Monday, October 16, 2023

SECU - This Is All Getting to Be A Bit "Unseemly", Isn't It?  ...with the facts.

❓Why telling the SECU membership the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth has become so difficult for this Board and CEO remains a mystery to me.
😎 Well, here we go again. Sorry, know most of you have other things to do in life, but...
Yesterday's blog [link - October 15] caught out and called out our CEO for her rebuke of a long-term SECU Advisory Board member, who had questioned our CEO's multiple-muddle of statements to the press after the 2023 Annual Meeting - disappointed in the election results, vote totals indicated members really didn't care,  full speed ahead with risk-based lending, and the "someone's" not playing fair excuse. 
A particularly bizarre mix of faux pas, which most leaders would quietly hope to "walk back" (like a former CEO's bank/brothels/Godfather joke slips, for example )... and move on to more important issues. But no such luck on this one... Ms. Brady decided to double-down and publish the entire Advisory Board member rebuke [here's where you can find it at BusinessNC], which to most folks is contrary to the popular wisdom: "When you find yourself in a hole, quit digging!" But you know how CEOs are sometimes...

So, I guess we're going to have to invest some more time on each of these - OK? "Fair enough"?
First, let's return to yesterday's  [BNC article] and expand on what I considered the most egregious "misstatement" in Ms. Brady's now fully public member rebuke (it's down there in the 3rd paragraph):  "Playing fair would have been Mr. Blaine agreeing to meet with McKinley Wooten, Bob Brinson and Jo Anne Sanford last year to discuss his concerns (he refused)." In yesterday's blog post (see link above), I published an email to Jo Anne Sanford, McKinley Wooten and Bob Brinson dated Nov. 19, 2022 which clearly states that: [here - stop take a look] "I remain entirely willing to meet with the Board if it would be beneficial."  Not sure how Ms. Brady can misconstrue that statement, are you?
✅ But in the interest of full and "fair" disclosure here's the entire email chain which Ms. Sanford initiated on October18, 2022 (assume it might amaze some of you to find Ms. Sanford and I were (at the time!) on very cordial terms!): 
1) On Tue, Oct 18, 2022 at 11:35 AM Jo Anne Sanford <> wrote:

"Heartened by the possible  opportunity to talk with you about many things,  I am asking if you would agree to meet with McKinley, Bob B and me to discuss some of our issues and challenges.   Clearly communication is one, but I don’t say that to gloss over others.   This is a sincere request for some of your time and your help, and we’ll do it on whatever terms and place work for you Please say yes! Jo Anne"

2) to Jo Anne Sanford Oct 18, 2022, 4:57 PM
 "Miz J! 
First, glad to hear from you. Hope all's well with you and yours, especially that Billy's health reports are back on a positive track.
Assume you would like to talk about the Resolution at the Annual Meeting. Want you to know that I was there with great reluctance, only after fending off requests for many months. I have no interest in leading any crusades concerning SECU - promise! Hope the resolution came across as respectful, direct, but polite - with no personal attacks and praise for the successful leadership of the Board.
I would be happy to respond to your request, but would ask that you send me  the email addresses of all the Board members, so that I am responding to the full Board. 
I am trying to stay out of the middle of all this and I think transparency can be of help. I do not even know a majority of the Board and have not met your new leader. As I recall, during my tenure we often "fought" (not infrequently!) about proposed policies and issues and it was not unheard of for the Board "to debate" strongly among themselves over proposals. I would simply like to assure that everyone is hearing the same message.
Hope that's okay, so I can respond to you as soon as possible. Thanks, and best to Bob and McKinley!
Jim Blaine

3) Jo Anne Sanford sanford@sanfordlawoffice.comFri, Oct 28, 2022, 6:37 AM

 Know you think I've disappeared

I’ve been in Beaufort, Boone, Jacksonville, Wilmington, and now Richmond over last couple weeks.  The good news is that my retirement plan, which is to finish these 3 cases then bag it, is become more etched in stone.   We sealed plans for a trip to Ireland in May, an Alaska cruise in the summer, and a something in September, so we’re dreaming on till then.    Billy is making an argument in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals today and I’m with him as the driver and moral support.   It’s an issue he’s chased for a long time and I think he’s pleased at one last chance to tend it here.  

