Parkrose Business Assn. suddenly in disarray

Fueled by a ‘media leak’ – see why the incoming president and four board members resigned from their volunteer posts with the Parkrose Business Association – and, surprisingly, who they say is behind the unrest …

Members and guests serve themselves a gourmet hot lunch, as the February, 2012 PBA meeting gets underway.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
In what was her first – and, what now appears to be her last – address to the membership of the Parkrose Business Association (PBA), incoming president Judy Kennedy of the Pacific Northwest Federal Credit Union presented her “State of the PBA” message on February 16 at the Airport Holiday Inn Hotel.

“I’m very proud to be part of this association,” Kennedy began. “Our members are one of the most dedicated groups of people I’ve ever known. Because of your efforts, kindness, and generosity, we were able to award six more Parkrose High School seniors $1,000 scholarships last year – totaling $46,000 in scholarships [given] since 1998.”

Incoming PBA President Judy Kennedy gives her “State of the PBA” message.

Kennedy pointed out that a bag filled with costume apparel was located at each table, and asked members to put on an item if they’d volunteered with the PBA Board, the Scholarship Committee, at a PBA event, had given items for the silent auction at the holiday event, had received an award, had hosted an event for PBA, had donated money for scholarships to PBA – and more.

By this time, most everyone at every table was decked out in hats, beads, sunglasses, and festooned another colorful ways with items from these bags.

Members take the statement “Hats off for the PBA” literally.

“After another most difficult year for many businesses,” Kennedy concluded, “the PBA has remained strong. Hats off to the PBA!

However, this collaborative scene,  soon after the meeting was to be disrupted by a memo from someone who had been perceived as one of its strongest supporters.

Rossi’s ‘23 Theses/Questions’
In February, Parkrose community champion Joe Rossi, a long-time member of the business association, presented outgoing PBA President Wayne Stoll, then Judy Kennedy, a document that was entitled “23 Theses/Questions”.

Because the word-for-word accuracy of the text of this document sent to East Portland News hasn’t been vetted, we choose not to display it in its entirety. We’re told you’ll find it at the Mid County Memos website — the online version of this long-standing print newspaper that broke this story.

Marsha Lee Grabinger and Rex Hollingsworth remark on the proceedings at the PBA meeting while Amelia Salvador watches Joe Rossi dump costume items on their luncheon table, unaware of the ramifications his document would have that he’d confidentially presented to their board.

The four main topic areas of Rossi’s documents are purported to be:

  1. Opportunities for PBA members to serve the Parkrose community in a leadership capacity;
  2. The Parkrose 2011 Centennial and the organization’s involvement in community events;
  3. The general goals and objectives of the business association; and,
  4. That the PBA may be out of compliance with its own bylaws.

 

Rossi’s first complaint apparently could be summarized by saying that the PBA’s Executive Board and Board of Directors have had little turnover for many years; new faces haven’t been accepted into the organization’s leadership.

In the next section, Rossi is said to state his disappointment that the PBA wasn’t an “active participant” in the 2011 Parkrose Centennial events. He further allegedly asserted that the “PBA leadership was very difficult to work with, and indifferent on planning or doing nearly anything to help celebrate” the area’s Centennial. Rossi also allegedly expressed his disappointment that the organization’s  “Karl F. Lind Award” wasn’t presented to the Portland Immigrant Statue project’s Marketing Director, and PBA Board member, Amelia Salvador – apparently questioning the award committee’s procedures.

Rossi decried the lack of civic events produced in recent years by the PBA. Further, he allegedly asked to be told the goals of the “PBA directors for PBA moving forward”.

Last summer, Judy Kennedy asked her employer, Pacific Northwest Federal Credit Union, to sponsor a Rossi Farm Movie Night to benefit Parkrose Outdoor School organized by Joe Rossi.

Document’s information leaked
In a telephone interview with Rossi on the afternoon of March 8 and again on March 9, Rossi talked about the missive he had delivered to the PBA with East Portland News.

“I drafted a document and presented it to one person,” Rossi said. “It got copied, and then a copy got out to the Mid County Memo. There was nothing I wrote in it that wasn’t true.”

Summarizing the missive, Rossi stated, “My disagreement was that I wanted PBA to be a more inclusive group. This means having two-year terms for officers [and directors], and having them off [the organization’s board] for a year. [Board member elections] would also have an open nominating process.”

Instead of enforcing term limits on volunteer PBA Directors, Rossi noted, he believed the organization was about to abolish term limits.

Rossi continued, “In my heart-of-hearts, it was meant to engage the PBA in an internal discussion that would make the group more inclusive. It was written in the provocative way – to provoke a discussion.”

