The ousted CEO of the Meridian Chamber of Commerce says she wants her job back and believes her dismissal violated the chamber’s bylaws and a state law.
Anne Little Roberts said she wants the chamber’s board to give her a chance to hear any concerns board members have about her work, because she has heard none so far. Before her dismissal, she said, she had not received a formal evaluation in years and had received no negative feedback on her job performance from board members.
“I would like the opportunity to address in the open anything related to this,” she told the Idaho Statesman.
Roberts, the president and CEO since 2011, said she was fired Aug. 24 by the board chairman, Mike Ruffner, the president of the Boise operating unit of Food Services of America. Their meeting also was attended by the chairman-elect, Debbie Shaner, director of operations at NextScan, a Meridian document-scanning company. Neither provided a reason. The chairmanship is a one-year position.
Roberts said the meeting had been called to discuss how to fill a vacant membership-development job on the chamber’s four-person staff. Instead, Ruffner told her, “We need to part ways.”
Roberts said she was taken aback. “You don’t have the authority to do that,” she said she told Ruffner. “That is a board decision.”
She said Ruffner replied, “Yes, I do,” handed her some paperwork and said Roberts would receive a month’s severance pay if she said nothing publicly about her dismissal. He gave her until the next day to make up her mind.
Roberts said she called other board members, and those she reached were surprised at the news. She engaged an attorney, Boyd Hawkins, of Boise, who concurred that the board’s bylaws and Idaho’s Nonprofit Corporation Act say the chief executive serves at the will of the board, not just its chairman.
In an interview late Friday afternoon, she said the chamber is in good shape:
▪ Though membership is down slightly this year, the chamber has more than 600 members, up 50 percent from 2011, when Roberts became president and CEO.
▪ The chamber is about $7,000 short of budgeted revenue so far for 2017 but expects to make that up with the help of the new membership-development employee and revenue from the chamber’s annual gala in November. This year’s budget is $280,000.
▪ The chamber’s mission and operations are stable as the chamber moves through the fourth year of a five-year strategic plan. “Strong and steady,” Roberts said.
Roberts said she has heard, but has not been notified formally, that the board has called a special meeting next Thursday, Sept. 7. She hopes to be invited and to be reinstated.
What if the board doesn’t give her job back? “I will cross that bridge if and when it comes to that,” she said.
Ruffner did not return a Statesman phone message Thursday seeking comment on Roberts’ dismissal. A message left for Shaner late Friday was not immediately returned.