By Tim Horan
A change in the bylaws reducing the number on the Board of Trustees of the Dickinson County Historical Society to seven was voted down during its annual meeting Tuesday night by its members.
The membership of the society voted to continue to operate under the bylaws adopted in 2018. Those bylaws say the Board of Trustees shall consist of 18 members. It also requires 10 trustees for a quorum.
The membership also elected six new trustees at a standing room only two-hour meeting.
“It was pretty rowdy,” said newly elected board member Duane Schrag of the meeting. “There was a lot of talking over one another and saying. ‘No, you can’t do that. Yes, you can.’”
Schrag commended board President Steve Marston who was conducting the annual meeting.
“He did a good job of trying to maintain civility,” he said.
Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, an associate professor of American History at Kansas State University and executive director of the Chapman Center for Rural Studies, said the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded the Chapman Center a public access grant in 2018 to provide professional advice and consulting to a pilot group of small museums, one of which was the Dickinson County museum.
Museums are asked to evaluate themselves based on nationally recognized “best practices.”
“I was disappointed that Bonnie didn’t appear to acknowledge that many of the steps that were taken by DCHS, according to DCHS, were at the direction or recommendation of the Chapman center, and at the same time Bonnie was sort of washing her hands of any responsibility for the audience being so upset or disappointed,” Schrag said.
“Clearly a lot of people there had a lot of different grievances,” he added. “It seemed to me that most of those grievances DCHS says were recommended by the Chapman Center.”
Sherow said the museum has been working with two students through a StEPS (Standards and Excellence Program for History Organization), developed by the American Association of State and Local History.
“The while idea is they go through the StEPS booklet with us,” she said. “Whatever changes that they made were their interpretation of the StEPS project. When they didn’t understand something in the StEPS book they asked my students.”
She said the historical society has been working with the two students for seven months.
“We work at the pleasure of the board. We provide advice and consulting at the pleasure of the board. We have no authority over the board,” she said. “We can only provide them with professional advice. Whatever they wanted to do we simply supported it.”
Also on Tuesday, the Abilene Police Department received a report from the society of a missing document.
Assistant Police Chief Jason Wilkins said the investigation is ongoing.
The Historical Society is working to identify what items are missing.
There is some speculation that other documents and artifacts are missing besides the missing 1893 tax roll.
Schrag told the membership at the beginning of the meeting that the attempt to change the bylaws was invalid.
Hank Royer, a society member, former trustee and director of The Jeffcoat Studio Photography Museum which contributes funds to the society, said the only way to amend the bylaws was by a vote at a special or annual meeting.
“There was no such meeting,” Royer said. “When we arrived, there was an alleged new set of bylaws that were adopted on Oct. 19 presented to everyone.”
It reduced the number of trustees substantially from 18 to 7.
“The bylaws that were adopted at last year’s meeting were still valid. They did not amend them properly,” Royer said. “They did not have a vote. The bylaws that were in place last November stated the only way to amend the bylaws is at an annual meeting or special meeting called for that purpose by the members.”
Royer said the attempt to amend the bylaws was done by a survey vote.
“They alleged that a survey document went to some of the members but not all, including myself. I didn’t get one which was their justification to amend the bylaws but that was not a proper methodology,” he said.
He said a motion was made and approved to operate under the November 2018 bylaws.
Royer said the financial report which was presented was also rejected by the membership.
“The audience was so disenchanted with DCHS that they actually voted to not accept the financial report,” Schrag said. “As far as I know there were no specific concerns that were voiced. It sounded to me that a majority in the audience were simply upset with what DCHS has been doing.”
One of the concerns was closing off the archives to researchers.
Sherow said the historical society was conducting an inventory.
Schrag hopes researchers can return to use those archives in the future.
The next meeting of the society trustees was set for Dec. 17 which, according to the bylaws, is when officers for 2020 are elected.
Contact Tim Horan at email@example.com.