YMCA bylaw changes don’t please everyone

ewarnock@newsobserver.comOctober 4, 2013 

Aligning itself closer with the rules of the YMCA of the Triangle, the Board of Directors for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA recently changed the bylaws of the local organization.

In announcing the changes Sept. 25 in a prepared statement, the board said they would “lead to better decisions” and help the local YMCA “move forward” in the aftermath of recent disagreements about space usage. But not all of the members agree.

“They have promised to create more opportunities for member involvement, and I trust they will,” said Robert Epting, a member of the local YMCA. “But who can feel confident and welcome when they have turned their backs on and disenfranchised members who have asked to be involved in the revision process?

Epting said the gist of the changes would be to take the local YMCA, which is managed by the YMCA of the Triangle, from a “membership model to a customer model,” making it harder for local YMCA members to affect changes.

Epting, an attorney and former member of the Chapel Hill town council, was a leader among the YMCA members who protested when plans were announced for removing the Y’s two hardwood racquet and handball courts and using that space for more fitness equipment.

Greg Lee, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA’s senior membership and marketing director, noted the YMCA created a task force of 12 people – including Epting – who examined the space available at the main building at 980 Martin Luther King Blvd.

The task force, formed last summer, finished its report at almost the same time the board announced its bylaw changes in late September. The recommendations, which include keeping the courts while expanding the fitness area in other ways, were accepted by the directors in September.

Earlier this year, after Epting and others were barred from a directors meeting, he got nearly 500 member signatures on petitions asking for open meetings and a bylaw change that would secure members’ ability to vote on changes to the YMCA. The directors never acted on those proposals and instead issued changes of their own, Epting said.

“They took away the rights of members to nominate and vote for board members, and substituted a single nominee for members,” Epting said. “They took away the right of members to amend the bylaws by general election.”

Epting said that meant eliminating the members’ ability to nominate candidates to the 12-member board – except for one at-large position.

Lee said the board of directors were aware of some members’ disagreements with the process.

“They were working very had to balance the desires of the members to be involved with the legal responsibilities of the board,” Lee said.

Other bylaw changes emphasized an evolving role for the YMCA, Lee said, in northern Orange County and in Chatham County.

“The previous bylaws described the service areas as Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Chatham County. In reality, This Y serves all of Orange County and Chatham County, so the updated bylaws reflect that,” the YMCA’s statement said.

Epting said some changes went beyond that, philosophically.

“They took out the statement emphasizing inclusion and banning discrimination,” Epting said, calling that “Bizarre, since that is what caused the uproar last year when merger with the Y of the Triangle was proposed. Go figure.”

Warnock: 919-932-8743

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