A member-driven effort demanding the board of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists reverse its decision to cancel elections in 2020 has paid off.
Elections will move forward this year, although they will not take place during the organization’s convention, which for the first time ever will be done virtually.
When NAHJ announced on April 16 that the board voted to eliminate this year’s elections “to temporarily limit any unnecessary radical change in the interest of preserving a strong and effective organizational foundation,” many members appealed to the board officers to reconsider, because the decision was in violation of the organization’s bylaws. The move was also depriving members of an opportunity to run for office.
Members organized, signed a petition and sent a letter requesting a reversal of the vote. It was ignored. Members then consulted an attorney, who reviewed the bylaws and drafted a letter detailing, in her legal opinion, that “the NAHJ’s leadership’s decision to suspend elections and award themselves an additional year of office is illegal and ill-advised.”
The NAHJ board conducted a disastrous virtual town hall, in which members were disrespected and insulted for expressing their concerns. President Hugo Balta stated they would “listen” to member’s concerns for future reference, but adamantly stated the board would not change their vote.
The DC chapter of NAHJ voted to hold its own elections. The local chapter members passed an emergency resolution in which it offered to assist in conducting national elections, thereby negating the argument that NAHJ did not have the manpower to oversee the voting process.
High-profile members individually contacted board members to express their concerns. The group of members who sent the first letter and coordinated the petition effort, led by former NAHJ VP of Print Marilyn Garateix, former NAHJ Financial Officer Diana Fuentes, former NAHJ president Rafael Olmeda, former board members Nora Lopez and Frances Robles, and myself, also a former NAHJ president, sent another attorney letter advising the board that if they did not conduct elections in 2020 as required in NAHJ’s bylaws, that there would be no other option than to file a complaint with the District of Columbia’s Attorney General and take legal action, if necessary.
The NAHJ board met on Saturday, June 6 and unanimously voted to proceed with elections in 2020 sometime in September. NAHJ did not specify a date.
While we are not satisfied that elections won’t take place in August, as they should, we accept the compromise. Now, the board must be held accountable for setting a date, so it gives time for members to collect signatures and support to run for office.
Former president Rafael Olmeda wrote a blog post about the decision to restore elections, detailing the need for volunteers to help oversee the process and the importance of members running for the seats that will be vacated this year.