Tuesday, March 28, 2023

As WAC Board Delays Meeting, Pro-Baker Members Name New Candidates

Harold Baker poses with a trio of young swimmers. (Submitted)
Harold Baker poses with a trio of young swimmers. (Submitted)

The latest chapter of the Williamsburg Aquatic Club’s post-Harold Baker story unfolded on Friday as the Board of Directors sent an email to the membership addressing the repeated requests it has received to schedule a special business meeting.

In the email, the Board of Directors stated “to be in compliance with the law, we must announce a meeting date by August 30th and hold the meeting by October 28th. While we do not intend to let the process drag out that long, we may do so if it is in the best interests of the club.”

The email went on to state the board’s desire to hold a separate mediation meeting to work out the “high level of distrust between the sitting board and those seeking our removal.”

Disinterested in a separate mediation meeting and sticking with the group’s intentions to move forward with the process of scheduling a special meeting, the WAC Concerned Parents and Alumni posted a list of recommended selections to serve on a newly established Board of Supervisors on the group’s Facebook page.

The selections include Chris Gann, former Williamsburg Christian Academy Athletic Director and WAC parent; Felicia Brown-Anderson, William & Mary Counseling Center therapist and active WAC volunteer; Chris Harrison, a WAC parent and alumnus; Richard Hall, WAC parent and a City of Richmond employee in the City Attorney’s Office; Jenny Olsen, WAC parent.

One of these five selections, who was unidentified, was also contacted by the acting Board of Directors to fill one of the two vacant spots on the current board.

These names were sent to the current board in the letter from the WAC Concerned Parents and Alumni that requested a special meeting of the membership. The list was also released on the group’s Facebook page.

As the current Board of Directors moves closer to the cutoff date to announce the requested special meeting, the pro-Baker camp continues to take issue with the messages being sent to the membership.

Patrick Sensiba, a vocal member of WAC Concerned Parents and Alumni, is curious as to what needs to be negotiated between the pro-Baker camp and the Board of Directors.

“The big question here is what is there to mediate,” Sensiba said. “We wish they would be specific about what they want to have mediated between the membership and the board. In our opinion the mediation needs to be held between Baker and the board.”

Sensiba also said the mechanism for the Board of Directors to negotiate with the membership already exists in the form of a general membership meeting.

He also called into question the true motives of the Board of Directors not scheduling the requesting meeting sooner. Comparing the Board of Directors’ tactics to that of a sports team trying to run out the clock, Sensiba questioned how stalling a meeting for up to 90 days could possibly be in the best interest of the club when the “majority of the membership is calling for a meeting.”

On one point, Sensiba sympathized with the board members: He understood why the Board of Directors might feel threatened or intimidated to schedule a general membership meeting with a group that has vehemently advocated for the dissolution of the current board.

But he argued the board should know it’s in WAC’s best interest to schedule the meeting anyway.

“If you really care about the well being of the club, why would you sit and try to withstand a threat and not just step down and let the club move forward with the process of healing and rebuilding?” he asked. “The longer they wait, the more damage is occurring to the club. They have to know that.”

The standoff between the Board of Directors and the pro-Baker camp, which has about 130 families awaiting a resolution as the fall swim season approaches, has seen little improvement since Baker was terminated by the Board on July 28.

Since that time, two separate protests have been held and a membership-only informational meeting was called by the Board of Directors.

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