Chautauqua Forward: Your Voice. Your Vote. Our Future.

© Jonathan B. Auerbach

© Jonathan B. Auerbach

The Problem

Potential for special interests to control a community asset

For more than 120 years, the historic Colorado Chautauqua Association (CCA) has operated as a community amenity that provides one-of-a-kind cultural, social and recreational experiences. While CCA’s offerings have evolved over the years to keep pace with cultural and social changes, CCA’s articles of incorporation and bylaws unfortunately have not.

The reality is that CCA’s outdated governance structure creates opportunities for special interest groups to exert control over the organization at the expense of the broader public. By purchasing multiple memberships for a modest fee—each of which carries the right to vote in the election of directors—special interest groups can effectively “buy” seats on the board and vote for actions that support their own agendas rather than the best interests of the broader community.

The ability to buy inexpensive memberships that come with voting rights is a problem that can lead to any group gaining control of the decision-making process at CCA. This problem is made worse because the vast majority of CCA members purchase memberships to obtain ticket discounts and other benefits, and do not vote, which contributes to the imbalance of interests at the board level.

The Boulder City Attorney recently informed the CCA Board that unless this governance issue is corrected and the vote buying stops, the City intends to issue a notice of breach of CCA’s lease agreement with the City. Such a breach would have grave consequences for CCA, individuals whose homes are on leased property at CCA, and the broader community.

The letter to CCA from Tom Carr, Attorney for the City of Boulder, can be found here. CCA’s response to Mr. Carr can be found here. For the recording of the Q&A session with Tom Carr, held on January 15, 2020 at Colorado Chautauqua, please click here. A short excerpt of Mr. Carr’s definition of the issue can be listened to here

The Solution

Modern articles and bylaws that eliminate vote buying

To prevent special interests from exerting undue influence, the CCA Board voted decisively 12-2 (with one abstaining) at their December meeting to modernize CCA’s articles of incorporation and bylaws and eliminate membership voting–an outdated voting structure that invites potential conflicts of interest and undue influence over decision making.

The new articles and bylaws, as described in the summary prepared by CCA’s legal counsel, are consistent with best practices for charitable organizations, and have many benefits, including:

• Providing for a transparent community nomination and vetting process for new Board members
• Allowing for equitable community representation on CCA’s Board of Directors
• Reducing potential Board member conflicts of interest
• Eliminating special interest influence in member elections

How You Can Help

VOTE YES! Check your inbox on January 29, 2020, for an electronic ballot. If you were a CCA member as of December 17, 2019, you are eligible to vote. Once you receive your e-ballot (from Colorado Chautauqua <noreply@eballot.com>), you have until February 24 to vote “YES.”

PROXIES. It’s not too late. If you would like to support Chautauqua NOW, just return the CCA proxy sent to your mailbox and inbox. A proxy is an alternative to voting electronically but is considered equivalent to voting “YES.” Proxies help maximize much-needed voter turnout and must be received by February 24.

SPREAD THE WORD! The stakes are incredibly high. The solution to this daunting challenge requires membership approval by a margin of 75% of votes cast. To be successful, we need your help to maximize voter turnout. Tell every Chautauqua member you know to vote.

Chautauqua belongs to our community and it is critical that we maintain the remarkable partnership we have with the City of Boulder.

If you would like additional information, please go to www.chautauqua.com/forward/FAQ.