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Just before midnight Saturday, the Wahington County Historical Society tabulated votes for its four top new officers – President Krista Martin, Vice-President Todd Baker, Treasurer – John Hughes and Secretary Tom Day. 

About an hour before that, eight total members were announced out of a possible slate of 25 which were voted on by over 150 members of the historical society who gathered to help make a change in the direction of the organization. 

John Kaiser, Dean Ratts and Boyd Boling listen as Washington County Historical Society President Krista Martin explains the past few years to the members in the room.

The Saturday night election was the result of a special election ordered by a special judge Larry Blanton during a ruling at the conclusion of a lawsuit filed in 2018 by John Mead, Jack Mahuron, Myron Short, Larry Shrum and Raymond Lee (and initially included Tom Scifres). 

The eight new board members are Baker, Martin, Hughes, Day, Dean Ratts, Bonita Purlee, Katrina Humphrey and Dr. Gene Hedrick. 

The annual meeting began at 6p with over 150 or so historical society members filing in and being signed in after identification was verified. 

After a meal provided by a local youth group, Martin, the current president, addressed the group and explained why everyone was gathered at the Stevens Museum this evening. 

Martin said the plaintiffs sued the historical society “for disregarding bylaws, articles of incorporation and Indiana non-profit laws and election procedures. That is the basis for the current lawsuit,” she said at the meeting. 

WATCH LIVE COVERAGE OF THE MEETING HERE 

Martin said she had a background in regulatory compliance and began researching the non-profit procedures and discovered the plaintiffs were correct. 

“They were right,” she told the membership Saturday night. “The historical society was not following the rules. There was no denying that proper procedure was not followed in every single instance over the years. Some worse than others. Judge Larry Blanton stated that proper procedures were not followed as far back as 2003. Probably before 2003 but that was as far as the judge researched.”

Martin then stated that none of the current board members were on the board in 2003. But some of the plaintiff’s party were, including Mead and Mahuron. 

“Instead of saying, “Hey, the historical society isn’t following laws, guys, let’s adhere to Indiana law and get our own bylaws — the plaintiff’s opted to sue the society,” Martin noted. 

THE VOTE

The vote finally got underway Saturday around 7:30p and the counting took another 90 or so minutes. 

John Kaiser helps count votes along with Dean Weller and Martin, right.

Here is a breakdown of the voting for the 25 on the ballot

  • Todd Baker – 258
  • Adam Bell – 65
  • Amanda Bills – 48
  • Boyd Boling – 47
  • Susan Boling – 15
  • Martha Bowers – 17
  • Matthew Clark – 10
  • Tom Day – 226
  • Richard Dixon – 27
  • Jordan Dos Santos – 65
  • Vince Gay – 90 
  • Dr. Gene Hedrick – 306
  • John Hughes – 272
  • Katrina Humphrey – 193
  • John Kaiser – 107
  • Raymond Lee – 80
  • Jack Mahuron – 78
  • Krista Martin – 277
  • John Mead – 73
  • Stacy Lee Miller – 31
  • Brent Minton 56
  • Bonita Purlee – 314
  • Dean Ratts – 268
  • Jeremy Risen – 71
  • Myron Short – 70

Once those eight new board members were selected, then the membership voted on who they wanted for leadership positions. 

Purlee and Hedrick had the most votes and will have each have a four-year term.

Martin and Hughes will each have a three-year term.

Ratts and Baker will each have two-year terms.

Day and Humphrey will each have a one year term. 

Going around in order of votes, they were each asked if they would like to be an officer or if they would like to be a general director.

Purlee passed, Hedrick passed, Martin said she’s like to continue as president. Hughes said he’d like to continue as treasurer. Ratts said he would like to remain as head of the building committee. Baker said he’d like to be vice president. Day was not present but his proxy, Elliott, said he would serve in any way needed. Humphrey said she would like to be treasurer. 

On the second pass around, Purlee decided she would like to be vice-president and everyone else kept their positions and Day was added as secretary. 

In another vote, Martin was selected as president; Baker was selected as vice-president; Hughes was selected as treasurer; and Day was selected as secretary. 

