Saints president B.J. Nelson informed members of the volunteer usher organization by email yesterday that its board has reversed a controversial decision to ban longtime member (and board member) Deborah Granite. Granite's membership had been revoked (as reported in a recent Reader column) as punishment for her having used members' email addresses listed in the Saints newsletter to communicate her suggestions for making the group more transparent and democratic.
But the tenor and tone of Nelson's note give no indication that he and his cadre on the board recognize the underlying issues that threaten the group—issues brought to the surface by Granite's ouster. This valued organization, which has about 1,900 members and serves almost all of Chicago's nonprofit theaters, is in sore need of a change at the top. The next general meeting is Tuesday, September 29.
Here's what Nelson wrote:
"In view of the expenditure of time and energy that is being exacted from the all volunteer Saints' Board, in view of the unnecessary, unpleasant atmosphere that is being forced on the membership and in view of the distraction that is being forced upon the entire organization depriving everyone of devoting time and energy to the activities we enjoy most and/or the objectives we need to accomplish to further the welfare of the organization, the Board vacates the decision to revoke Deborah Granite's membership so she gets another opportunity. The ban has been lifted."
And here's what dissident board member Jim Venskus has to say about it (in an email received by the Reader this morning):
"Past and current leaders of the Saints as well as many, many members are talking, increasing their involvement and invested in change.
"One might wonder what was the motivation for Monday night's board action vacating the expulsion of Deb Granite from the Saints. Was it the upcoming general membership meeting scheduled for September 29 evening at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie? The statement read to attendees by Sharon McLean indicated clearly that the action would not address the issues involved, but rather was taken to stop the activism surrounding Ms. Granite rather than a correction of improper governance, which barred a director from 1/3 of this years board meetings.
"However, Ms. Granite was only an example of governance issues and those important issues have not changed. Even having tape recordings, serious motions were omitted from the August Minutes, required reports have not been filed, corporate records properly requested haven't been produced, information is restricted, decisions are made outside of official meetings, to name a few.
"Now that Ms. Granite is being offered reinstatement and an assumed return to her elected director position, the attention can rightly be focused on the numerous governance issues raised but not yet addressed. The membership meeting is the first since the discussion started and the first opportunity to address their board directly during a Minutes-taken session.
"Every organization needs their members to stay involved and to channel the positive energy to see changes through from proposals to governance. As always, we encourage a large turn out of the membership on the 29th."
Granite's side of the story can be found on her blog.