St. Joseph Orphan Society plans special meeting for Nov. 20 - WDRB 41 Louisville News

St. Joseph Orphan Society plans special meeting for Nov. 20

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The St. Joseph Catholic Orphan Society has scheduled a special meeting of its membership for Nov. 20 – the first meeting since a disputed vote earlier this year led to a lawsuit over who controls the 164-year-old agency.

The meeting will include a vote on the resolutions that were passed on Feb. 6 that ushered in a new board, according to a letter dated Nov. 1 that was sent to the society's members.

Eight people claiming to be the board's rightful members say they were wrongfully removed from their positions during the February meeting by a faction now acting as the society's trustees. In a lawsuit in Jefferson Circuit Court, the ousted board alleges the society's rules weren't properly followed when it was removed.

Thurman Senn, a Louisville attorney serving as the board president, said in an interview that he believes the correct procedures were followed previously.

The defendants claim in the lawsuit that the group led by Senn illegally ousted the old board by not following bylaws that require advance notice for removing a trustee and amending the organization's bylaws.

"They keep saying it was done improperly," Senn said. "We've now set a meeting saying, ‘Hey guys, here it is. We're coming back on Nov. 20. We're going to vote on it again.'"

Senn said all of the society's roughly 1,400 members, including the members who filed the lawsuit, are invited to the meeting.

"Let's have a special meeting and let's move on," Senn said.

William Walsh, an attorney for the ousted board members, said his clients don't think the current board would be calling a special meeting if the "Feb. 6 takeover had been done properly."

He added that his clients want a chance to defend themselves and have charges against them submitted in writing according to the bylaws in place prior to February.

But Senn said the meeting is not about removing board trustees, but rather a vote to approve new bylaws. All members would be able to speak, he said.

 A representative for Louisville Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz plans to attend the meeting, but not vote, said Cecelia Price, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Louisville.

If the society's members ratify the resolutions approving the new board, Senn said he expects to ask a judge to dismiss the case because it would be moot.

The board organizes an annual summer fundraising picnic on the Frankfort Avenue grounds of the St. Joseph Children's Home and provides housing for neglected and abused children.

The makeup of the board had been in flux since August 2012, when the trustees didn't get enough votes to remove a board member accused of sexually harassing staff members. At least a dozen board members resigned in the wake of that vote.

WDRB.com reported last month that an independent consultant had recommended that the board ask for the trustee, Earl Hartlage, to resign in 2008 because of a harassment allegation.

Hartlage, a former Jefferson County commissioner, remained on the board. He has called the allegations against him "untrue" and "baseless."

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