Clark Metro Development Corporation members force compliance with by-laws
by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, July 2007) Efforts by the membership of the Clark Metro Development Corporation to make sure the election at its recent annual meeting adhered to the organization’s by-laws may have contributed to the decision of three board members to resign. The combination of the election of new board members and the resignations may have changed the direction of the organization and stymied efforts by Ward 14 Councilman Joe Santiago to gain greater control of Clark Metro Development Corporation (CMDC).

Three members of Clark Metro Development Corporation’s Board of Trustees resigned after the board decided to move the annual meeting date from July 16th back to the June 18th date listed in a mailing to its paid membership. Two of the three board members resigning, Bess Vrettos and George Holakis, were present at a meeting with Councilman Joe Santiago in which, according the minutes of the December 2006 CMDC Board Meeting, “the Councilman was offered the opportunity to nominate two people for the Board and in return the Councilman would give money to Clark Metro Development Corporation.”

CMDC membership successfully challenged the changed meeting date, based on provisions in the organization’s by-laws that call for an election to be held in April or as soon afterward as possible. The by-laws allow all members who have paid their dues 30 days prior to the meeting to vote. Members who have paid their dues are also eligible to run for open seats on the board.

This spring the board set the annual meeting date for June 18th. In May, Interim Executive Director John Fennelly sent a letter informing the 19 existing paid members of the June 18th annual meeting date.

After the letter was sent, the board decided to increase the number of eligible members by paying the dues for those on the membership list with unpaid dues (approximately 130 additional members, some of whom live outside the boundaries of the CMDC service area which stretches roughly from the rail tracks just north of I-90 south to I-71 and from W. 25th to W. 52nd.   

The board also decided to move back the meeting date to allow additional members to  vote and run in this year’s election. The new meeting date was slated for July 16.

The existing paid membership called foul and local attorney Vincent Gonzalez sent a letter to Clark Metro Development Corporation on behalf of the paid members citing rules in the by-laws requiring the meeting be held as outlined in the letter to the membership.

The Clark Metro Development Board of Trustees met and voted to move the annual meeting date back to June 18th. Three board members, Bessie Vrettos, George Holakis and Dena Czupih, resigned following the vote.

Thirty members and guests participated at the Clark Metro Development Corporation Board of Trustees Annual Meeting on Monday, June 18, 2007 at Lin Omni Center on Fulton Avenue. After asking for and not receiving any additional nominations from the floor, the membership present at the meeting voted 12 to 2 to fill five board positions with the five nominated candidates. At the June 18th meeting, 23 members were listed as paid members eligible to vote in the election.

The membership elected Rebecca Kempton, Nelson Cintron, Jr. and Debra Valachovic as new residential representatives to the board. Kempton, a Hyde Avenue resident, recently served as chairperson of Citizens to Save Clark Metro. Cintron, Jr., a Vega Avenue resident, was formerly the councilman of Ward 14, and Valachovic, a Kinkle Avenue resident, is a former Clark Metro employee and 45-year resident of the neighborhood.

Returning to the board for another two-year term were business representatives Randy Buchko and Ramon Pagon.

Buchko, a Hyde Avenue resident and manager of the Clark Avenue McDonalds, where he as worked for the past 28 years, was re-elected to the board. Buchko has served on the Clark Metro Board of Trustees for about 10 years.

Pagon, the owner/operator of Joyeria Viejo San Juan on Clark Avenue, was also re-elected to the Board of Trustees.

Cintron, Jr. said talk about closing CMDC disturbed him and promised to work with residents and businesses to “raise real dollars for the agency.” Cintron expressed concern about lack of funding for CMDC from the City of Cleveland. “We have to show City Hall, this is us –we need those block grant dollars.” He urged residents and businesses to work together, saying the development corporation is “only as strong as members who come out and address issues.”

Kempton said she ran for the board because she felt that in the last year the board had not done everything it could have done to maintain services in the neighborhood. Kempton said she felt the newly-constituted Board of Trustees would be the best ever. She said this board would not be using their positions for personal gain but “looking to build community.”

A member of a community agency suggested that the membership recruiting time, the by-laws and the nominating process needed to be better publicized. Board President Randy Buchko said the organization was working to have the by-laws placed on its website, which is still under construction. He said for now the organization was required to follow the by-laws and vote for new board members.

The Board of Trustees of Clark Metro Development Corporation is required to have five business or institutional members and five residential members. Five of these positions are filled each year with rotating two-year terms. An additional three at-large positions are filled at the discretion of the board. Two of the three board members who resigned were at-large representatives. The other position has one year remaining on a two-year term. The newly-constituted board will appoint someone to fill the remainder of the two-year term, and has the option of appointing two persons to at-large terms if it chooses.

Currently the CMDC Board of Trustees meets the third Monday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Clark Metro Development Corporation offices at 2511 Clark Avenue.

Interim Executive Director John Fennelly thanked all the members and guests for participating in the meeting, and noted the “overwhelming support from the community over the past 6 months to a year” as the organization worked through a difficult time. He thanked the current and past staff and board members for their efforts.

Fennelly said CMDC’s accomplishments over the last several years included a number of storefront renovations and new businesses on W. 25th, Clark Avenue and Fulton Road.

Fennelly said future plans include creating 78 units of supportive housing on W.25 Street; helping a do-it-yourself car wash open; and assisting the opening of a small shopping center that would house three businesses. The organization will continue its high level of participation in the city’s paint refund program, and continue to offer weatherization, Emergency HEAP and HEAP to area residents. Fennelly praised the new board members for bringing “new energy and ideas” to the organization.

Fennelly noted that ideas for additional revenue for CMDC included partnering with a day care organization, and seeking status as a Federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved agency. The latter would allow CMDC to purchase HUD homes at a 30% discount, and then rehab and resell the homes to homeowners.

When asked whether Ward 14 Councilman Joe Santiago would still be honoring his commitment to provide CMDC with $60,000, Fennelly said he was not sure.

According to the December 18, 2006 CMDC Board of Trustees minutes, board member Bess Vrettos in the presence of the councilman presented a summary of a meeting between three board members (Bess Vrettos, Eric Louttit, and George Holakis) and Councilman Joe Santiago and his assistant, Sister Alicia Alvarado.

In a portion of the minutes described as “A Summary of Visit with Councilman Santiago: Presented by Bessie with Councilman present,” the following statement appears: “The meeting went well and the Councilman was presented with CMDC’s revised plans. In this new spirit of partnership and willingness to work together, the Councilman was offered an opportunity to nominate two people for the Board and in return the Councilman would give money to Clark Metro Development Corporation.”

Asked if the minutes reflected what was promised the Councilman, Board President Buchko said he wasn’t sure because only a few board members were present at the meeting with Councilman Santiago.


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