• a building with a sign

      Alhambra Historical Society (Photo – Melissa Michelson)

      At a recent Alhambra Historical Society, Inc. meeting, the long-term board and some members of the Historical Society voted to dissolve the non-profit corporation in a 15-7 vote; other members of the Society say the meeting was improperly noticed and conducted.

      By Melissa Michelson

      Agenda confusion

      It was not clear to members of the Historical Society that possible dissolution of the organization was on the August 26 agenda because the agenda did not mention it.

      Except an August 24 email from City of Alhambra read:

      Topics to be discussed are:

      1- Consideration of dissolution of the Alhambra Historical Society Inc.

      2- Possible considerations of process for appointing new officers.

      Attached to the email was the Historical Society’s August 26 agenda, the 1992 agreement wherein the City of Alhambra granted permission to the Historical Society to use the property at 1550 Alhambra Road as a museum, and the Historical Society’s bylaws and articles of incorporation.

      To add to member confusion, the meeting was noticed as a board meeting at which members are not expected to vote.

      Three of four board members ran the thirty-minute meeting: President Rose Marie Markus, her husband and Treasurer Duane Markus, and their daughter and Vice-President Anette Vanila. Secretary Mary Louise Bunker, who is in her 90s, was not present.  Before the vote, the board explained that they wanted to dissolve because of age, too much to do and the pandemic.

      After they voted, members were asked to vote, although there was confusion as to whether Bernice Ortega was a member, and Paul Talbot was called several times after he had already voted once.  Immediately after the vote, the Zoom meeting shut off and the meeting ended.  The second topic identified in the City’s email, the process for appointing new officers, was not addressed.

      The meeting had around 14 in-person attendees at the Joslyn Center and around 12 attendees on Zoom. Councilwomen Adele Andrade-Stadler and Alhambra Mayor and ex-officio member Katherine Lee were two of three members that abstained.  The city attorney representing both the City of Alhambra and the Historical Society was also in attendance.

      a concrete sign of Alhambra Historica Society sign

      Outside of Alhambra Historical Society (Photo – Melissa Michelson

      Disappointment with process and outcome

      Joe Castillo, a seven-year Historical Society member and a past Grand President of the Native Sons of the Golden West, a 146-year-old California historical preservation organization, voted against dissolving. “I was very disappointed with the purpose, meeting structure, protocol and outcome of the meeting. It was nothing more than a “bullying” tactic to force the will of the Board on the entire membership. There was no effort to save the Alhambra Historical Society, seek a new board and move in a different direction and instead the Board went right to dissolution.“

      Jennifer Ng, another Historical Society member and Alhambra resident, lamented that the board should have discussed the prospect for a new board first, then consider dissolving, and not the other way around.

      The Alhambra Historical Society, Inc. is a non-profit corporation founded in 1966. In 1987, the City of Alhambra granted it permission to use its property at 1550 Alhambra Road, where it has since operated a museum. In 1992, the City stepped in to help the financially-struggling museum and entered into an agreement with the Historical Society.  The agreement established one ex-officio member from the City Council on the Society’s board, allowed for financial audits at the City’s discretion, and provided that on possible future dissolution the Historical Society’s property and assets would revert to the ownership of the City “so that these items will be preserved for the enjoyment of all for generations to come.”

      Concerned members intervene

      On September 1, a group of concerned members sent a letter to the City Council of Alhambra and the Secretary of State: “Because of numerous errors of process, notification, transparency, and representation, we are hereby filing a claim to cure and correct this action by rescinding the vote.“

      The 10 signatories, made up of historians, non-profit board members, museologists, historic house docents and Alhambra preservationists offered to “assume responsibility for leadership of this organization as board members – and to recruit other qualified individuals to join us.”

      “We believe there is considerable support in the community to maintain the Alhambra Historical Society and its museum, and to restore it to its former vibrance as a community institution through expansion of its membership.”

      On September 7, the group sent a follow-up letter to the City of Alhambra, requesting a meeting with City representatives within 45 days, and also requesting that the City postpone any Request for Proposals (RFPs) for non-profit organizations to run the museum and Historical Society.

      “We feel certain that together we can work out an effective solution that will benefit all parties, serve the community’s needs, and will also save money for the City of Alhambra.”

      In addition to the ten original at-large members, a total of six former board members also signed the September 7 letter to the city, including the three board members that instigated the Historical Society’s dissolution.

      Coloradoboulevard.net is following this developing story.

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      Agenda


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      Contributor

      Comments

      1. Dean Vincent Micheli says:

        What a mess. I became interested in checking this place out as things were ending. When I heard it would come to a vote of board members, I trusted someone would step up to the plate. It sure sounds like the people that were running this was not following the protocol for non-profits and their members, and had already resolved to dissolve even before it came to a vote. I hope this doesn’t come to an RFP and the community members can reverse the bad tactic already taken. And if they do, I resolve to become an active participant/member

      2. Ally Millard says:

        I hope this is reversed. A fully functional historic society could really help with the preservation and protection of historical sites around Alhambra. I’ve often felt that the previous leadership mismanaged the organization and made it very difficult for the community to become involved. They have been very resistant to updating and enhancing their collection and program. Participating in local consortiums and making use of grants could really help them raise funds and facilitate outreach.

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