Some members have actually quit the Society because of these recent events and it is important at this point to allay rumors and keep you informed as to what the Society is doing to get back on track. The May board meeting was well attended, probably a record in terms of Chapter attendance. It was generally agreed that the current fiscal crisis is one of the most serious events the Society has faced in its 31 year history and the termination of Mark Skinner one of the most divisive issues to arise in as many years.
Several hours of discussion were devoted to the lay off of Mark Skinner and the future direction of the Rare Plant Program. The lay off of Mark was an agonizing one for the Executive Council who had no intention of slighting Mark. They hold him in the highest regard. It was not done because of any change in direction for the rare plant program. It was done solely to avoid the disaster that would have resulted from a full blown financial crisis at years end. Marks absence leaves a void. CNPS Botanist Dave Tibor and the Rare Plant Scientific Advisory Council, composed of highly credentialed plant science professionals, will attempt to take up the slack by providing the scientific expertise needed to persuade state and federal governments to strengthen laws to protect Californias rare flora.
The Finance Committee presented a report on their efforts to upgrade CNPSs financial reporting and operations procedures. In the simplest of terms, at least as I understood it, CNPSs financial crisis occurred because as they grew from a small grass-roots organization into a relatively complex small business they retained an informal financial reporting system that mixed Chapter and State funds and restricted funds and created the illusion that adequate funds were available for adding projects, publications and paid staff and didnt allow the level of oversight needed to see an approaching train wreck. The Financial Upgrade Project, presented in a 27 page memo, seeks to provide state of the art financial reporting and operations procedures to insure we dont slip into the red again and it has set a goal of building a 3 month operations reserve. The Finance Committee will present a report to the Board prior to the December meeting that should indicate if their efforts are making headway.
This is a quick synopsis of two important issues dealt with at the May board meeting that may be of interest to those of you who have heard rumors and want to know more about what is now occurring at the State level. I encourage you to read the most recent CNPS Bulletin (Vol. 26, No. 3), particularly the items titled Executive Directors Report, RPSAC looks at the Rare Plant Program, Rare Plant Program Report Program Reorganization and the Presidents Message if you care to find out more about these developments within the Society. After two board meetings, my impression is that the Society is in very capable hands and these difficult times will pass. In the mean time Im sorely tempted to go to the September board meeting to find out whats going to happen next.
Lastly, I regret to inform you that George Clark, Society President, passed away a week after the May board meeting. I realize many of you dont know George. I only met him briefly at the two meetings I attended. George impressed me a great deal, especially when he approached me at the end of the last meeting to ask me what I thought of it. He received many letters concerning the lay off of Mark Skinner and managed to remember mine. After spending hours discussing the lay off during the meeting he made a point of coming to me to discuss my concerns further. I sat across from him at dinner that night and felt fortunate that the Society had someone like him who was willing to volunteer so much of his time because he cared so much about CNPS, what it does, and the people in it. He will be missed. He will be hard to replace.