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Wednesday, May 14, 2008 01:39 am

Tip of the iceberg?

Lobbyist quits popular skate club in election-related protest

Untitled Document Less than a year ago, Lisa Steelman — the mother of a skater and a lobbyist for Novartis Pharmaceuticals — worked her magic and, despite drastic state budget cuts, scored a $40,000 government grant for the Springfield Figure Skating Club.
But in a recent letter sent to the SFSC board of directors, obtained by Illinois Times this week, Steelman resigned her family’s membership in the SFSC and requested the removal of her name from the ballot for Monday’s board election. Steelman says her family is leaving because of disagreements with the club’s key decision-makers. In her letter, Steelman says she “can no longer overlook the misconduct of board officers for the sake of letting our daughter perform in an ice show.”
Steelman cites several problems with the club’s election process. She says that board members have added anonymous family members to the roster to ensure their reelection. The current SFSC roster lists 184 members, she says, and includes new families from Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, and South Carolina — all of whom are eligible to vote in the board election. “Most of those new members were officially signed up April 16 (after the deadline of April 15 as required in the newly adopted by-laws),” Steelman writes. “Most have never set foot in our rink. Two of them are skating coaches at other clubs and sisters of a SFSC coach.”
Steelman also criticizes the club for its absentee-balloting process. One member can fill out a ballot for each of his or her enrolled family members. Once the ballots have been submitted, she says, they may be counted by officers running for reelection.
In addition to her resignation, Steelman informs the board members that she has turned over all complaints, requested bylaw changes, and membership rosters to the United States Figure Skating Association for review. She asks for fighting to stop and for current board members to relinquish control of the SFSC. “To fix all that is wrong in this club is more than one person, or a small group of people can tackle,” she writes. In addition to helping train young skaters who compete nationally and internationally, the SFSC produces the popular Spotlight on Ice shows and Christmas exhibitions. It’s unclear what effect Steelman’s resignation will have on the $40,000 in public money lawmakers approved for the local skating organization. SFSC board president Teresa Chessare declined to comment on the controversy. “We are a private club that exists solely to support our kids in their sport of figure skating,” she wrote in a brief e-mail to Illinois Times.

Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com.
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