Dean Lefebvre and Jerry Gillmett were installed back at the leadership of the Association of Senior Citizens of Franklin County by a court decision handed down Wednesday.
Lefebvre and Gillmett sued after a group of people held a meeting in February in Saranac Lake at which they ousted them as executive director and president, respectively. That group installed a new board, headed up by Retired Seniors Volunteer Program Director Susan Schrader as executive director and Fort Covington town Supervisor Pat Manchester as president, and they also passed a revised set of bylaws.
State Supreme Court Judge David Demarest ruled Wednesday that the meeting was illegal, so any decisions made at it were reversed.
The February meeting was a special meeting of the board. The board had decided to hold it at its regular January meeting, but Gillmett sent out notice he was canceling it several days later. Demarest ruled that he didn't have authority to cancel the meeting unilaterally, since to hold it was a decision of the full board.
But proper notice was not sent out to all directors of the board that the meeting would be held anyway. Because of that, Demarest wrote that the meeting and anything that happened at it is nullified.
"Equity and fairness dictates that proper and reasonable notice should have been given to each and every director," Demarest wrote.
The judge directed Gillmett to call a meeting before May 2 to discuss the proposed bylaws, and he told Gillmett to send out proper notice with a copy of the proposed changes to the bylaws.
Demarest ruled that directors don't have to be formally voted in to be considered members of the board, since there's nothing in the bylaws that requires it. They only have to provide proof that they've been appointed by their town or local adult center. Jim Brooks, the Lake Placid-based attorney Gillmett and Lefebvre hired, had argued that several of the people who voted at the February meeting weren't official directors since the board had never taken a vote to install them, as was the board's tradition.
Demarest also decided that board members may not vote by proxy if they can't make it to the meeting.
"Some further disruption to the day-to-day affairs of the Association will necessarily be unavoidable as the result of this Decision, but the long-term health of the organization can only be assured by providing for an open and vigorous debate of the issues at a well-publicized and properly convened special meeting at which all duly selected Directors are in attendance," Demarest wrote.
Lefebvre said he and Gillmett are pleased with the decision.
"I think both sides won, both sides lost," Lefebvre said in a Wednesday afternoon phone interview. "I think he's trying to be fair, and that's all I've ever wanted."
He said they plan to send out notice for the next meeting by the beginning of next week.
"I just hope that both sides can come together for the good of the seniors of Franklin County," Lefebvre said. "We just want to move forward and get on with our lives."
Lefebvre said he planned on being back in the ASC office today.
The Enterprise could not reach Schrader for comment after the decision was handed down Wednesday.
Four adult centers in northern Franklin County sent letters of support for the new board in February and March. Shirley Pickreign told the Enterprise Wednesday the Saranac Lake Adult Center also sent a letter of support - and that it was the first one to do so. She said her board gave the letter to Schrader.
Schrader told the Enterprise Wednesday the letter must have gotten lost in the county's in-house mail, but she forwarded a second copy Wednesday.