The Pacific Art League held a special vote on Friday, at the prompting of dissenting members, that could have resulted in the ouster of more than one-third of the nonprofit's board of directors. Instead, members opted to impose two-year term limits and leave the current board intact.
On the ballot were three primary issues: Should term limits be reintroduced to the PAL board of directors, should such limits be imposed retroactively, and should members of the league be given a vote to approve or disapprove the board's next strategic plan. The vote was initiated by former board members Ron Andrews, Jo Killen and Diana Diamond, who were concerned about the governance and financial management of the organization.
The meeting opened with remarks from current PAL board president Theo Keet, who gave members an overview of the state of the 94-year-old art organization's finances and operations, and emphasized the board's recent achievements.
"I'm interested in helping the league move forward," he said, encouraging members to vote in favor of term limits, but against their retroactive application and against the need for members to approve a strategic plan. Various current board members also spoke, sharing Keet's vision of a rosy present and future for PAL and suggesting that discord within the organization was a thing of the past.
Andrews and Diamond then spoke, echoing their belief in PAL but asking for a different vote from members.
"We are all here because of a common objective," noted Andrews, before painting a picture of future financial instability if the board were to proceed along its current path.
"That's an option. It's not one I would favor," he said, encouraging members to vote for retroactive term limits to ensure a new perspective on the board starting immediately, and to vote yes on bringing the next strategic plan to members for approval.
Following an hour of presentations, including a brief statement from PAL's new executive director, Shannon McDonnell, PAL members who had not already done so online were invited to cast their ballots; the final result was emailed to members the following evening.
More than 60 members of the 600-plus member organization cast their votes, with 56 voting yes on the proposal to institute three-year term limits, with 8 voting no. The petitioners' request to apply term limits retroactively was voted down, with 22 supporting votes and 35 dissenting. A measure requiring the board to bring its next strategic plan to members for a vote was also rejected by a vote of 20 in favor to 45 against.
McDonnell, who had joined the organization just one week prior, praised both sides for showing professionalism in the discussion and voting process and acknowledged that there were strong feelings on both sides of the debate.
"I appreciate the fact that we can be passionate and disagree," she said. "Let's remember to be compassionate as well as well as passionate -- it will make my job that much easier."
Following the announcement of the results, McDonnell issued a brief statement.
"It bodes well for the Pacific Art League to have such a validation of the board's long-term vision and their short-term actions," she wrote. "I am grateful to have had so many people who care about this organization show up at the meeting where both sides' voices were heard. Now we can continue our important work in this beautiful community and expand our involvement in Palo Alto as well as the surrounding area."