by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
February 10, 2008
SIERRA CLUB SET TO SUSPEND FLA. CHAPTER
BRADENTON, Fla., Feb. 10, 2008 -- The national Sierra Club is set to suspend its Florida chapter after years of divisive infighting, the president of the national club told Florida members in a letter delivered to some this weekend. It is the first time in its 116-year history that such a step has been considered by the club, according to news reports.
Sierra Club Robert Cox told members in Florida the national organization "has grown increasingly concerned about conflicts and division inside its statewide body, the Florida Chapter," the letter, received on Saturday by The American Reporter, said.
The national organization attempted in a number of ways to heal the divisions, Cox said, including a governance audit and a year-long leadership development program, but the efforts "were unable to heal these incapacitating divisions or were rebuffed."
The audit resulted in a finding that "highly negative dynamics" among Florida Chapter leaders, and advisory committee recommended that the group's national Board of Directors "recommended that the Florida Chapter be suspended for at least four years."
No specifics were cited in the letter. It is believed the divisions have arisen over the club's support for massive development and state park projects in Florida that were opposed by its membership. The Palm Beach Post reported Friday that one allegation that ballots had been miscounted in leadership elections was being examined, according to Cox. Disagreements about ethanol, which could cut the use of fossil fuels but increase CO2 emissions, and a marketing plan for an ecofriendly Clorix product, were also cited.
"The Board of Directors now believe that the level of distrust among Florida Chapter Executive Committee members, and other Florida chapter volunteer leaders is so high that neither the current Executive Committee nor any successors elected in this climate can govern effectively. In order to address this crisis of mistrust, the Sierra Club's Board of Directors is considering an action that is painful and difficult," Cox wrote.
The suspension would have no immediate effect on membership for Florida residents, who would continue to receive the club's Sierra magazine and go on outings. The members in Florida would vote for the Board of Directors but would not elect officers of the state Chapter's executive committee.
Local groups would continue to function as normal while an appointed Florida steering committee would handle statewide decision-making and other responsibilities, Cox said in the letter, which was undated.
A final decision on the suspension will be made in March 2008 after Florida members are given an opportunity to comment. Comments will be accepted through March 11 and can be submitted to a special Website">http://www.clubhouse.sierraclub.org/FloridaChapterComments/">Website set up for their comments. The Board of Directors also plans three conference calls on Feb. 19, March 2 and March 5 that will be open to Fla.members.
"Suspending a Chapter is a serious step," Cox wrote. "The Board is considering this action because its advisory committee believes it is the best way to keep the serious problems withing the chapter from impeding the ongoing, highly effective work of the Club's local groups and national programs in Florida.
The organization founded by naturalist John Muir in 1892 would be the second to move against Florida in the past year. The Democratic National Committee approved the rejection of Florida's delegates to the Democratic National Convention after state Republicans moved its primary to Jan. 29, ahead of other Feb. 5 Super Tuesday states. It is unclear what effect the move might have on protections for the Everglades and other Florida-centric issues.
AR Correspondent Joe Shea joined the Sierra Club several months ago,
but has not attended its meetings. He received the letter on