During an open meeting of the Forest Park Historical Society, a member of the board of directors acknowledged she failed to organize meetings, public events and fundraisers in recent years that could have benefited the group’s members.
The concession came as the non-profit organization announced plans for an educational cemetery tour in October and opened its ranks to new members. But most of the Sept. 23 meeting was spent responding to accusations posed by a handful of petitioners that the Historical Society is being poorly managed.
In a letter sent to members of the board earlier this year, petitioners questioned the absence of event planning and a lack of volunteer opportunities. They also raised questions about the group’s finances and whether the board of directors was being strong-armed by President Rich Vitton. Their request to be seated on the board was rebuffed.
“I am the feet and legs of this society, that’s true,” Vitton said.
Vitton stressed that the process of archiving and restoring hundreds of old photos has consumed the bulk of his time in recent years. Many of the board members are elderly, Vitton said, and he provides most of the leadership on various projects. His focus on the massive photo restoration process diverted him from organizing other events.
Board member Mary Win Connor, though, said she should have picked up the slack while Vitton was occupied.
“I am the youngest (board member),” Connor said. “It didn’t occur to me. I just didn’t come up with stuff. Maybe we were all expecting (Vitton) to do it.”
Connor’s statements at the meeting differed from the organization’s earlier outright dismissal of the petitioners’ complaints as being rude and unfounded. William Sawisch, Patricia Marino, Sally Taylor, August Aleksy and John Rice each signed the June 27 letter. Rice is a columnist for the Forest Park Review. None of the petitioners attended the Sept. 23 meeting.
“If nothing else, it rattled the cage enough,” Connor said of the letter. “Like I said, I should have been a little more cognizant.”