After a few hours with a facilitator Aug. 10, Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage board members, at their next meeting, put aside personal differences and returned to business.
“Dedicated to the promotion, education and preservation of Cortez and Florida’s commercial fishing and other traditional maritime cultures, including the environment upon which these communities depend,” the FISH mission statement, is now a permanent fixture atop the organization’s meeting agenda, which also has been changed to accommodate a time-sensitive priority listing of topics.
FISH board members were previously known to shout one another down and jump from one topic to another at meetings, which led to a contentious atmosphere.
Manatee County Clerk of Circuit Court R.B. “Chips” Shore brought in a facilitator after last month’s meeting, when accusations of board members vandalizing fence work in the FISH 95-acre preserve led to resignations.
At the board’s Sept. 10 meeting, the agenda was changed to help organize the discussion, but attitudes toward one another and behavior at board meetings also were addressed.
“A lot was accomplished with the facilitator,” said president Kim McVey. “You’ll see some immediate results in the time-sensitive agenda. During this meeting, we will use two other tools.”
Board members were given the authority to call a timeout on any other board member who strays off the agenda topic being discussed. Board members were to respect the timeout and bring the focus back to the topic at hand.
“Secondly, we will use a parking lot system, which is a place to talk about ideas that weren’t on the agenda,” she said.
The “parking lot” system amounts to the creation of a list of topics that board members bring up during their discussion that are not on the agenda. The item is shifted to the list and retained as an agenda item for the next meeting rather than an off-topic, off-agenda item at the current meeting.
“We also talked about priority communication tools,” said McVey. “At this time, we want to discuss setting a date for priority communication tools to begin setting priorities for this organization.”
McVey said it would be better if the facilitator could return to help the board with that process, and Shore agreed to set a date to bring the facilitator back.
In the meantime, McVey set forth expectations of what the Cortez community expects of its board members.
“Board members need to have an expectation for themselves,” she said. “We make a choice to leave things in the past, choose our words carefully, raise our hands to speak, suppress negative emotions, communicate, and seek to align the best qualities and skills of each board member.”
McVey said the Aug. 10 meeting with the facilitator was a good day for FISH.
“Many of us saw it as a new beginning,” she said.
Secretary Joe Kane wanted to be a part of that new beginning. Kane resigned along with board member Bob Landry following the vandalism last month and a subsequent contentious FISH meeting where accusations flew around the room.
Kane rescinded his resignation before the Sept. 10 meeting and was back at his post.
McVey said there was nothing in the organization’s bylaws to address either a resignation or a subsequent rescinded resignation between two official meetings.
“So we reverted to Robert’s Rules of Order that states as long as he rescinded before the next meeting, he’s automatically reinstated,” said McVey.
Turner Mathews said the reinstatement is in conflict with the board’s standing rules that say if at least two members received the resignation, “you can’t withdraw it.”
Board treasurer Jane von Hahmann said every other resignation that has occurred in the past has come before the board for acceptance.
“But this board has never accepted Joe’s resignation,” so officially it never took place, said von Hahmann.
Mathews said the process was a mess and needed to be cleared up.
“I don’t know who is on the board and who isn’t anymore,” he said. “If anybody takes the time to write a letter, they should put it in a drawer for a few days. If they still send it, then it should be a resignation. People need to think about the consequences.”
A motion was made under the board’s review of its bylaws concerning resignations, but bylaws can only be changed at the board’s annual election meeting in March.
In the meantime, the motion was accepted and carried to write a new standing rule that if a board member submits a written resignation, it has to be voted on at the next board meeting.
FISH meets once the first Monday of the month at Fisherman’s Hall, 4515 124th St. W., Cortez.