Disputed Nonprofit Elections: Good or Bad News?

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April 8, 2011; Source: Star Tribune | Where some boards complain about the lack of member engagement and difficulty in recruiting members, some have the opposite problem. In two news stories today, one from Minnesota and the other from Tennessee, we see two reports of hotly disputed board elections.

In Oak Ridge, Tenn., the Oak Ridge Revitalization Effort’s board apparently did not have an annual membership meeting as required by its bylaws and members took exception, forcing an election in which they ousted a number of members of the board. The new board treasurer said, “It just basically came down to the members saying, ‘you can’t decide not to have a membership meeting.’”

While the previous president of the board has, for now, distanced himself and the church he leads from the organization, that may be where it ends.

Not so for the Lao Family Community of Minnesota where a former vice president has filed suit in court to force the organization to count the votes received in a board election held in December. The organization says that it does not intend to count those votes due to a number of problems with the election – including a bad snowstorm on the day it was held and a number of problems with candidate eligibility. It intends, instead, to hold another election. “It’s getting a little silly when individuals are bringing lawsuits for a volunteer position,” says the attorney for the organization.

NPQ does not think it is so silly. Many nonprofits are valuable assets to their communities and from time to time passions run high enough to create such struggles and while we know that these situations are likely very painful for some of those involved, they also reveal a level of engagement that some groups might envy. We wish them both the best possible resolution.—Ruth McCambridge