movement and the pledge was reinstated before the lunches due to “credible threats of violence.”
Knych claimed in her petition that the committee acted as the “executive board” and held secret meetings that should have been open to the whole committee. She alleged that other operations committee members were denied participation in the meeting and that the trio made misleading statements to the committee.
“As an example, committee members were misled by the statement that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in a public meeting is against the law, and that grant money would be lost,” Knych said in the petition.
The document continued with Knych claiming the operations committee ignored two petitions requesting the pledge be reinstated—one with 27 signatures, the second with 200.
“Mullis Center members who opposed your policy changes have been punished with trespass warning notices, threats of fines, imprisonment, or both,” Knych said in the petition. “Rules of Conduct have been arbitrarily changed and are not made readily available to the members. After meeting with a mediator whom you chose, you have not followed through on the agreement made in good faith.”
Knych’s petition claims that the group tried to change rules without providing justification or proper communications to the membership.
“We believe this to be a blatant attempt to entrench management and frustrate any attempt at a democratic representation,” Knych said in the petition. “This is wrong headed and contrary to best practices of transparent corporate governance. These shenanigans must stop.”
Steering away from the pledge, Knych continued that the committee’s lack of financial transparency is “alarming.” She claimed that the group has refused to disclose public financial documents or provide the center’s accounting firm’s name. Additionally, the petition stated that requests for an audit or review have been refused.
“Lack of confidence in your leadership is evident in the lowered lunch attendance and the loss of volunteers. Dissension and conflict have created an unwelcoming atmosphere,” Knych said. “The damage is irreparable, and the only way to start afresh is for you to resign. The fish rots from the head. If you refuse to do that, we demand a recall election immediately.”
The Journal reached out to the operations committee regarding the petition but a response was not received before press deadline.