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City Community Group Takes New Step Forward

Despite Acrimony At Meeting, Optimism Over New Directors

May 6, 2005
By MATT BURGARD, Courant Staff Writer

As some had feared, the annual meeting of the ONE/CHANE community support organization in Hartford's North End had its share of acrimony Thursday night. But by the time it was over, most of the troubled agency's members felt they had taken a significant step forward with the election of three new faces to the board of directors.

The election of new board members Eric Crawford, Steve Harris and Greg Davis came after a spirited debate between factions that have divided the agency for months. While most of the membership in attendance expressed support for embattled chairman Terry Waller and newly appointed executive director Frederick Smith, some continued to criticize the leadership for improperly conducting the meeting and stacking the election in its favor.

As ballots were being handed out to members to vote for the slate of board candidates, board member David Hendricks walked to the front of the gathering and declared that the meeting was illegitimate. Hendricks, who has been a vocal critic of Waller's management of the agency, grabbed a microphone and announced that the election was being illegally run.

"You're out of order," Waller told Hendricks from a lectern with its own microphone.

"I'm not out of order. You're out of order," Hendricks responded as Ronald Armstrong, a member of the nominating committee that Hendricks opposed, pulled the plug on Hendricks' microphone.

After the outburst, members filled out their ballots, and the meeting, which was held at the Uptown Flava Restaurant on North Main Street, ended with election tallies. The ballots showed the membership was overwhelmingly in favor of the recommended slate of Crawford, Harris and Davis, with more than 45 members voting in favor of the slate and five against.

Waller, who has been struggling to unite the agency, said he regretted the disruptions that marred the meeting, but added he was pleased with the outcome of the vote.

"It was an ugly win, but it was still a win," he said. "These new board members will go a long way in restoring ONE/CHANE to its place as a key support organization in north Hartford."

The three new board members said they would work hard to help the agency overcome many obstacles it is now facing, including an ongoing corruption investigation by the state attorney general's office and a critical shortage of funding.

Harris, a former city council member and a retired Hartford firefighter, said he remembered when ONE/CHANE was formed more than 30 years ago to provide services for the community's neediest people.

"When you couldn't fend for yourself, ONE/CHANE was there, and that's where we need to be again," he said. "As ONE/CHANE goes, so goes north Hartford. ...It's a new day."

Former executive director Larry Charles, who was fired by the board a year ago because of frustrations with his leadership style, said he too hoped the new board members would help heal the agency.

"I want the organization to move forward," he said, declining to comment further.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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