Long-simmering tensions among members of the Northwest Civic Association board of trustees boiled to the surface at the June 7 annual meeting.
Normally placid affairs that start off with refreshments and feature a sendoff to student trustees, a guest speaker or panel discussion, review of the year just past and the election of board members seeking additional terms, the annual gathering turned confrontational when President John Ehlers accused Vice President Kyle Hartman of conspiring with others to remove him from his leadership post.
"There is board dissension," Ehlers said. "This has been going on for over a year."
He said a faction within the current nine-member board was proposing to remove him as president and replace him with one of their own.
"I don't see that other person as being qualified," Ehlers said without naming that individual.
When audience members asked who it was, Hartman raised his hand.
Ehlers went on to say it didn't matter what the trustees wanted. What was important was the desire of the civic association's members in terms of who would lead the board.
"We have not faced a serious matter like this in at least 10 years," Ehlers said. "I'm afraid the other side wants to close things down and operate in a more insular manner. I did not start this."
"The reason the trustees want you removed as president ... ," Rosemarie Lisko, chairwoman of the graphics and zoning committee began to say before she was interrupted.
"Not all the trustees," interrupted Kellie Ehlers, a member of the panel and the president's wife. "You're speaking incorrectly."
"I am asking for you to resolve this," John Ehlers said to the approximately 20 people in attendance.
He said the options were for those present to do nothing, in which case he would be voted off the board in an executive session held behind closed doors; hold an election of trustees with write-in candidates who potentially would back his continuing as president; or have 20 percent of the 39 paid members of the association call for a special meeting at which the entire makeup of the board of trustees could be altered.
"The dissension is between John and me," Hartman said. "I'm the one who is creating questions about some concerns among board members."
"We've tried working with John," Lisko said. "He will not let us do anything. We've asked him to let all of us get involved. We should not have one person act like a dictator."
"Somebody has to step up and do 90 percent of the work," John Ehlers said.
Board member Ruth Royal said, "Kyle is a good person. He has done nothing to cause anything. It is definitely a personality thing."
Later, Royal complained bitterly about John Ehlers calling her at the Ohio Auditor's Office where she works and, in her words, demanding to know which side she was on in his dispute with Hartman.
"I felt very hurt by that," Royal said. "I wouldn't think somebody would stoop to that."
Ehlers said he was merely seeking to determine to which faction Royal was loyal.
"To be honest, I've never seen a demonstration like this," said former board member Bill Schuck, who wrote the NWCA's Code of Regulations Ehlers was citing as he sought to cling to his president's post.
In the end, those present voted for the four incumbents up for re-election, including Royal, Lisko, Kellie Ehlers and Secretary Julie Schlosser, as well as four potential write-ins.
John Ehlers then sought to round up enough signatures to hold a special session, expected to be held June 13, only for members of the civic association to consider a possible referendum about the makeup of the board.
The tabulation of the June 7 election votes won't be announced until that time, said Treasurer Mark Krietemeyer, who is stepping down as a trustee.