Sierran Masthead

Executive Committee Restructures Chapter Staff

By Tom Neltner and Bill Hayden, Finance Committee

The chapter made a significant move in September to improve its ability to protect Indianaís environment. For several years, Lori Hazlett has been the chapterís administrative coordinator. When you call the office, you talk with Lori. When you receive a mailing, she had a hand in it. She has been a valuable resource.

The chapterís executive committee believes that it needs a chapter director to meet the conservation challenges that confront Indiana. A chapter director would get engaged in the substance of the issues and work to change policy and practice in Indiana. The chapter director would support the groups and chapter members across Indiana who are struggling to protect their communities. In the past five months, the chapter has challenged three serious public records violations and is seeking to invalidate a rule for municipal stormwater discharges that deny the public its right to participate in the process as required by the Clean Water Act. The chapter has asked the Indiana Department of Environmental Management tough questions about its enforcement program. The chapter wants to deal with fertilizer and pesticides that are applied so close to our lakes and reservoirs that we get algae blooms that undermine the integrity of the waters. And the chapter must get more involved in the rulemaking process to work on the substance of the conservation challenges. Club members need and deserve a chapter director who can help members make this happen.

Unfortunately, the chapter lacks the resources to have both a chapter director and a chapter coordinator. Due to the unique and complicated method the Sierra Club uses to fund chapters, the Hoosier Chapter was going broke and needed to make a dramatic change. Roughly one half of our chapter funding comes as (c)(4) money that can be used for non-political activity, and one half as (c)(3) money that can only be used for non-for-profit educational and legal expenses. When less than one half of the chapterís yearly activities are (c)(3) reimbursable, then the difference must be made up with (c)(4) money. The chapter has been using up its (c)(4) money faster than it has been replaced.

In September, the chapterís executive committee unanimously made the dramatic move to lay off the chapterís administrative coordinator and position itself so it can hire a chapter director. The status quo was not sustainable. Too much of the chapterís limited resources were going into membership support. Not enough was going into conservation. Without a chapter director to help drive the agenda, there was not enough conservation work to support a full-time administrative coordinator despite her best efforts.

The status quo had tapped out the chapterís reserves, and a tough decision had to be made. Lori left in November with six weeks of severance pay. The chapter will have a part-time person manage the office in the interim. The chapter will also contract for a lobbyist. Despite the financial challenges, the environment must have a voice in the General Assembly. By March, the chapterís finances will return to the level where we can confidently hire a chapter director who can deliver on the needs of Indianaís environment and support the many volunteers who need technical support. Please bear with us as we work through these difficult changes.

Copyright © 2007 Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club, all rights reserved.[11/18/05]efp

Fall 2005