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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Survey Results and New Survey Question

When this blog first appeared, we had a survey question about whether people feel there may be negative consequences when expressing their opinion to the Saints Board of Directors. The results, while informal and unscientific, are still informative.

It shows that over 40% of the respondents are fearful about expressing their point of view to the board. It is sad to see that 58 people voted "Yes" or "Maybe" to the posted question, and confirms that it is time for change.

You can see the results of this blog's survey for yourself in the left hand margin. This is not just my story; it is your story.

We have posted a new survey question and encourage you to vote. Please encourage your friends to vote too.

Remember, even if you don't want to use your name, you can still comment on this site or at the end of the Chicago Reader article which is still posted on their site - simply click on the link below "Press Coverage" to go directly to the article.

We welcome comments from all interested parties.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Confidentiality Agreement

I am glad that the board is finally going public with the events that led to my membership being revoked and being banned from the Saints. Some of you may feel that you didn't have the whole story about the confidentiality agreement. I will post a copy of it under comments on this site.

I have nothing against a proper confidentiality agreement and have signed one every year that I've been a coordinator. In fact, I offered to sign the previous year's confidentiality statement. But I had concerns, as did two other board members, about the revised one which was presented to us only a few days before the "Appreciation Luncheon."

On several occasions, I offered to sign the "old" confidentiality statement however the new one is poorly written, vague and most likely unenforceable. I am not alone in my opinion, and a written advisory letter from an attorney was provided to the board. The Board majority said that they didn't care what the letter said and they were unwilling to discuss it further. In addition, the Saints President was unwilling to accept my written offer to sign a copy of the old confidentiality agreement.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What can we do?

Some of you have asked me what you can do right now to restore The Saints to being a vibrant, democratic organization that is responsive to its members who pay annual dues. Here are a few ideas - please feel free to add to this list and post comments.

- post comments on this blog and on the Chicago Reader Story (click on story to the left)

- Send e-mails to Deb Granite at

- request minutes

- request observation privileges at future board meetings (the next one is scheduled for September 14 at 7:30 pm)

- write letters and send e-mails to the board with your questions

- attend general membership meetings and ask for a Question and Answer period at the conclusion of the meeting

- advocate for a committee to work on the bylaws

- advocate for setting up a nonpartisan election commission that develops fair election procedures before the process begins

- advocate for both electronic and mail in ballot options

- ask for financial reports and a full financial audit

There's plenty that can be done but this would be a great start.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Board Meeting Minutes

Board meeting minutes and financial reports are available to members upon written request.

Send a stamped, self-addressed envelope with your request to Secretary, The Saints, 2936 N. Southport, Suite 203, Chicago, IL 60657-4120.

This is the language that appears every month on page 2 of the Spotlight, the Saints newsletter for members. I know that there have been recent requests for minutes, but as of this time, we don't know of anyone who has received them. Perhaps the Board will become more responsive.

When I was on the Board, I suggested that they routinely post minutes on the website for "members only." But frankly, board members had difficulty obtaining timely copies of the minutes, and the minutes often were incomplete and inaccurate. In fact, this is the first board that I have ever been on where the minutes were not approved unanimously after a call for additions and corrections. It is common to make minor corrections, but these minutes needed substantial changes. Perhaps that is because the secretary took very limited notes, and after repeated requests, only recently started to record the meetings.

Taking minutes is not an easy job, and it might be appropriate to have an official recorder at board meetings whose sole purpose is to record the board's actions. Minutes are very important though, and should provide a record of all the decisions that your board makes, and how each board member has voted. Minutes can be useful to a new board member who wants to get caught up on past board actions, interesting and informative to members, and also serve as a helpful tool when deciding who to vote for in an election. In addition, it serves as the legal record of the board's actions.

I would like to encourage readers to comment on their thoughts about minutes. As members of other organizations, how did you find out about your Board's activities, what motions were made, and how your board members voted? What are your thoughts about minutes for this organization?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Board Member!!

The Saints conducted an election during April and May of 2009 for fiscal year 6/1/2009 – 5/31/2010.

After checking the website at 7:30 pm on August 13, 2009, I have noticed that my name was removed. But what happened to Directors Jim Venskus and Hugh Spencer? Their names are gone too.

And, I see a new Director's name, Martin Frank, who was not a candidate this year. This seems like big news...

Does anyone care to comment or know what's going on?

Check it out at and click on "Contact Us" at the top of the page. They make it really easy for you to send an e-mail and find out what's happening.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Membership Revoked and Banned from Saints

Where should I begin? After not being allowed to express myself for such a long time, it is very strange starting to write and hopefully communicate with the membership of an organization that means so much to me. I am no longer a member of the organization because I wrote an e-mail and sent it to the Saints Board of Directors, the usher coordinators and committee chairs.

