Chamber suffers 'fractures' after special meeting

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The Craig Chamber of Commerce board conducted a special meeting Wednesday morning to discuss issues surrounding the organization's executive director and her handling of a contentious bid award.

After the meeting, one board member resigned for unrelated reasons, saying he no longer felt he and other board members were working toward the same goals.

At issue for the Chamber on Wednesday were bids the organization sought for portable toilets at the Grand Olde West Days carnival on Memorial Day. Two bids were submitted, one from Action Drain Services and the other from Roto-Rooter Plumbing Service, and the proposals were separated by $5.60.

The job went to the lowest bid, which was submitted by Roto-Rooter.

Action Drain owners Dave and Deb Teeter contend a Chamber intern shared their bid price with someone working with Roto-Rooter Plumbing Service.

They said Roto-Rooter owner Casey Herod was able to underbid their price by such a small amount because he had inside information.

Herod and Roto-Rooter did not return calls by press time.

Deb, who sits on the Chamber board, said there were "many discrepancies" throughout the process, which Chamber Executive Director Christina Currie oversaw.

For instance, Currie has carte blanche to award any bids as long as they are from Chamber members - which both bids were - and they are within budget, Deb said.

But, both bids were more than budgeted by at least $40 and should have been reviewed by the board.

"I never, ever questioned it (whether the bids were valid) until (Currie) started talking about maybe the bids were compromised," Deb said. "It was one mistake after another when it came down to those two bids."

She will remain on the board, however, and Action Drain will not cancel its membership, she said.

"I am going to stay on the board because I feel it is my duty to work with the other board members to make sure (Currie) does her job correctly," Deb said. "You can bet : the bid process will change. There will be no compromising of anyone's bids."

She and her husband said money and losing the bid were not part of their frustration.

"My problem with it is I don't want to be connected to an organization that promotes unfair business practices," Dave said. "What are you telling the young businessman, that's how you do business in this town? It was known, and it was condoned."

The alleged impropriety, Currie said, came from a high school student interning with the Chamber, who is related to Dave and Herod.

The intern wrote the bid requests for the project and mailed them out with her name on the form, Currie said.

She added she investigated the situation for any impropriety and found none.

Chamber staff, including its intern, followed all of the organization's existing policies before awarding the bid, Currie said.

"The bottom line is, her only role was in drafting that letter," she said. "There's no chance she would have seen the bid amounts. : She doesn't actually work in this office or come in; she works out of the high school. She's been in this office three times since this started : and the last time was when she dropped off the request forms."

The Chamber board did not take any action during its special meeting other than ask staff to draft changes to the organization's bid process, board president Lisa Balstad said. Those changes include requiring board approval for any bid more than a set amount - possibly $1,000 - and keeping all bids confidential.

"We were just concerned about how the bid was handled," Balstad said. "Had it been brought to the board, instead of the director taking the brunt of the responsibility, it could have been handled differently."

The Teeters also felt the board should add language to its bylaws to favor businesses who are active in the Chamber and the community when bids are close, like they were in this case.

"We put a lot more time and money into the Chamber than we ever get out," Deb said. "Action Drain bought the lunch for the board retreat this year. Action Drain always buys a table for Crabfest. None of that mattered, though."

Balstad said the board did not ask staff to create the new criteria, however, because some felt it would discourage new members from joining.

Currie was not reprimanded in any way, but her performance was discussed at the meeting, Balstad added.

Bryce Jacobson, Craig Daily Press publisher and former 2008 Chamber board president, resigned after Wednesday's meeting, but he said it had nothing to do with the specific bids brought up or Currie's role in the process.

"After today's meeting, it has become obvious that the goals that I personally have for the Craig Chamber of Commerce are not those of the majority of the board of directors," Jacobson wrote in the resignation letter he submitted Wednesday.

He added in an interview Thursday, "I still think the Chamber is a very valuable asset to this community, and I'll do whatever I can to support any venture they go down as a member of this organization.

"There comes a time when you have to hold that mirror up in front of your face, and if you see a problem or a different direction in goals that no one else does, you have to put the onus on yourself."

Deb said she knows recent disputes seem to have shaken the Chamber, but she is hopeful the Chamber will come out stronger and better serve its members in the future.

"There may be some fractures in the leadership, but I believe that you become stronger through the adversity," she said. "Everyone learns to work together, better and clearer. Now, we will have a clearer process."

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