by Kevin Dicciani
The board of the Chestnut Hill Community Association welcomed newly appointed members and elected its executive committee, which sparked a debate over whether or not there would be a conflict of interest over the seating of its new treasurer.
The annual organizational meeting on May 28 saw seven new directors seated to the board, each elected in April to three-year terms. The new directors are Bob Boyer, Dan Compton, Andy Kite, Karl Martin, Jack McMeekin, Drew Meschter and Michelle Sage. The board welcomed back four reelected members: Julie Byrne, Laura Lucas, Remy Pizzichini and Tony Reilly.
The board appointed two new institutional directors: Jenny McHugh, director of development at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, and Mary Lynskey, principal of J.S. Jenks Academy of the Arts and Sciences. Christopher Plant, a representative of the Chestnut Hill Business Association, is also a new board member.
George Coates, board member and co-chair of the nominating committee, put forth a motion for the board to elect the slate of 11 uncontested names to the executive committee, excluding the treasurer.
Coates first presented the nominees for the five at-large members of the executive committee that included himself, Sam Earle, Remy Pizzichini, Michele Sage and Richard Snowden. Then, he presented the nominees for the five CHCA officers, again, minus the treasurer: Will Detweiler, to be reelected as president; Laura Lucas for vice president of operations; Larry McEwen for vice president of the physical division; Elizabeth Bales for vice president of the social division; and Jean Wedgwood for secretary.
The vote was cast without a paper ballot and the slate was approved with a 26-2 vote.
Next, Coates put forth a motion for the board to vote for its treasurer. The two candidates were Tony Reilly, who was nominated by the nominating committee and who previously served two years as treasurer, and board member Bob Rossman, who at the time of the meeting currently held that position.
Before a vote could be made, board member Kristina Sullivan said there would be an inherent conflict of interest if Reilly were to be treasurer on the same committee as Richard Snowden. As the Chief Financial Officer of Bowman Properties, she said, Reilly should be not allowed to serve on the board with Snowden, his boss, who “pays his checks.”
Sullivan also took issue with Snowden paying for Bowman Properties’ employees to be members of the CHCA, although Reilly was not one of them, as he was already a member of the association when he became an employee of the company. Nevertheless, Sullivan said concern is warranted still because Snowden pays Reilly’s membership fees to the CHCA.
Snowden said he would be “shocked” if the purchases could be considered a conflict of interest. He said Bowman Properties’ stance of purchasing memberships to the CHCA for its employees is a logical one, considering where his employees live, and that he encourages other businesses in Chestnut Hill to offer the same benefits for its workers.
“We felt, as a company, that it was important for all of our employees to be members of the community association, particularly since two-thirds of them live in Chestnut Hill, many of them on Germantown Avenue,” Snowden said. “That is something that we do, and I make absolutely no apologies for it, and I would encourage every single business of the Avenue to do precisely the same thing.”
Coates said the nominating committee did not find any conflict of interest in nominating Reilly as treasurer. In his professional career, Coates said, it is not uncommon for a variety of associations to provide memberships to their individual members, who then go on to serve as officers within those organizations.
“It in no way implies a conflict of interest,” Coates said.
Board member Mark Keintz sided with Sullivan’s point of view, but said he is more concerned with the larger issue of an employee and their employer serving on the same executive committee.
“The larger conflict-of-interest issue does have to do with the fact that an employee and employer, should Tony prevail, will serve on the same executive committee,” Keintz said. “What if the employee and the employer happen to have a different opinion about any number of things? Well, would an employee feel comfortable voting against their employer? That’s a conflict of interest.”
Keintz said the debate had nothing to do with the character of the individuals.
“This is about our character – this is about who we are,” Keintz said. “And do we actually recognize conflict of interest when it’s there, or do we float along fantasy island pretending it’s not, and maybe get bit should we fail to recognize it. It’s about us.”
Reilly said that in 2013 the board had failed to find an inherent conflict of interest as he was preparing to be voted in as treasurer – however, at that time, Keintz said, Snowden wasn’t a member of the executive committee.
As far as working alongside his employer on the executive committee, Reilly said he found that to be a nonissue.
“Richard and I work together and we disagree regularly, so I don’t know why this would be any different,” he said.
Snowden said the board needed to maintain perspective, noting that if Reilly, a certified public accountant, were to do anything untoward, he would lose his license.
“I think this has been trumped up by people who aren’t happy that Tony might be treasurer,” Snowden said. “I would encourage us to look at his [Reilly’s] very long list of qualifications, and then view Bob’s [Rossman] list of qualifications, and make a qualitative decision.”
After casting their votes on paper ballots, Reilly was voted treasurer with a 21-9 vote.
In other news
Jean Hemphill, president of the Chestnut Hill Community Fund, and trustee Moss Disston were both reappointed with a unanimous vote as Chestnut Hill Community Fund Trustees. Their terms will expire in 2018.