Failed CU Convert Lafayette FCU Assailed for Vote Scheme

Credit Union Journal   April 16, 2007

KENSINGTON, Md. – Hundreds, if not thousands of Lafayette FCU members working as foreign aid workers in Iraq and Afghanistan have lost their vote under a new bylaw adopted secretly that requires that all votes at the annual meeting or any special meetings be conducted in person. The move comes as growing numbers of credit unions are expanding the ability of members to vote by authorizing, in fact encouraging, mail-in or electronic balloting. Disclosure of the new bylaw, passed in the days after a mere 65 members turned out for a special meeting culminating the credit union's failed conversion to mutual savings bank, comes as opponents of the conversion are bidding to gain representation on the board. Tom Carter, an employee at U.S. Agency for International Development, one of the credit union's main sponsors, said the secretly-passed bylaw will prevent hundreds of overseas workers with US AID from voting on credit union issues, many of them stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan. "There's quite a large number of AID employees serving overseas," said Carter, who has worked more than two decades helping develop credit union systems in the Third World. Several AID workers have been protesting the disenfranchisement with letters and emails to the U.S. Foreign Service, said Carter, who helped organize a petition drive to recall the Lafayette board for its ill-fated conversion try. Lafayette officials rejected the petition last week, prompting opponents of the bank shift to focus on electing two allies to the board of the $330 million credit union at next month's annual meeting.

© 2007, Used with permission from The Credit Union Journal. All rights reserved.