Relief has been provided on the policy and governance headaches for the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber membership endorsed a new set of bylaws last week to clear up inconsistencies in how the executive is elected.
“Previously the president-elect would take over the president’s chair. The bylaws now read there is no succession plan from vice-president to president,” said chamber president Jason Cox. “The benefit is, it is direct democracy and the board is elected each year by the membership and the executive table is elected from that group of people.”
The issue of governance came to a head last December during the chamber election process. It was so problematic that longtime chamber member Judy Poole rejected a nomination to take over as president and instead remained a director.
Poole and board member Jackie Frederick were asked by the board to provide a written resignation in November when it was found that they were part of the Penticton Business Development Group that successfully bid on the tourism contract from the City of Penticton — a contract the chamber held prior. According to the chamber meeting minutes, both Poole and Frederick had been recused from board meetings since Aug. 31, when Cox conducted an individual poll of each board member as to whether they had any interest or involvement in a potentially competing bid.
Another change as a result of the bylaws is the date of the annual general meeting during which time the elections are conducted. It was found in the board of trade act that elections should be conducted in the first quarter of the year. Somewhere along the line the chamber had changed their elections to the end of November. This means Cox’s presidency will extend into the new year to comply with the new bylaws.
Cox said the original Penticton board of trade was formed in 1907 and operated under a set of bylaws until 1956 when changes were made.
“Since then the bylaws have been amended numerous times. What we discovered, when looking at the process of bylaws this year, is none of the amendments made over the years had been actually sanctioned or ratified by the federal ministry that oversees the governance of chambers of commerce. Even the most recent bylaw change in 2006 under Judy Poole’s presidency was never ratified,” said Cox.
The chamber will now operate under the new bylaws, which have been sent to the ministry to be signed off on. Cox said they chamber will set a date soon for the next elections.
“I think it’s good to revisit your covenants regularly to make sure you are doing things right, and I think it speaks well of this chamber board that it took governance seriously this year. I am proud of all the work done by the board members to come up with a document that was done right,” said Cox.