The National Sierra Club Board of Directors voted on March 25, 2008 to dismantle the entire democratically -elected structure of the Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club, the fourth largest Chapter in the nation.
The Florida Chapter, comprising 35,000 individual members representing 5% of Sierra’s National membership, was usurped in an unprecedented and appalling coup.
The sacking of 27 elected representatives and removal of 75 volunteer appointees, 24 Issue Committees – over 150 state-level positions in all – constitutes the main carnage of the March 25th Massacre.
They are all now gone – dismissed in one fell swoop by National’s decision.
The National bureaucracy manufactured the convenient local dissent to serve as a pretense for swatting our Chapter leadership out of their way. They found the Chapter’s scrutiny of their policies inconvenient.
It was inconvenient to justify their devotion to ill-advised biofuels schemes.
It was inconvenient to justify their Clorox-like promotion of more commercial products (the backbone of their announced $500 million dollar fundraising campaign) authorized in an unannounced board decision just days before the Florida suspension.
And it was really inconvenient and annoying to put up with local resistance to the stampede toward National control of Sierra activities in Florida.
Thus, the passion, expertise and devotion of the many democratically elected local volunteers was deemed inconvenient and disposable, replaced by an "Executive Committee" of 5 National officers. This absentee "brain trust" has wrested control of approximately $200,000 of the Chapter’s funds, along with control of Florida Sierra programs.
With this one visionary act, the Chapter’s various conservation, political and legal programs have ground to a halt under this absentee control.
But a far greater price is to be exacted in the incalculable damage to the greater cause of conservation — damage recklessly inflicted to the reputation and credibility of Sierra Club, eviscerating the effectiveness of the very members and volunteers who stand in the front lines of the struggle to protect some vestige of Florida’s remaining natural systems.
It is telling that the National Sierra Club is disbanding this hard-working and successful team of volunteers and grassroots conservationists even as National eagerly pursues its unsavory new focus on lucrative revenues from corporate donations.
The process of the investigation of the Florida Chapter by National staff was scandalous. There was no fair play involved.
The investigation was based on unfounded accusations, vague and unsubstantiated claims, advanced on a patchwork of hearsay, obscured by anonymity and cloaked in secrecy. The Chapter, leaders, and volunteers were denied the precious and essential American rights to due process – to be able to face their accusers, and to have a fair hearing based on facts.
National Sierra Club President Robert Cox continues to roll out his tawdry collection of unsupported statements in his letter to Grist posted by the National Sierra Club press office.
Robert Cox is queasy about this because he knows that these Florida Sierrans have unfairly been personally attacked, maligned and slandered before the state and the entire nation. He knows that public scrutiny will expose the actions of the National Sierra Club as contemptuous of basic American rights, and of the Club’s own code of conduct.
The National board has destroyed the largest and most effective environmental organization in Florida. For that, Robert Cox owes an apology.
Betsy Roberts is former Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club Chairwoman.
Karen Orr is former Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club Political Committee Chairwoman.
They can be reached at: email@example.com