In one of the quickest actions of the Feb. 3 Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage meeting in Cortez, the resignation of Manatee County Clerk of Circuit Court R.B. “Chips” Shore from the FISH board of directors was unanimously approved.
Shore sent a letter Jan. 3 announcing his resignation from the board, but pledged to remain as a FISH member. He cited “inflammatory language and rhetoric used by FISH board members toward his office and the museum staff, in particular,” as reasons for his resignation.
A feud between FISH and the Florida Maritime Museum, 4415 119th St. W., in Cortez, has been brewing since early 2012 after an internal audit conducted by Shore’s office revealed a division of finances between FISH and the museum was required.
The museum is owned by Manatee County and Shore’s office provides management and operations.
The two entities have split some revenues in the past, but according to a Florida Communities Trust grant, which secured the purchase of the museum property, FISH was not allowed to use museum grounds for fundraising activities.
The two entities made several attempts to reconcile their differences, including a September meeting facilitated by someone hired by Shore’s office to bring the two organizations together. The success of that venture was short lived.
It’s not the first time Shore and museum staff have walked away from FISH in the past year, but the Feb. 3 acceptance of Shore’s resignation made the departure official.
FISH held off voting on Shore’s resignation at its Jan. 7 meeting in hopes he would change his mind. But FISH board member Turner Matthews said he spoke to Shore and confirmed he would not return to the board.
The board will hold its annual election meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, April 1, at Fisherman’s Hall, 4515 124th St. W., Cortez.
In addition to Shore’s seat, board members up for re-election are secretary Joe Kane, vice president Debra Ibasfalean and board members Karen Bell and Rick Stewart. There also are two vacant seats to fill from previous resignations.
Bell and Kane confirmed their intentions to run for re-election. Stewart’s re-election bid is tentative due to the board’s consideration of a paid position. Ibasfalean had not confirmed her intentions, as of press time for The Islander.
Also running for the board are newcomers Michael Northfield, Ryan Murphy and commercial fisher Chris Osgood.
FISH treasurer Jane von Hahmann said there are currently 185 dues-paying members eligible to vote in the April election.
She said everyone nominated thus far would be placed on a list and mailed to FISH members, including absentee ballot instructions.
“The slate of nominees is mailed out for absentee ballots,” said von Hahmann, although on the night of the election, nominations can come from the floor.
Absentee ballots must be received by March 25 to be counted.
Matthews raised concern about absentee and email votes, saying it is open to fraud. He motioned to disallow absentee balloting for FISH elections.
“If people care enough to vote, they should care enough to come in person,” he said.
Bell seconded the motion, noting only a small percentage of the membership come to meetings.
“How do the ones who never come to a meeting know who is a good board member and who is not?” she asked.
Kane objected to the motion, saying its paramount to voter suppression, but the board voted on the motion. Of 10 members present, the motion failed 6-4.
Matthews made a second motion to eliminate email votes, but the motion died for a lack of a second.
Anyone wishing to vote must become a FISH member seven days prior to the April 1 election.
Membership forms are available online at www.cortez-fish.org. For more information, call 941-254-4972 and leave a message and contact information.