BACKGROUND

Martin explained to the society that in 1985, the historical society formed a second board, the John Hay Center Foundation Board.

“Supposedly it was meant to be a fundraising and financial advisory board,” she said. “In retrospect, we’re not sure why such a configuration would be necessary. How many thousands of non-profit organizations markedly larger than our historical society, function efficiently and successfully with one board and no accessory arm for finances. Of course, I wasn’t there at that time, so I cannot understand the reasoning behind the founding of the John Hay Center Foundation Board. Nevertheless, this is the configuration of our society.”

Martin said Mahuron remained President of the JHCFB from its inception in 1985 to the mid-2000s. She said he also remained in various positions of the historical board simultaneously. 

“In 2006, options were explored to manage the then sizeable historical society funds,” said Martin. Those funds were in surplus of $3 million.

“After multiple presentations, and under the suggestion of Mr. Mahuron and Mr. Scifres, the Washington County Community Foundation was selected as the preferred choice of the for the society’s monetary placement,” said Martin. “Interestingly enough, both gentlemen were associated with the WCCF at the time, but this actually is not an unlawful arrangement.”

The contract between the historical society and WCCF is actually a contract between the JHCFB and WCCF, Martin explained to the membership.

“The historical society is unable to directly request funds from WCCF without oversight and agreement from the John Hay Center Foundation Board,” she indicated. “The historical society board at the time the money was placed was under the misguided belief that the funds would be accessible at will.”

Currently, the WCCF distributes approximately $90,000 each year to the historical society in three separate draws. 

According to Washington County Historian Jeremy Elliott, the museum needs approximately $9000-$10,000 a month to operate, which would be less than the WCCF dividends provided each year. 

“Upon reading the minutes of that time frame, it was apparent the historical society board did not realize the finality of placing operating funds into an endowment,” said Martin. 

“It’s obvious there was a lot of confusion back then which caused a lot of anguish,” said Martin. “The historical society’s financial concerns were documented over the years with multiple factual accounts of board members denying the complex needed maintenance funds with the flippant “we don’t have the money” or “you have to choose between a roof on the Hageman cabin or AC in the upstairs of the museum.”

All the while the needed funds could have been accessed by the John Jay Center Foundation Board, Martin added. 

John Hughes, secretary of the historical society explained that he became the secretary after Short resigned.

“The meetings went on for over a year and we never had a treasurer’s report,” said Hughes. “I’ve been on school boards, church boards, I’ve been on various boards over the last 50 years. I’ve never been on a board where there wasn’t a monthly account of the money.”

Long after a year passed, I asked Mr. Short when we were ever going to get a treasurer’s report. I was told it was none of my business. I was a director but it was none of my business. In the next meeting, Mr. Newby informed Mr. Short he should bring a treasurer’s report. The next meeting came and Danny asked for the treasurer report. Mr short slammed his book together and walked out the door.”

Hughes said the next day Short brought the paperwork to the museum and turned it over.

“Nobody was very eager to take on the job,” said Hughes. “I said I would try. In going through the records, we found out that — and we were under the impression that [Short] was doing the book work as Clair Marie had — we found out we had been paying Steve Brewer (a local accountant) all the time and he had never told the board. That was just one of the few things we found out.”

Hughes said he has provided regular monthly treasurer’s reports. 

In January 2019, the historical society had $10,646.99 in the checking account. 

In a Pay Pal account, there was $526.43.  A money market account at Regions bank held $72,790.36.

Hughes explained that much of the funds have been spent this year on legal fees, purchasing back the museum annex from Jeannet Hart as well as general operating funds.

He said there was $20,245.14 in the museum accounts currently with 5 weeks, three more payrolls and a quarterly insurance payment to Loy and Fordyce.

“It’s going to be close,” said Hughes. “But this is what we have to work with. This has been going on for three years. Had three different law firms. We’re doing this to protect you. You – you’re being sued by these five people. We’re trying to protect the assets and the historical value of this society. In that regard, it has cost us nearly $30,000 to fight this.” 

Martin said it would be up to the new board to pursue further legal matters.