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November 6th 2019 Minutes

Attendees: Amy Zerbe, Sue Okie, Evonne Klein, Mary Genco, Clara Sartori, Stephanie Maher, Millyn Gaaserud, Martha Banks, Jean Sweeney, Joan Davis, Carolyn Bayne, Jill McCammon, Gwen Mogenson, Enid Oresman, and Laurie Williamson.

Call to Order: Clara Sartori called the meeting to order at 10:05am.

Approval of October 2, 2019 Minutes: Evonne Klein made a motion to approve the minutes, and Mary Genco seconded the motion. 

Treasurers Report (Stephanie Maher): We have $19K in the bank, and will have $13K after paying expenses of $6K.   Clara has a $30 expense from reprinting a candidate’s sign. 

We are having trouble with our printer, ePod, which is unreliable and expensive.  Alternatives are Alpha Graphics and D’lorio. 

Membership (Betsy Shay/Jean Sweeney)

Renewals could be stronger; we have 72 renewals and new members (9) thus far out of 125 members.  Jean suggested that there should be younger Membership Committee chairs to attract the younger population.  Ideas to attract new members include writing a letter to the editor of local papers and websites, and having a challenge of adding 100 new members to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the League of Women Voters.

Board Housekeeping (Gwen Mogenson)

Board members, including at-large board members, are expected to attend monthly meetings, attend Darien LWV sponsored events and to promote the league among their contacts.

Board members with functional responsibilities are expected to attend the monthly meetings, especially those meetings associated with their deliverables, or to submit a written summary to the chair to be presented at the meeting.

We discussed the desire to have our board meetings earlier than 10am and will explore different venues.

Holiday Party (Sartori)

Given the many LWV 100th anniversary activities we have planned, we will not hold a holiday party this year.

Voter Services (Sartori)

Thank you to Stacey Tie and Marcy Minnick for chairing Candidates Night during this municipal election year. There was good turnout and TV79 broadcast live along with rebroadcasting up to Election Day. We thank TV79 for their support. There was good discussion among the candidates, but unfortunately there were also several questions that were not addressed by the moderator.  Because of the short time frame between CN and Election Day, it was not possible to follow up with the candidates for responses to these questions. 

Also thank you to the timers; Sue Okie, Nina Miller, Kate Larson, Laura Mosher, Cindy Brown, Kathy Monro, Kadi Lublin and Millyn Gaaserud, question sorters: Mary Genco, Theresa Vogt, Clara Sartori and Lori Olsen, question collectors Catherine Piorkowski and Jean Moller and to Sandy McDonnell for handling hospitality and Betsy Shay for providing membership recruitment materials. We had a few non-members helping with Candidates Night.  We discussed whether or not non-members should be able to volunteer.  We need to have the right checks and balances in place.  There was a recommendation that the sorters should be experienced, and represent each party. 

Voters Guide.  Thank you to Clara Sartori and Gwen Mogenson for contacting the candidates and compiling their responses to our Voters Guide questions. We had an 87% overall response rate and almost 90% of RTM candidates replied. All major candidates responded. Also thank you to Martha Banks, Mary Genco, Kate Larson and Clara for proofing the document and to the Darien Times for publishing in their October 31st edition.  The guide is also posted on our website – lwv.darien.org (click the 2019 Voters Guide tab on the top menu), as well as the national LWV website.    

Programs (Evonne Klein and Susan Vogel)

Thank you to Evonne for scheduling CT Secretary of the State, Denise Merrill to speak at our October meeting. She gave a very informative presentation on election integrity in CT. She is confident that the state’s election process cannot be hacked (it is not connected to the internet) but warns about voter misinformation campaigns. Read the October meeting minutes for a more detailed recap.

Update on other activities planned in celebration of the LWV 100th year anniversary and women’s suffrage

  • The state league’s anniversary theme is “Creating a More Perfect Democracy”. There will be a Gala Dinner at the Italian Center in Stamford on Saturday February 22, 2020.  Ticket prices are TBD.  Leagues are being asked to contribute to creating celebratory banners for the gala that can be reused.  The LWV has already solicited former league presidents.
    • We discussed whether or not Darien LWV should contribute. The league did not specify an amount.  Gwen made a motion to contribute to the banners; we amended the motion to not donate more than $200.  Clara seconded the motion.  She will look into reserving a table.    
  • Continuing discussion of coordinating with the Darien Historical Society to sponsor a program. 
  • One possibility: featuring Lisa Tetrault, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. She is a distinguished historian and author of “The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898”.

We discussed sending a contribution to the Piedmont Club.  Evonne made a motion to donate money.  The question arose as to whether we should give a contribution if we have our monthly meetings there.  We will wait until we talk to Nick DeMaio. 

Legislative Coffee (Sartori)

It’s time to begin planning for this year’s meeting with our state Senators and Representatives.  Members were dissatisfied last year with the date, which was in the middle of school budget season, a no show politician (without notice) and the short time the attending political participants could stay.  However, the coffee needs to take place in January before the legislative session.  We would like the discussion to be more freewheeling and less controlled.  Should we invite non-members or keep the event as members plus guests?  Should we hold the coffee on a Saturday morning?  Evonne offered to work on the coffee.

Food For Thought (Karla Coe)The next FFT meeting will be Thurs Nov 21st,12:30-2:00 PM. Hosted by Ann Ferris, 30 Hale Lane. All members are invited. Contact  Karla Coe to get on the FFT email list. Recap of October discussion?

Join a freewheeling discussion of a topical news subject. The topic is not announced in advanced so no preparation is required. All members invited.

Discussion of Forming a Darien LWV 501(c)(3) Education Fund (Gwen Mogenson)

LWV of Greater Middletown is going out of existence and has an ed fund. It is being offered to other leagues to assume for the cost of $450 (past due state filing fees) plus a $50 fee to file a name change with the IRS. Greenwich is the only other league with an Education Fund and we are asking for their assistance in considering the costs/benefits.

Pros:

  • Contributions to the Ed Fund as a 501(c)(3) are tax deductible for the donor.  Current contributions to the Darien League as a 501(c)(4) are not. 
  • Because the Ed Fund is also structured as a corporation, it carries greater legal protections.

Cons:

  • We would incur upfront costs including the acquisition cost and legal fees.
  • We would incur an annual corporation registration of $50 to the state. 
  • Ed Fund expenditures cannot be used for political purposes. Very little of our expenses would be considered “political” unless we have an elected official as a speaker.  We do not endorse or financially support candidates and we do not lobby as a local league.
  • We would need to keep two sets of financial records.
  • Contributions to our current structure 501(c)(4) could be transferred to the 501(c)(3), but not vice versa.

After our discussion, Gwen made a motion to respectfully decline taking over the 501(c)(3). 

Additional Item Not on the Agenda

The November elections in Virginia were significant as women and Democrats gained seats in the state legislature.  We expect Virginia to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, becoming the 38th and final state needed to fully implement the ERA.  We expect a lengthy court battle to follow.

Our next meeting will be on January 8, 2020.

Evonne made a motion to adjourn the meeting; Martha seconded the motion.  The meeting was adjourned at 11:15am.