Sunday, January 15, 2006
DH: LULAC District 5 slams Abilene Council
Fidel Acevedo, left, the Austin Council representative, spoke eloquently of his Council's education projects. Acevedo is also Executive Director of Mexican American Democrats of Texas.
The first two hours of the meeting were devoted to a dispute over who would represent the Abilene Council, which dispute was moderated not by the current District Director, Dr. Juan Rivas, of Wichita Falls, but by the immediate past District Director, Mike Zuniga, Jr., of the Ballinger Council.
Ben Gonzales, an elected vice president who had been affirmed as the acting president of the Abilene Council by unanimous consent at its Dec. 15 meeting, had appointed new member Dave Haigler in writing to speak and vote for the Council at the District 5 meeting. However, Bob Gomez, the other vice president, who had been asked to step up as acting president at the Dec. 15 meeting, but declined, nevertheless appointed longtime member, non-board member, Mike Hernandez to represent him at the meeting.
The ensuing discussion included debate over who had paid dues and when. Mr. Zuniga repeatedly asked complainant Joel Loya from the podium during the public meeting why he had not paid his 2005 dues. Loya claimed he had provided facilities for LULAC meetings at the offices of the ACCESS organization run by Loya, which should be counted as an in-kind contribution in lieu of 2005 dues.
Erasmo Martinez, the suspended Council 605 president, responded saying there was no such trade-out agreement, and that Council 605 pays annual rent to ACCESS for the use of its facilities.
The District voted 7 to 1 to have Hernandez represent Abilene, the only one supporting Haigler being Dora Martinez, who was allowed to vote on behalf of Abilene on that one issue alone. After that adverse vote, immediate past District Director Zuniga asked Haigler, "Is that alright?"
Haigler said, "No, that is not alright, sir. This District has imposed a representative upon the Abilene Council who has not been duly appointed to represent it. Bob Gomez declined to step up as acting president when asked to do so at our Dec. 15 meeting, and so Ben Gonzales stepped up, and our board, with 9 of the 12 members present, met and planned our Council's response to this meeting, which included asking me to represent us at this meeting in Ben's absence."
Zuniga, who was not chairing the meeting, but speaking from the podium with current Executive Director Juan Rivas of Wichita Falls sitting by his side, told Haigler he was out of order.
Haigler shot back, "No, sir. You asked me a question, and I answered it."
Zuniga then said, "Well, you're appealing everything anyway."
Haigler said, "No, sir, I am not appealing everything. Yes, I co-signed the appeal of the District Board's Dec. 3 suspension of Erasmo Martinez as president (along with an overwhelming majority of Abilene members present at the Dec. 15 meeting). I have not threatened to appeal anything. I am merely saying this District has no jurisdiction to impose a representative upon our Council who is not duly appointed. I ask that you not insult me and not taunt me, sir. You need to show respect to our Council and its officers."
Zuniga responded that he did respect Haigler and the Abilene Council officers, and then yielded the chair back to Dr. Rivas. But Zuniga continued to interject at every juncture, telling Dr. Rivas how to rule on every issue that came up, which no one objected to.
Anna Vedro presented the "Council 605 Resolution for Justice," which said, "the process of addressing grievances at the District V level seems to be inconsistent," and "it is vital that the public clearly see that we respect local council's elected officials and adopted by-laws," proposing that the District have a grievance committee to review complaints in private before "recommending the incident to any ruling body."
In support of her resolution, Anna Vedro reminded Mr. Zuniga that when he was District Director he had come privately to Abilene when there were grievances against immediate past Council president Manuel Vera, and that they had been handled privately. In response, Zuniga accused the Abilene Council 605 of "running this good man off," as they allegedly had "run Maria Velasquez off." Several other delegates spoke hostility to Vedro's proposed resolution, so she withdrew it rather than have them vote it down.
The District then voted to go into executive session to hear the grievances against Anna Vedro, over Vedro's objection, who wanted a public meeting.
After hearing the grievances for an hour and deliberating for almost another hour, the voting representatives announced their 6-part decision:
1. The membership for Abilene Council 605 for 2005 includes Billy Enriquez and Joel Loya (overruling Vedro's claim and the Abilene's board's written response that they were not in good standing as of Nov. 25 due to non-payment of dues).
2. If Ben Gonzales is not a paying member for 2005, he is not eligible to be acting president of Abilene Council 605.
3. Dr. Rivas will appoint a committee to verify Council 605's compliance with the National Constitution.
4. Anna Vedro, Council Secretary, will follow the National Constitution and let the presiding officers do their jobs.
5. The grievances of Loya & Enriquez will be reviewed by the committee appointed by Dr. Rivas.
6. Bob Gomez will preside over Council 605 until the issue of Ben Gonzales's 2005 dues is resolved.
Loya's complaint, which was not seen by Abilene Council's board members prior to the District meeting yesterday, shows to have been copied to the "National President, Other National Officers, State Director, District 5 Executive Directors, and Local Council 605 Executive Directors," accused Vedro of "fraudulent use of her 'official membership list'," and said Ben Gonzales was not a member in good standing of the Abilene Council.
Haigler told the District meeting, "I visited with Joel Loya two days ago in his office and asked him for a copy of his complaint, which he promised to fax to me, but failed to do, so we are completely blind-sided by this complaint."
Loya's complaint asked the District to "remove Ms. Vedro from authority immediatley [sic]." His complaint attached two stories from DemLog, "LULAC holds Xmas dinner for students, reaffirms board," and "Local party has full slate of officers," relying on these stories to claim that Erasmo Martinez and Dave Haigler are not eligible to be LULAC officers because they are officers in the Democratic Party. Loya is not on the DemLog mailing list. Someone who is on that list apparently supplied him with those stories.
Loya's complaint said Vedro's maintenance of the local membership list at variance with the roster maintained by National violates the national Constitution and By-Laws and stated, "In my opium [sic], the local membership list is used only if you go against the leadership of this council."
In actuality, the local roster is maintained current by the Council Secretary, Vedro, and is reported only annually in January to higher authorities. The national roster contains no names of new members added since Jan. 2005, and does contain names removed since January 2005.
Billy Enriquez's complaint against Vedro said she "is out of control." He said, "Her behavior was shameful to say the least. She used these same tactics at the Special Called meeting on December 15, 2005. Her tactics of intimidation and rude behavior are not to be tolerated by a LULAC organization."
Council 605 board's written response said that the complaints were out of order because they were not presented to the local board first, since the by-laws require "that all grievances against Council officers or members be brought before the Council Executive Board and, if necessary, the membership, first; with appeal only afterwards to the District Director." Further, "There is no dispute that Joel Loya has not paid his Jan. 2005 dues, and Bill Enriquez admitted at our Dec. 15, 2005, Council special called meeting that he had not paid his dues in 3 years." And that "we ask that we not be required to answer anything that has not been put in writing and that we have not had at least 10 days notice of."
The board's response further said, "Ms. Vedro was not overstepping her responsibilities or supplanting any vice president in any of this." And, "Anna Vedro is indeed the secretary, not the president; but any member has the privilege of making a point of order, and once that point of order is sustained by vote of the majority of the members, the matter is concluded, according to Roberts Rules of Order and the national constitution. Having a point of order sustained is called 'democracy,' not 'bullying'."
The board response also said, "It is not Anna Vedro or any member of the Executive Board of Council 605 who is 'out of control.' The only people who could be called 'out of control' would be those who don't pay their dues but still presume to ride roughshod over this Council 605."
Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
lawfirm webpage: www.haigler.info
political blog: http://demlog.blogspot.com
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