To the Editor:
As someone who has recently formed a new accounting firm, I am optimistic about New York’s economic recovery, but know that Lewisboro’s small business owners still need all the help they can get. That's why I was encouraged two years ago when several people stepped up to join the board of the Lewisboro Chamber of Commerce in an attempt to revitalize the organization. Local owners can benefit from the networking, pooled advertising, government advocacy and public relations of a revitalized local business association like those that exist in neighboring hamlets like Scotts Corners and Katonah.
While last year saw significant progress with new members and a great new website, it quickly became clear to me as a new member that the Lewisboro Chamber's ability to be effective continues to be hampered by its governance practices.
The concerns are out there. I heard about them as supervisor from local business owners reluctant to become openly involved in any controversy. Too bad, because right now is a time when the Chamber’s energies should be directed towards advocacy, including business-friendly regulations and increased awareness for "shopping Lewisboro." Instead, the discussions too often center on those who are reluctant to join under the present circumstances.
The current president, Dr. Leslie Simon, deserves praise for keeping the Chamber going for the past decades. But the time is long overdue for holding elections and encouraging new people with new ideas to join. The Chamber's infrequent "Citizen of the Year" ceremony is always well-received, but there is more to be done.
From what I can tell, the Chamber has not had a legitimate annual meeting of its members for years as Dr. Simon has served as its perpetual president. I was encouraged last year when he held an informational meeting and professed a willingness to open the process, even going as far as appointing a well-respected local Realtor as co-president. However, according to the organization's website, the Realtor no longer serves in that new role.
Over the past two years requests by several individuals for a copy of the organization's bylaws have been denied. Instead, Dr. Simon has chosen to provide a "redacted" set of bylaws, which fail to disclose the organization's annual meeting requirements or its election procedures. Unfortunately, when it comes to running an organization properly, “redacted” bylaws are no bylaws at all.
Lewisboro businesses deserve a vibrant Chamber of Commerce. But this goal will not be achieved unless and until we are able to come together under the umbrella of an organization all can believe in. That trust begins by adhering to open and fair governance procedures.
Charles Duffy is the former supervisor for the town of Lewisboro.