Insurrection At Roosevelt Island Community Garden Club - Was Newly Elected President Ousted, What's Going On?
Image Of Roosevelt Island Community Garden
Newly elected Roosevelt Island Garden Club (RIGC) President April Ward reported to the December 2012 Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Common Council of upcoming plans
including a composting programing and reducing the RIGC's multi-year waiting list by opening up additional garden plots.
Ms. Ward added that she was:
... heading discussions to abolish the wait to join the club then let Members choose from several gardening options, according to the time and skill they have.Over the last few weeks, I have been hearing rumors of turmoil at the RIGC and that some members were seeking Ms. Ward's ouster as President.
To that end, over 60 new beds will be designated along the borders in the garden. Applications will be available in January, so watch the WIRE and this blog. The Wait List for the Interior Plots will remain intact, but people will be able to join the Club and start gardening instead of sitting on a wait list for years. The new Board is embarking on implementing exciting new programs and we are seeking committee leaders for composting and vermicomposting, garden design, education and events and many more....
A few days before a March 17 RIGC meeting, I received this message written by Ron Schuppert who preceeded Ms. Ward as Garden Club President.
Dear RI Garden Club Members:I asked Mr. Schuppert and Ms. Ward to comment on the situation at the Garden Club and status of its President.
Due to the fact that April Ward is not a member, but rather is an Associate Member, according to our by-laws (which takes precedence in all matters), we were unable to elect her to the Presidency of our club. We appreciate the hard work and effort she invested over the past few months and hope she will continue to contribute toward the betterment of the garden club.
According to Robert's Rules Revised which our by-laws require us to follow, when an unqualified party is elected, it is treated the same as a main motion that does not carry. Therefore, April Ward's election to the Presidency is null and void. This is not the same as the office having been "vacated" because in fact, the ascension to the office never took place. The President at the time of the election continues in office until a new election provides a replacement.
Although there has been some discussion about revising our by-laws, they cannot be revised retroactively, therefore, the election that took place back in October cannot stand.
A special meeting of full-members and their families will take place on Sunday, March 17th at 5 PM at the Rivercross Community Room. All current members are invited to attend. This is not a meeting that will include Associate Members. The office of Vice President will be "vacated" and in accordance with the by-laws, a replacement will be appointed by the Executive Committee. Anyone who would like to be considered for the Vice Presidency should notify our Secretary, Karen Lee, as soon as possible.
Mr. Schuppert replied:
Due to a misinterpretation of the RIGC bylaws, an invalid election for president was held at last October's membership meeting. We are seeking to correct this with the agreement of the members.Ms. Ward replied:
Ron Schuppert, President
Roosevelt Island Garden Club
Ron Schuppert and several other members of the Roosevelt Island Garden Club (RIGC) have acted in concert to deprive all other members of the RIGC their right to vote and have acted in violation of RIGC bylaws which go to Roberts Rules of Order and direct any question on an announced election result be decided by the members.Mr. Schuppert's status of RIGC President was confirmed at the March 17 meeting.
These members wish to continue using the RIGC money for their parties which are often visited by NYPD and Public Safety for various violations,continue to pay their friends for "work" in the garden that members think they are doing as volunteers and keep the status quo of the former President as dictator deciding who gets a plot, whether on the wait list or not or whether plots are given out at all and which projects get done, all by himself instead of having committees of members work on projects.
At the October 2012 meeting of the RIGC, then President Ron Schuppert supported a motion from the floor to allow Associates to vote as well as all the other responsibilities they already carried. (pay dues, meet standards, attend 1 meeting per year, do 3 hours of community service per year).
Objections rose from some that this had to be done by an amendment to the bylaws. Mr. Schuppert emphatically stated that an amendment was not necessary because "this is an interpretation of the bylaws". Members voted overwhelmingly to allow Associates to vote and run for office, thus making their rights and responsibilities the same as Plot gardeners.
Karen Lee had rallied members against Mr. Schuppert's presidency for over two years and enrolled me and Alexis Villafane to run for office and to work with her to get Mr. Schuppert out of the Club, follow rules and make the club respectable again.
I was an Associate Member at the time, ran for President and won by several votes.
Karen Lee won secretary, Alexis Villafane and Ron Schuppert ran unopposed for Treasurer and Vice President. Karen Lee cast the one vote necessary to install each of them. The election results were announced at the meeting, in our Club newsletter, in the Wire
Over the course of last December, January and February, Karen, Alexis and I started to work creating and streamlining systems, organizing papers, interviewing contractors and researching supply sources and costs. I created a division of labor, started creating an "identity package" for the Club which included how members would get responses and how the officers would be known - Professional, Service Oriented, Responsive.
Mr. Schuppert did not help "I'm just going to sit back and watch what you do."
