Monday, August 3, 2020

Saving CUPS Part 3: Slaying the Dragon

There were many changes in the first part of 1988. The regulatory agency had a new Supervisor. John had been Betty's attorney assigned to her as counsel in the pursuit of the accounting problem. Obviously, I was not privy to their discussions on how to attack the problem created by the managers whose plan to correct a problem with GAAP would serve as a textbook example for the rule. However, John was much more vicious than Betty was. 

He went after the jobs of these four managers. His tactic was to attend a board meeting and have the manager excused. He would then present to the board his case for dismissing the manager. In the case of Jim Whyte, one of the founding fathers of the local credit union movement, he was called back in to learn he was being fired.

Jim Whyte was one of the people I most admired in the credit union movement. John was now my enemy. However, our relationship was more complicated than merely being adversaries. As Program Director for the Chapter, I could not allow my personal feelings about John to dismiss the fact that he was the new Supervisor and what he had to say was important to the members of the Chapter. The invitation and introductions were professional and respectful; however, we had a private chat that seemed to bother him.

I asked him if he had any comments about his tactic of attending board meetings, having the managers excused, and then essentially forcing the boards to fire them. He said that isn't a tactic of his. I told him I could offer him examples if he cared to address examples. He ended that conversation abruptly and with a little twitch in his mustache. He did not know fully what I knew, but that is something I reserve for people who are cooperative, not combative.

Regretfully, I also moved on from CUPS in 1988. Not only did I regret it because the trustee who recruited me to work for him was an old, irascible cuss, but also because John was going to take the fight against Bert to a new level. Both Jim Whyte and Jack Aitken were gone. Neither Les Greenwood nor Bert Noel could be removed from the board meetings because they were legitimately elected Directors. Les was nearing retirement and had dealt with the accounting issue. Bert, though, was now facing an administrative action to show that there was cause to dismiss him and take over control of the credit union.

I was subpoenaed to a deposition as a witness for the credit union. The credit union also had its attorney, Christine, and the former deputy supervisor, Tom, as witnesses. I had a bombshell for John that he was not expecting.

I was seated across the table from John, with the credit union's attorney for this case (not Christine) seated to my left, and John's attorney seated across the table from him to John's right. There were the usual formalities of identifying ourselves and our relationship to the situation. I was Bert's Administrative Assistant, and was in on discussions that were pertinent to the case.

When I was asked what I knew about the situation, I told them that it had began as a problem with accounting for an asset, but had progressed to a witch hunt for the managers by John. John's attorney seemed to anticipate this because of the incident at the Chapter meeting, and challenged me on knowing that through hearsay evidence. I assured him that I knew it firsthand.

He asked, "How do you know that firsthand?"

I explained, "John made a request to attend a board meeting at CUPS. As Administrative Assistant, I attended board meetings. I was told to leave because I was not a board member. There was an argument that ensued about Bert, but Bert could not be excused because he was a board member. John then made a case for Bert to be fired."

John piped up, "You don't know what was discussed. That is the hearsay."

"Actually, I do know what was discussed," I replied. "When you told me to leave, I opened the door so you would hear the chime. Then I locked the door, and sat on the couch and listened to the meeting."

He raised his voice at me, "I told you to leave. You were supposed to leave." 

"I don't work for you", I told him. "I don't care what you tell me to do."

His mustache was twitching again. I asked him about it that time. The speed of the twitching hastened. His attorney even hid a smile. 

The actual case began shortly after that. I was to testify on the third day. The case was dropped that morning.

John may have moved on to another department, or maybe back to the Attorney General's office. It doesn't matter to me what happened to him because he didn't care about doing right; he cared about seeking revenge for something that needed correcting, not vengeance.

He also did not count on me calculating the best situation I could envision under the circumstances, and making that situation happen.

I didn't save the credit union; Bert did. I helped Bert save the credit union with significant contributions that took the heat from the state off of his back. Bert told me we needed to catch a mole or two. I was able to help. That got two saboteurs off the staff, and the state examiner out of the credit union's accounting department. Bert knew the credit union needed to pay competitive dividends or none at all. I helped him get the approval by putting the Supervisor in the position of approving the payment of dividends, or to face the humiliation that she had given illogical accounting instructions in order to comply. 

The one thing I did on my own was to deceive John into believing I had left the building, and then listening in on the board meeting that I was to not attend because I was merely staff. I had not broken any laws, and it turned out to be the final dagger in the dragon that was breathing fire on the seat in which Bert sat.

CUPS eventually merged with Washington Credit Union, which later changed its charter to a community bank that is still operating locally. The job with CUPS working for Bert is the job I most regret leaving throughout my career. I often wonder how differently my life would have been had Keith not called that day in 1988 to recruit me to what I mistakenly thought would be my dream job, but was, instead, a nightmare job.

* * * * *

Other posts you might enjoy: 

Saving CUPS Part 1: Trapping the Moles 
Saving CUPS Part 2: Explaining Contra Accounts to CPA's
Farley's Wit: The Story
Remembering Mom: She Knew Her Tomato Plants
The Problem With Knowing It All

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