I attended the Tues. Board meeting from parking lots down east, and I have to catch up.  For more reasons than you might imagine I look forward to talking to you and I hope we can arrange it.  Ball’s in my court, I know, and I’m hunting McK and Bob.
Best to you both. Bet it’s pretty at your house; the leaves were pretty on the way to Richmond."

4) Jim Blaine jimblainenc@gmail.comOct 28, 2022, 10:10 AM

to Jo
"Even in retirement your planned itinerary is busy, busy, busy!
As you suggested a week or so ago, I would be happy to discuss the member resolution from the Annual Meeting with the Board, if you feel it is appropriate. Understanding the basis for these decisions, hopefully will clear the air among staff and members. Concern and unhappiness appears to be growing - whether justified or not. 

Had hoped that the resolution would be posted on the SECU website or at least emailed to the advisory boards. If `"communications" is the real issue...the lack thereof so far is not helping the cause! Tell Billy hello!"

5) Jo Anne Sanford sanford@sanfordlawoffice.comSat, Nov 19, 2022, 11:03 A

"Hi Jim!

We  brought your request to the full  Board  and  we  discussed it as a group.  All are pleased to say that we are  working hard to address the opportunities  presented by the Resolution---the outreach is underway and it will be robust.   We’ll share more publicly, very soon, and we will be sure that you and all others are aware of the efforts.  We are carefully  observing the language and requirements of the Resolution and believe the outcome will  take the form of a full  explanation of changes the Board is undertaking that are necessary and beneficial to our members and employees. 

All  appreciate your interest in meeting with a larger group, but the Board believes it most productive for it to be represented by the three of us.    We’d like to  do that ---- we want   to share some of the work the Board is doing with respect to challenges, decisions and communication, and we’d like to better  focus our understanding of the issues you raise.

Look forward to hearing from you!

Jo Anne, McKinley and Bob"

6) Jim Blaine jimblainenc@gmail.comSat, Nov 19, 2022, 1:55 PM

to Jo,,, bcc: Mike Lord
"Dear Miz J,

Thanks very much for the response.

First, I would like to be sure to reaffirm that the invitation to meet came from you and the SECU Board, not me. The resolution approved at the annual meeting requests a response to the full membership, not a discussion with me.  My concern with meeting with a small "committee" of the Board (composed of the only 3 folks on the Board I have worked with - not exactly a random sample!) is that it is widely believed that the SECU Board is split on many of the issues being discussed.

If in fact divided - which wouldn't be at all unusual for most boards -, I would not feel comfortable in having any remarks I might make not subject to challenge nor inquiry by each of the individual SECU Board members. Perhaps the best route at this point is to defer a potential meeting until after your meetings with the Advisory Board chairs next week. A full explanation from the Board of the reasoning behind your decisions may hopefully resolve all questions and concerns.

I do understand that the SECU Board has a difficult task in responding fully in a reasonable time frame. Would note that many of the more thoughtful member letters being emailed directly to the SECU Board are being widely circulated, which is increasing the importance of a timely response. If your group wishes to meet with a former CEO, you might want to contact Mike Lord, particularly given his strong condemnation of the Board's approval of risk-based lending.

I remain entirely willing to meet with the Board if it would be beneficial. Hopefully, the official SECU Board response to the member approved annual meeting resolution will suffice to clarify the questions asked.

Wishing you the best, Jim Blaine"

7) Jo Anne Sanford

Sat, Nov 19, 2022, 3:27 PM

"Hey Jim, 
More later as I want to mull this over but will confess that I’m in Asheville with only a 2 hour free window, so I gotta get downtown to my favorite craft store at Biltmore Village.  Got priorities here!

Quickly to say that yes….absolutely the invitation came from us and everyone know that.   And thank you…..lemme think through this. 

Back with you!"

✅ That "Back with you!" was the last I heard from Ms. Sanford...
😎 Again, here's what Ms. Brady said happened:
"Playing fair would have been Mr. Blaine agreeing to meet with McKinley Wooten, Bob Brinson and Jo Anne Sanford last year to discuss his concerns (he refused)."
Guess I'll let you decide where the "truth lies"....! 
 Why telling the SECU membership the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth has become so difficult for this Board and CEO remains a mystery to me.