Over the course of January and February, I made it clear that the will of the club members would guide the officers.
The members had already voted overwhelmingly that there was to be no cat feeding in the garden, this would be enforced
There is a 6'height limit for plants; this would be enforced to give adjoining gardens more sun.
No officer would have a debit card until an accounting of all funds from previous years was completed
No member would be paid to do work in the garden, I would organize members to do work
All expenditures under $100 must be approved by me until spread sheets from previous years were completed
All expenditures over $100 must be approved by the Executive Board per the bylaws
All members would be invited to every event that the Club sponsored with purchases of food, give-aways, drinks etc.
There would be no fires of any sort in the garden, per RIOC's regulations.
Trespassers in the garden would be ticketed and removed, per RIOC regulations.
People sleeping in the garden overnight would be ticketed and removed.
Indecent exposure would be reported and ticketed.
Threatening, fights, harassment and hostile behavior would not be allowed.
Gardens Mr. Schuppert had been given to his buddies who had never been on the wait list would be taken away as violations of our bylaws and our agreement with RIOC.
The Club meetings would be run following Roberts Rules of Order, per our Bylaws.
We were bringing the club back to the original purpose: gardening, education and socializing among all members.
Following our bylaws, RIOC regulations and laws was an affront to Mr.Schuppert. He had run the club as a dictator: did not follow our bylaws or Roberts Rules as required. During meetings, he routinely dis-allowed nay-sayers the floor, legitimate complaints were shut down and no debate was allowed, motions were ignored when they challenged his dictatorship. He "cleaned" the minutes of meetings so they did not reflect serious safety issues which had been brought up in the meeting - kids getting burned at night by the bonfires in the burn barrel while drunk adults tended it, kids staying in the garden until well after dark while their parents did drugs and got drunk.
The shed in the back had been fixed up with a bed where people spent the night and were seen by members and the public, exiting with partners early in the morning.
Several members reported hearing "sexual noises" coming from the back pond area.
Many families did not feel safe bringing their children to the garden because of erratic, odd goings on.
Several woman reported feeling "unsafe in the garden" because of sexual remarks made to them or alcohol fueled behavior they had witnessed.
The garden was used for people to go on drug and alcohol "benders", spending consecutive days there, while toilets were locked at dusk. The garden became their toilet as they stumbled around drunk in the dark looking for places to pee or more.
All of this was coming to an end when I was elected.
Abiding by Roberts Rules,the members who had a right to vote at the end of the last meeting in October, must debate and vote on the question at a regular meeting of all the members, not just a select group as Ron, Karen and Marjorie have called for March 17.
Roberts Rules of Order is clear under "Contesting the Announced Results of an Election"
"... Because the voting body itself is the ultimate judge of election disputes, only that body has the authority to resolve them in the absence of a bylaw or special rule of order that specifically grants another body that authority.....an executive board, even one that is given full power and authority...between meetings of the body that conducted the election, may not entertain a point of order challenging, or direct a recount concerning, the announced election result."
I would like to continue serving the club and will continue to stand for the Club's right to make this decision and choose who they want to represent them.
I spoke to Mr. Schuppert last week about Ms. Ward's allegations. Mr. Schuppert denied Ms. Ward's claim that he:
... acted in concert to deprive all other members of the RIGC their right to vote and have acted in violation of RIGC bylaws...During our conversation Mr. Schuppert:
- agreed he did initially support an interpretation of RIGC bylaws to allow Ms. Ward to run for President, but subsequently came to the conclusion that he was incorrect in that interpretation. According to Mr. Schuppert, upon learning that Ms.Ward's election was in violation of RIGC bylaws, he had no choice but to agree that her election was null and void;
- disputed that newly elected Secretary Karen Lee cast the sole vote for him and Ms. Vilafane. Rather, the existing RIGC Secretary during the October meeting cast the vote;
- agreed that some of the behavior by RIGC members described by Ms. Ward may have occurred but that he was not aware of it at the time and will make sure it does not happen again;
- acknowldedged that two individuals not on the waiting list were given garden plots but it was because they had previously done a great deal of work at the garden;
- acknowledged that two members were paid a small amount for work done at the Garden but it was because they had specific skills that other members did not have and were willing to perform the tasks;
- emphasized that he supported many of the changes sought by Ms. Ward but that she acted in an abusive and dictatorial manner towards other members of RIGC which resulted in the challenge to her election and
- stated that the RIGC is a volunteer organization and that members must behave in a reasonable and respectful manner towards each other. According to Mr. Schuppert, Ms Ward did not act in such a manner.
UPDATE 2:40 PM - Ms. Ward asserts that she is still the RIGC President stating:
I remain the legal president of the Roosevelt Island Garden Club. Ron's violation based meetings cannot and have not ousted me....