The proposal is a response to members attempts to stop the sale of the societys headquarters building (finalized in March), but Stillman says its not retaliation. Were updating our form of governance so the society isnt exposed to a repeat of the loss of funds. If we stood by and ignored the six-figure loss we incurred, wed be shirking our duties as fiduciaries.
NYG&B trustees say a handful of members delayed the sale, causing a loss of investment income based on the $24 million sale price.
If passed, the proposal will do away with proxy voting system, which Stillman says New York State laws require. (The society must mail ballots to members, who can send back their votes, cast votes at a meeting, or designate meeting attendees to vote on their behalf.) If the proposal passes, the board would appoint new officers rather than hold elections.
Before issuing the proposal, NYGBs board surveyed other non-profit organizations and consulted with the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), whose members passed a similar measureafter a similar debateseveral years ago. NEHGS has an advisory board in addition to its board of directors. I wouldnt know what our board would say about adopting that structure, because we didnt fully consider it, says Stillman.
He says NYG&B members will still have access to the groups services and online resources, though he doesnt yet know what the society will do with its research collections and financial assets. (The board has two years from the building sale date to move.) After we take care of housekeeping matters and governance we will face those huge questions and well benefit from all the debate.
That debate wont lead to reduced membership, he predicts. I think people will act in their self-interest and then continue to enjoy the benefits of membership.
Stillman also posted to Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter blogvisit to read his and others’ comments.