The historical society saga continues

Drama, dispute, mistrust from a previous annual meeting, and now a cease and desist order from an attorney slapped some Le Sueur County Historical Society (LCHS) members last week. 
 
The six-page letter from the Society’s St. Louis Park attorney Jennifer Urban makes many, many, many demands and some accusations, including:
- Otherwise creating confusion amongst LCHS members and/or the public through any improper acts or omissions such as the initiation and/or continuation of the following set of events: (This is not the complete list. Just the highlights.)
- Pre-planning and intentionally perpetrating disruptive activities during the 52nd Annual Meeting, causing an out-of-order proceeding;
- Embedding a news reporter in your group so as to stake claim to a news organization;
- Corrupting the election process held at the 52nd Annual Meeting;
- Publicizing a Special Meeting of Le Sueur County Historical Society through news stories published in the October 11, 2017 edition of the Le Center Leader and Le Sueur News-Herald, and in the October 12, 2017 edition of the Elysian Enterprise, Lake Region Life, Montgomery Messenger, and New Prague Times;
- Disregarding a communication from the organization issued to you by e-mail on October 17, 2017 and U.S. Mail regarding the planned, illegal October 18, 2017 Special Membership Meeting;
- Communicating to the public that “Chapters” of LCHS exist when no chapters have existed since January 2011 and a court rendered an opinion on the issue;
- Acting as and/or publicizing the groups known as Le Sueur County Historical Society Museum Chapter 1, Lake Area Historians, Montgomery Historical Society, and/or Ottawa Historians as if they are chapters of LCHS;
- Contacting law enforcement with false claims and accusations;
- Stalking, photographing, intimidating, manipulating, directly contacting, and/or otherwise harassing the following persons: the organization’s Board of Directors, officers, staff, volunteers, sponsors, patrons, partners, donors, grantors, or vendors (or directing other parties to commit the same acts). 
 
Some of these statements are not true. For starters, the part about embedding a news reporter so as to stake claim to a news organization is not true. I assume the reporter would be me, since I was the only one at the October 7 annual meeting.
 
In no way was I “embedded.” I sought to cover it as I have done in the past, but I was not allowed in. However, I observed some of the yelling, disruptive and raucous behavior from outside the meeting room doors. Talking with people after the meeting confirmed what I had heard. The meeting was unlike anything I’ve ever heard before.
 
The letter also states that members “publicized a special meeting through news stories …” in the area newspapers. I only saw reporters there to cover a controversial event, not publicize one. 
 
The one thing though that the letter fails to do is acknowledge the Society’s accountability.
 
According to an area news reporter, Coordinator Kathy Burns of the original society, spent several hours on the phone with him discussing the situation that appeared in some of the aforementioned newspapers. So, isn’t she just as guilty of “publicizing the event”?
 
Bill Stangler, the elected chair of the Society on October 18, said the people at that meeting only want what is best for the Society. They want to make it better.
 
“I think the Society can be a good strong Society if we work together. We can work together. All we want to do is run the Society. We are not interested in fighting,” he said at that meeting.
 
If you’ve been around a while, you know this latest divisiveness is nothing new. Disputes in LCHS go back well over a decade, including a 2008 lawsuit with then-Elysian Chapter One (now Lake Area Historians) that resulted in its estrangement from the Society.
 
I think if the society wants to expand, grow and be successful, it needs funding and an open-door policy to new members. It also needs to re-examine itself, have an outside firm audit its finances and reassess the way it is run, and those working for it. From what I have been told, LCHS is a “secret society” where members feel threatened of expulsion if they disagree with directors. Is this the way a countywide society should be run?
 
Members have told me they want answers about incomplete financial records, financial transactions and property purchases. However, according to members, the ability to ask a question during a meeting and receive an answer without feeling threatened or having their membership revoked is a real and present threat. 
 
These aren’t unreasonable demands, but the board elected on October 18 must have been threatening in someway because the meeting elicited the cease and desist letter from Urban. 
 
Sadly, for the concerned people of Le Sueur County, the saga continues.

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