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Cemetery Association Meeting Tackles Inherited Financial Issues, Plot Problems
Despite Calmer Proceedings, Board President Resigns
Wednesday, May 18, 2011 • Posted May 19, 2011 • Updated May 19, 2011 11:12 AM

Part two of the annual membership meeting of the Blanco Historic Cemetery Association was held on Monday night, May 16, at 7pm at the Masonic Lodge.  The previous meeting, held April 25, was cut short when slow progress and arguments caused the meeting to run against the 8pm closing time at the Blanco Library.

Board members Dennis Moore, Diane Hostetler, Gail McClellan, Rebecca Howerton, Tina Gourley, and Connie Russell were present as the meeting began. Hostetler and Russell were elected to the board at the April 25 meeting, and Moore and David Seymour were re-elected.

Howerton read the minutes from the August 26, 2010, special membership meeting and Russell the April 25, 2011, annual meeting minutes. After the minutes were approved, the board continued to the next item on the agenda: bylaws.

Clara Gourley, who heads the committee that was assigned with updating the bylaws and reconciling them with the association constitution, reported that she was to the point of a rough draft.  She hadn’t realized how much the project entailed but was making progress.  She asked the board about a discrepancy; the bylaws state that the directors would have a meeting immediately after elections to elect officers.  This had not happened, she said.  Tina Gourley replied that, when the last board resigned, the new board had to make that action.  The current board did not have all directors in place yet, she said.  Clara Gourley noted that the board needs to immediately elect officers or the association would be in limbo.

Tina Gourley reported on the future cemetery expansion. The board had approached a neighboring landowner about an offer.  The gentleman was not ready to sell and the cemetery couldn’t entertain an offer.  Gourley reported that a structure for cremated remains was on the backburner while she was auditing the association finances.

The meeting next moved to legal issues.  As was covered in the previous meeting, the board had received a letter of demand from a member.  Gourley reported that no resolution had been made in that case.  The board had responded to the attorney on record, she said, and had not received a response.

Gourley next reported on the financial records she was auditing.  From 2004 to 2009, the board transferred money from CDs to the cemetery’s operational checking account. Over $64,000, and up to $74,000, had been transferred out of CDs, Gourley said, and into the account for maintenance and to pay directors’ salaries. Around $16,000 remained unaccounted for.  The figures did not include income from plot purchases during those years.

The current board has implemented safeguards to prevent those problems. All of the directors volunteer their time and, in many cases, materials.  Two signatures are required on checks and transfers, she stated, and financials are reported to members.  Materials are reimbursed with receipts, and maintenance work is checked on to insure completion.  When plots are purchased or spaces marked in the cemetery, two board members are present.

A question was raised in the audience about the outcome of the audit and if the association would file charges for misappropriation.  Gourley responded that she could only report the financial records and the membership would decide the next course of action.

Keith McClellan asked about the auditing process, stating that he wouldn’t want to be the sole auditor and not all of the board members know what Gourley is doing.  Gourley stated that she needed to find out where the association was financially and present the records to the membership; she also stated that she had reported the audit to the directors.

A member in the audience asked about the progress of a problem his family was having; their plots had been misidentified.  Gourley replied that she was speaking with both his family and the family who owns the neighboring plots, and the board is looking around to determine if other spaces haven’t been used and if the board could buy them back.  “Whatever we choose,” she said, “someone will be unhappy.”  The member stated that his family is there to work with her to see the problem solved.

Keith McClellan asked about the new fence on the south side of the property, separating the cemetery from the EMS station and a residence.  Gourley reported that the labor was donated by Choppy Romero.  The fence had fallen into disrepair, had been torn down in sections, and was replaced with what had been there previously.  The members had given the directors the power to make operational decisions like that one, she said; special meetings would have to be called about every decision.  McClellan stated that all directors needed to know about those decisions.

Kenneth Moore stated that cable, like the fencing on the other three sides of the cemetery, would’ve been easier to maintain.  Gourley and Howerton mentioned problems with the cable fence, including people tripping over it and the posts rusting.  Directors Gail McClellan and Dennis Moore mentioned that they were not notified about the fence.

Gourley stated that directors meetings were just that; the association’s attorney said it was legal for the directors to meet privately and were not required to open the meetings to the public, Gourley reported.  The previous directors, however, did not hold annual meetings or post financials, she reminded the members.  Keith McClellan noted that the membership had previously voted to have open directors meetings.

A member asked about the contact information form that the association had sent to members.  He stated that all a member needs to produce is a certificate to allow burial.  Once interred, he said, he would provide more information.  Gourley replied that the contact information form was to allow the board to contact the owner in case there are questions or problems with the plot.  The information is collected at the time of purchase, she said.  The contact form requires the purchaser to identify who will be buried in the plot, which was a problem as the member had purchased a group of plots and was unsure who would want to be buried there.  The issue was resolved by instructing the member to put his name and “heir” in the name field.

Clara Gourley added that, previously, the board issued a receipt and certificate immediately after the plot was purchased.  “Are you not giving them certificates until you get the [contact] information?” she asked Tina Gourley.

Tina Gourley said, “At this time, I will turn the meeting over to [vice-president] Gail and turn in my resignation.”  She gathered her various items, including records she had brought for the meeting, and left the building.  A member moved to accept her resignation.  16 members voted to approve the motion and 7 members voted against it.  A member moved that the nomination and election of a new director would occur at the next meeting.  The motion was seconded and approved.

Gravesite assignees were discussed, including what was described as a “mess” inherited from the previous board.  Retta Martin made a motion that the directors would re-issue certificates if the association had records of the purchase and the member had lost the originals.  The motion was withdrawn as McClellan would need to inquire with the attorney about the wording.

The membership approved a motion to take three bids for an audit of the banking records.

The idea of a Family Day, where members would meet at the cemetery for food and to clean up the grounds, was brought up.

The meeting adjourned at 9:10pm.
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