Members of the Historical Society’s board of directors said they have little interest in working with a group of petitioners calling for more oversight of the organization’s president, and flatly denied their request that those same petitioners be placed in supervisory roles.
During what would have been the society’s first official board meeting in roughly a year, the group met July 9 to discuss a letter sent by five residents late last month. In that letter a number of grievances were lodged against the board and its president, Rich Vitton. The petitioners asked that the five-member board expand its membership so that each of the petitioners could be seated.
“We would like to have some authority in which to direct Mr. Vitton and hold him accountable on behalf of the residents of Forest Park, both past and present,” the letter said.
Residents William Sawisch, Patricia Marino, Sally Taylor, August Aleksy and John Rice signed the June 27 letter. Rice is a columnist for the Forest Park Review.
“We decided we’d keep our group,” Historical Society board member Phyllis Orland said.
Both Orland and fellow board member Judy Arnold stood by Vitton and dismissed the complaints as rude and unfounded accusations. Delores Holub, Mary Winn Connor and Vitton’s wife, Valda Vitton, round out the board’s membership.
In their letter, the petitioners accuse Vitton of having unchecked authority over historical artifacts and failing to display the organization’s work. Further, they allege he is neglecting to chronicle current events and has launched personal attacks on the now deceased founder of the society, Dr. Frank Orland.
“I have never heard Rich say anything derogatory about Dr. Orland,” Arnold said. “Never. And if he did, I would be the first to open my mouth.”
Phyllis Orland, the treasurer of the non-profit organization, said in a previous interview with the Review she has no interest in managing the society’s finances. Further, the 88-year-old woman acknowledged she has lost track of a trust fund benefiting the Historical Society that was left by her late husband, Dr. Frank Orland, who founded the organization. Those responsibilities have been handed off to Vitton, she said.
Though Vitton said he doubts the sincerity of the petitioners’ motives, he said an open meeting of the Historical Society will be held in the coming months, and those who signed the grievance will be invited. The purpose of the meeting, Vitton said, will be to demonstrate the cumbersome and time consuming nature of his efforts to organize and restore the Historical Society’s artifacts. That meeting could be held next month, Vitton said, but will certainly take place before October.
“Very shortly we’re going to have an open meeting and I’m going to take Augie and John Rice and take them over to (the archives stored at the library) and show them what we have to deal with,” Vitton said.
The petitioners, meanwhile, said they’ll have to be satisfied with waiting to see if others in the community join their cause to apply more pressure to the board.
“What can we do?” Aleksy said. “If they don’t want us we can’t force ourselves onto the board.”
Though Taylor declined to give specifics, she suggested the group may begin collecting bits of the community’s history, separate from the Historical Society’s efforts.
“My opinion is we just have to let go and do what we can do,” Taylor said.