This e-mail contained suggestions to open up dialogue, and enable the membership to know more about their board. I arrived at a scheduled board meeting (which had not been posted on the website or announced to the membership in the Spotlight) on June 9, 2009. I hadn't received an agenda, which we often receive late, and had come straight from the airport. There were many agenda items that I had proposed, and I was looking forward to my first real meeting with the new board.

Two members had requested that they be allowed to observe the meeting but were told to arrive after the actual start time. The board meeting began with a motion to revoke my membership and ban me from the organization. The vote was split, 4-4, and our newly elected President broke the tie. I was absolutely stunned. I walked out the door and greeted the observers who had just arrived. Some people on the board were commenting on what a great job I had done with membership.

The reason that I was banned was because I had used the e-mail addresses that are published in the Spotlight to send an e-mail without first obtaining permission from the President. I truly didn't think that what I was doing was wrong. I thought that the "Privileged Information" statement on the back page of the Spotlight was to stop people from giving ushering information to non-members, or using people's addresses for sales. I never dreamed that it would be inappropriate to send an e-mail to the people who are basically running the Saints Organization.

The unedited letter, which I am posting below, should speak for itself.

To: Saints Board
CC: Coordinators and Committee Chairs

I am writing to you, the Board, as a member of this wonderful organization with some recommendations that I believe will make the Saints an even better organization than it already is. Those of you that know me know that the performing arts community is very important to me. In fact, I can’t think of very much that is more important to me. I live and breathe theater all the time, and most of my friends know that I spend all of my spare time attending performing arts events, reading, writing and talking about the performing arts. I do my best to connect with others who already love the performing arts and expose others to the performing arts. There is plenty to experience and more than enough to keep so many of us busy and intellectually stimulated.

I have been a member of the Saints for almost twenty-five years and I am very grateful for the opportunities that it gives me to support the performing arts community and at the same time “feed my habit.” I love meeting others who share my passion for theater, and I also like trying to bring new people into the fold.

There are a few things that are even more important to me – and that includes the concept of free speech and having the opportunity to express my beliefs and opinions. So, I am writing to all of you as a member of the Saints, and expressing my freedom of speech by making some suggestions that I think will make the Saints an even better organization that it already is.

Some of my suggestions are the following:

· Open Board Meetings (with the exception of executive sessions that are sometimes necessary) that are in a space where there is sufficient room for members to observe our Board in action – perhaps at a theater when there is no performance

· Agendas that are posted and e-mailed to the membership so that they will know what issues will be addressed

· Timely posting of minutes on the Saints website – the minutes would include all motions that have been made and each member’s vote – this would be most helpful when people are making decisions as to whether they want to run for the Board or who to vote for.

· A 20-30 minute Q&A session at the end of each membership meeting so that members have a chance to ask the board questions and make suggestions to the board

· Encouragement of communication and participation of the membership – this can be done through establishment of committees, encouraging dialog and correspondence between membership, coordinators and board members

· Making it possible to vote by mail or electronically so that the process is easier and more inclusive

· Frequent use of surveys to poll our membership about controversial issues such as how we want our money spent, whether we want to continue the printed Spotlight subscription option, whether we want to reinstate student memberships, etc.

Your feedback is welcome and if you want me to drop your name from my e-mail list, I will be glad to do so. I obtained your e-mail address from the Spotlight and think that it is appropriate that I write to all of you since your name is published and I am a paid up member. I hope that I have set a precedent for dialog and have made a small step toward opening up the organization. It is my belief that the Saints organization belongs to all of us, and we don’t want to put too much power into the hands of a few members. Experience is valuable but so are new ideas and perspectives.

Thank you.

Deborah Granite
Saints Member

I will write more soon but want all of you to see the document that resulted in my being banned from the organization. In addition, I want to encourage all of you to hold the Saints Board accountable to the membership. And right now, especially with the new Bylaws (which some of us believe were not legally passed), the Board has all the power.

The minutes are not posted or easily obtained (in addition, they are incomplete and often inaccurate). You currently have no way of finding out what motions have passed and how each board member voted. The old Bylaws are no longer on the website. You have not received a financial statement for two years. You must ask permission to observe a board meeting, and the Saints Board can call an executive session and meet in secrecy whenever they choose. In addition, there are no written guidelines as to when a Saints member can have their membership revoked or be banned, nor is there any way to appeal whatever consequences are imposed by the Board.

This is very serious and it is your responsibility to ask questions and get answers.