Asked about rumors that Peter Diamond, an attorney with the Warren Allen law firm, had filed suit on his behalf, Rossi responded, “There is no lawsuit. I’ve withdrawn from the debate. There is nothing I really want – other than to have [the PBA directors] address issues to help make the PBA better.”

Now-former PBA Treasurer Marsha Lee Grabinger, and Laurie Larsen, greeted guests at the PBA’s February meeting. East Portland News archive photo

A PBA Director speaks out
New, but now-exiting PBA President Judy Kennedy was unavailable to comment – but in fairness, the calls we made were placed near the end of the business day.

However, now former PBA Treasurer Marsha Lee Grabinger did agree to an interview.

“Joe Rossi sent his ‘23 Questions’ to [PBA President] Judy Kennedy. She called an emergency board meeting,” Grabinger began. “Judy gave us each a copy. She stressed that this document was a ‘draft’, and was not to be sent to anyone.”

Many of Rossi’s points are valid, Grabinger acknowledged.

Rossi was invited to the emergency executive board meeting, Grabinger continued. “He was there to answer questions and clarify his positions.”

The PBA Executive Board voted to take the issues to the full Board, Grabinger continued. “It was made very clear that this [document] was to remain ‘eyes only’ and not to spread it around.”

Asked who could have “leaked” the content the document to the Mid County Memo, Grabinger responded, “I truly don’t believe any of the PBA Directors ‘leaked’ this document.”

In our second conversation, Rossi insisted that he believed that, at least some of the information contained in his “confidential” document was leaked by a PBA Director, perhaps inadvertently and indirectly. But because he didn’t have proof, he preferred not to openly speculate regarding this individual’s identity.

Rossi added that he suspected this was the case when he was questioned by the Mid County Memo‘s editor, who telephoned to ask him about the document, using what Rossi said sounded like verbiage he recognized to be taken from his document.

Five resign from leadership roles
Members of the PBA Board have now acknowledged that several of the directors served beyond limits set by the organization’s bylaws. Thus, Grabinger, long-time PBA Secretary Mary Brown, and Directors Mike Taylor and Gail Bash, all who have exceeded term limits, have resigned their volunteer positions as board members.

According to Grabinger, those serving as PBA Treasurer and Secretary are not required to be members of the organization’s board. Thus, she and Mary Brown will continue serving in their respective positions — but not as board members.

Reasons for Judy Kennedy’s departure are still unclear.

New member Angie Jenkins with Hookset Automotive is welcomed by PBA Vice President, David Ableidinger with Parkrose Hardware.

As PBA’s Vice President David Ableidinger, co-owner of Parkrose Hardware, assumes the role of president, he made it clear in an interview with East Portland News that he did not seek this new role with the organization.

“It was unfortunate Judy Kennedy felt so much pressure that she resigned,” Ableidinger said. “But, I’m my own boss.”

About changing the PBA bylaws, Ableidinger said, “At our board meeting on Wednesday [March 6], the directors decided not to drop the term limits provision. In the near future, we will review the bylaws with experts in nonprofit rules. And, we’ll also look for other potential problems with the bylaws.”

Regarding the four board members who currently have exceeded their term limits, Ableidinger said, “They are now considered general members and can not vote on issues except as ‘regular members’ in a general meeting. We’re looking candidates for at least four positions. These names must be submitted at least 30 days before the May membership meeting.”

The question, Ableidinger concluded, is how the substantial amount of “institutional knowledge” of those who resigned can be passed on to incoming board members who will assume the role of treasurer and secretary.

In happier times, Past PBA President Wayne Stoll flashes his trademark smile. East Portland News file photo

Perspective provided by past president
East Portland News asked PBA Past President – designated a PBA Director as Immediate Past President – Wayne Stoll of Argay Square, to put these events into perspective. He began by establishing his own viewpoints on the issues.

“Just a few months ago,” Stoll said, “my daughter was nearly killed in a car/pedestrian collision on the other side of the country. She was in a coma for days. She’s still facing surgery.”

Stoll continued, “So, is this a ‘great big deal’ to me? No.”

About the departing directors, Stoll added, “If someone thinks that these four board members are not outstanding assets to the PBA and the Board of Directors, I don’t understand it. They are beyond reproach. We couldn’t pay them [enough] for the work they’ve voluntarily contributed to this organization.”

The real questions, Stoll posed, are: “With everything people have going on in their lives, what are you going to get worked up over? How do the Board members benefit from their volunteer work? They don’t get money or fame. Is ‘overstayed their terms’ really that big an issue?”

The PBA moves forward
The next meeting of the Parkrose Business Association, now with largely new leadership, is on March 15 at 11:30 a.m. at Holiday Inn Airport 8439 NE Columbia Blvd. (in the hotel building, around the back at the Flirt’s entrance – not the Convention Center next door.

The meeting is free, and the buffet lunch is $17 including dessert and gratuity; reservations are not required.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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