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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

SECU board changes voting, meeting rules

The contested election of board seats at the $50 billion State Employees’ Credit Union, which kicks off Friday, will involve the first-ever absentee electronic voting for the group’s 2.7 million and major changes in the annual meeting.

Previously, SECU’s 11-member board was elected almost entirely by votes from staff and members of local advisory boards, then tallied at the annual meeting, says board Chair Chris Ayers. “Typically this equates to less than 0.45% of our members participating in the voting process,” he said in an email response to questions.

From Sept. 1 through Oct. 3, members will be able to vote electronically, by absentee ballots or in person at the Oct. 10 meeting in Greensboro. The changes “ensure that all member-owners can take part in the important decision-making process that impacts the future of our credit union,” Ayers says.

As for the annual meeting, the SECU board in June approved changes that prohibit members from making “substantive motions” and limit member comments to two minutes per person and 60 minutes overall.

The changes to the rules of conduct at the annual meeting “are designed to ensure the annual meeting remains orderly, respectful and true to our primary purpose” of electing directors,” Ayers says.

Former SECU CEO Jim Blaine says the moves take away the ability of members to instigate changes. He asked Kristina Ray, the state’s administrator of credit unions, to intervene to enable member-owners to have more of a say. A request for comment from Ray did not get a response.

At last year’s annual meeting, Blaine gave a lengthy speech asking the board to describe its reasoning for a variety of policy changes instituted by the board and CEO Jim Hayes, who has since left SECU. Blaine’s speech prompted a series of meetings around the state between board members, SECU leaders and members. The outreach didn’t satisfy Blaine or the self-nominated directors, who are pushing for policy changes at SECU.

The credit union’s management and board won’t have access to an individual member’s vote, a credit union spokesperson says. The election facilitator, Ernst & Young, will retain that information in confidence.

The election includes three incumbent directors recommended by a board nominating committee and three others who secured more than 500 signatures to qualify for the ballot. The incumbents are Jo Anne Sanford, Alice Garland, and Thomas Parrish. The three self-nominated candidates are Michael Clements, Barbara Perkins and Chuck Stone.

Perkins says she wants SECU to revise its policy on risk-based lending. Until this year, the 85-year-old institution charged the rate on loans for members, regardless of their financial status. But the board approved a change that now enables SECU to offer better rates to people with better credit scores, which officials say will make the credit union more competitive with other lenders.

“We encourage everyone to vote as early as possible, especially those who are requesting absentee ballots,” Perkins says. “With the mail situation what it is today, we are afraid there might be delays in both getting and returning ballots.”

David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at dmildenberg@businessnc.com.

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