After an almost year-long power struggle between the Center for the Inland Bays Board and the CIB Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) – one of its standing committees – regarding a proposed diversity plan for members, things came to a head at last week’s board meeting.
Joanne Cabry – a CIB board member appointed by the Speaker of the Delaware House of Representatives – had mentioned at the last CAC meeting that she had never seen a “Board of Directors Plan for Citizen’s Advisory Committee Membership Diversity,” the plan that the CAC ultimately rejected 17-1. This week, she read a statement to the board and ultimately said she felt the Executive Committee, which has rejected two diversity plans already from the CAC, does not have the authority to do so.
Her position was that, since the Executive Committee rejected two plans without board input, they had made decisions for the board and overstepped their authority.
The need for a diversity plan itself is something CAC members question.
CAC Secretary and CIB board member Ron Wuslich said the EPA-established guidelines for diversity plans for members of Citizen Advisory Committees are for areas much larger than Delaware’s inland bays – for example, for areas such as the Long Island Drainage Basin, which has 8.4 million residents. The inland bays have about 80,000 year-round residents, or less than 1 percent of that.
Wuslich also maintains that the current CAC is diverse, with Realtors, former scientists, fishing club members, dentists and retired executives as members.
Beyond that, the CAC questions verbiage in the latest draft that stated that having diverse stakeholders was equally important as having people who want to protect the inland bays.
It reads, “It should be recognized that there needs to be a continuous effort maintained to populate the voting membership of the CAC with a cross-section of all Inland Bays stakeholders, regardless of their views concerning the wise use and enhancement of the Inland Bays.”
Board Chair Eakle said that the draft was prematurely handed out to CAC members by a CAC member.
“Where I am coming from is the legality of decisions. That is not legal,” maintained Cabry. “The Executive Committee does not have the authority” to reject the two diversity plan drafts. She asked that the Executive Committee acknowledge that they had overstepped their authority – something committee members vehemently deny.
“I feel quite comfortable in what we did,” said Executive Committee member Dr. Bill McGowan, offering that he maybe wasn’t as comfortable that Cabry had not had a chance to sit in on some of their meetings and view the discussions that led to their decisions.
“They are open?” asked Cabry. “I never received notice. I had no idea the Executive Committee meetings were open.”
“You are attacking the Executive Committee,” said Richard W. Eakle, chairman of the board and appointee of the President Pro Tem of the Delaware Senate. Eakle also maintained that, as the Executive Committee, part of their legal duties include screening things so the entire board does not have to be involved in all decisions, such as the CAC diversity plan.
“The intent was to try and help the CAC. We are probably guilty of not communicating enough, but there was no attempt to keep information from the board or CAC,” Eakle said. “We tried to help put together a diversity plan.”
He also argued that the CAC has overstepped its own boundaries in the past.
“Two board meetings ago, we voted to get involved in a lawsuit between two members of this board,” he said, referring to Sussex County’s lawsuit against DNREC regarding the Pollution Control Strategy. Both Sussex County and DNREC have a seat on the Center for the Inland Bays board, as stakeholders. “The CAC voted on a statement to urge the county to drop the lawsuit. There are plenty of things the CAC has done that are inconsistent with the actions of this board.”
To that, Wuslich said, “I checked with Ed [Lewandowski, executive director for the CIB]. I asked if that was appropriate and he said, ‘Yes, just don’t ask the board to vote on it.’ To keep peace, I never brought it up at a board meeting.”
“It requires teamwork,” continued Wuslich, “and the impression I am getting is that you are saying it is all CAC’s fault.”
“We are guilty of some things, too,” repeated Eakle. “The diversity plan could have been done better. But to sit here and say it’s not legal…”
Wuslich replied that it takes “two to tango.”
Cabry and Eakle again discussed their opposing arguments on whether the Executive Committee has the authority to make certain decisions.
“The role of the Executive Committee is not on the agenda today,” interjected DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara, who sits on the Center for the Inland Bays board, as well. “It’s a healthy debate to have, but there wasn’t notice. CAC’s work is tremendously important, but the bottom line is I don’t have time for this. A mediator or a marriage counselor, I don’t know what it is [we need], but we need to get a hold of ourselves. We need to grow up.”
At that point, state Sen. George Howard Bunting added, “There is a lot going on right now. People don’t have housing.” Referring to Agriculture Secretary Ed Kee and O’Mara, he said, “These men have better things to do. And this will filter back to the people who fund things, and they don’t need reasons to cut. Now, I am not making any threats. I have a vital interest in the bays, but somehow you have to work this out.”
The board then discussed forming an ad hoc committee to explore the role of the Executive Committee and the possibility of keeping the diversity plan conversation going, but, ultimately, no actions were taken last Friday.