Fruita chamber members upset with leadership

Some say board breaking rules; meeting to discuss issue tonight

Several Fruita Chamber of Commerce members are calling for the ouster of some or all of the chamber’s board of directors, alleging the board is violating its bylaws, excluding them from meetings and micromanaging the organization.

Chamber members have scheduled a meeting at 7 p.m. today to discuss their concerns. The meeting will be held at the Fruita Community Center, 324 N. Coulson St.

“To appease the gods, we need to start all over again (on the board),” said Tony Cabral, owner of Aspen Street Computers, 233 E. Aspen Ave. “I mean, just shut ‘er down, bring it back up and start fresh from there. There’s too much animosity, too many personality conflicts, too many I-want-to-be-a-hero kind of scenarios going on.”

Chamber board President Joel Kincaid on Monday denied that the board has breached any bylaws and insisted it is acting on behalf of chamber members’ best interests.

“We’re there for the members, bottom line,” he said. “We have a passion for the chamber.”

The board was elected last fall. It consists of four executive committee members and 13 total members, although two of those members, Ted Okey and Dick Weigand, have resigned, reportedly in frustration over the board’s recent actions.

The divide between chamber leadership and membership is connected in part to the February resignation of chamber Director Mary Lou Wilson. Wilson, who was popular among chamber members, cited a difference in philosophy with the board as her reason for stepping down after 10 years with the organization.

The chamber on Friday announced Leanne Ingwersen as its new director.

Debbie Roberts, news editor with the Fruita Times, which is a chamber member, said that during Wilson’s resignation meeting chamber staff members were allowed to speak to the board but not chamber members. Kincaid said Monday that’s because Wilson authorized staff members to be present, a claim Wilson has denied.

Since Wilson’s exit from the chamber, Roberts said, the chamber board is allowing members to attend only the beginning of board meetings before occasionally barring them from the remainder of the meetings. Kincaid said members are welcome to attend meetings but that there can be confidential items on the agenda that can’t be discussed in public.

Roberts also alleges the board violated a section of its bylaws that requires the board to hold its annual meeting within 60 days of the end of the year. She said Kincaid told her the annual meeting was held during the chamber banquet in February. But she said the chamber didn’t provide any notice of the meeting to chamber members, which is mandated by the bylaws.

Fruita Mayor Ken Henry said the city, which provides $23,000 in annual funding and free office space to the chamber, enjoyed a good relationship with the chamber prior to Wilson’s resignation. That relationship showed signs of strain during a City Council meeting earlier this year when Henry and Kincaid got into an animated disagreement over the chamber’s handling of the Fruita Farmers Market.

Henry said he’s heard from a number of business owners and employees who are concerned about what the chamber is doing for them.

“That’s probably a legitimate question that the executive committee and the chamber board probably ought to answer,” he said.

Carla Griffin, owner of Turn the Page Used Bookstore, 119 E. Aspen Ave., said she won’t retain her membership in the chamber if the chamber continues in the direction it’s been moving the last few months.

“I’m just concerned that there are a lot of people after political gain here who aren’t looking out for the best interests of Fruita and the community, and that’s what the chamber is supposed to be here for,” she said.

Terry Moss, the newly appointed council liaison to the chamber board, said the chamber needs to move on from what’s happened and ensure it gets things right moving forward.

“I’ve always said this: The chamber needs to be director-led and board-supported, not board-led and director-supported,” he said. “I think that’s kind of what happened in this go-around.”


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