Former Minnesota Senate President Don Samuelson described the move as hard-core politics and warned those who maneuvered it that, "What goes around comes around."
But the longtime legislator wasn't reminiscing about his days in the Legislature. He was describing last month's board of directors election for the Crow Wing County Historical Society at Jack's House in Brainerd.
Now serving as president of the historical society, Samuelson chaired a special meeting Tuesday of the 2004 board to air concerns the recent election was not conducted properly.
"This is pretty exciting for the historical society," board member Terry Curtis commented.
At the annual meeting one of the nominating committee's candidates, incumbent board member Jan Burton, was ousted in the election by Jolene Pasch of Little Falls, a former employee of the society. Pasch was nominated from the floor.
Elected at the April meeting with Pasch were Dwight Thiesse of Brainerd and incumbent Hilda Lee of Brainerd, both of whom were nominated by the nominating committee. Another candidate who was nominated from the floor but who did not win election was Jody Crowe of Brainerd.
Samuelson said three or four votes separated the last-place candidate from the third-place candidate. He said concerns had been raised about whether a resident of Morrison County could serve on the Crow Wing County Historical Society Board and whether votes from representatives of corporate memberships should be allowed. Samuelson described the floor nominations as extremely organized and said he didn't believe the two people nominated were members until that night.
"I just think some people are uncomfortable with the elections," he said.
The former state representative and state senator said ballots were handed out to people at the door, a practice he didn't think was wise.
The board members who were elected in April did not attend Tuesday's meeting. A question was raised at the meeting whether those members were immediately part of the board.
Ousted member Jan Burton told the board she was not upset about losing the election but said she would not compromise her integrity. She accused Executive Director Mary Lou Moudry of trying to get her "out of the picture" and of showing open hostility toward her when, as a board member, she researched various issues. Burton charged her research revealed that Moudry had authorized salary advances for herself; asked for a Christmas bonus for herself; asked for a cell phone that was used for personal calls; and had the society pay her membership dues for the American Association of University Women.
At Tuesday's board meeting Moudry said she was not going to refute the list point by point but did respond to a reporter's questions after the meeting.
She said she was a salaried employee and sometimes she did write her check early. This was during a period, she said, when the treasurer was not active in signing the checks. Now, she said, the checks are handled by an accounting firm.
Moudry said the cell phone was first obtained when she was working at the fairgrounds and wanted to contact the office. She said there probably was some personal use of the phone but said she has since taken over the contract and it's now her private cell phone.
The AAUW dues were approved by the board, she said.
Moudry said she did not recruit a person to challenge existing board members. She said she was aware of the move but did not take part in it.
Burton said after the meeting that her findings were never taken to the full board and she was criticized for micromanaging. She said she thought Moudry's actions were improper.
In the only action that was taken Tuesday the board appointed three historical society members to investigate the charges of election irregularities and report back to the board's next meeting. Serving on the committee are board member Dick Hayes, who was named chair; Mary Hoag, a former board member whose term recently expired; and Curtis.
DeAnn Barry, a board member, said the newly elected member has a history degree and would be a wonderful board member.
Board member Hilda Lee urged board members to put aside personal differences and conflicts, and cooperate with enthusiasm. She noted the presence of a newspaper reporter at Tuesday's meeting and said she had originally planned to say more on the controversy.
"Now that's all shot to heck having my friend from the Dispatch here," Lee said.
While discussing the voting rights of corporate memberships, board members said Dispatch Outdoors Editor Vince Meyer voted on behalf of the newspaper. Board members said another person from a dental practice was given a ballot but didn't vote.
MIKE O'ROURKE can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5860.
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