Committee chairwoman's letter in information guide sparks debate
By JOSH ZIMMER
© St. Petersburg Times,
WESTCHASE -- When the Program Information Guide for the Westchase Swim & Tennis Center came out recently, the newsletter included a big welcome.
"There is something for everyone at the Westchase Swim & Tennis Center!" Swim & Tennis Center Committee Chairwoman Dorothy Schroeder wrote in an issue full of information about classes, clubs and a variety of other sports programs. Schroeder urged readers to join, enter the coloring contest and support the advertisers.
The newsletter let thousands of Westchase residents know how their association dues are being spent. But it also sparked a heated discussion Thursday night among Westchase Community Association board members who questioned whether Schroeder, the wife of association president Chuck Schroeder, overstepped her bounds by writing the letter. And they debated whether the publication undercut the World of Westchase, the association's official news magazine, which did not print the information.
"I'm stunned we would say (printing the information in the guide) is in the best interest of the association," board member Kathleen Thomas said. "The World of Westchase is an asset to the community. We don't need to diminish it by putting out other things."
During an intense two-hour discussion, some members said the letter should have been discussed by the board because it was written by a community official and, thus, expresses an official position. They eventually passed several motions setting stricter guidelines for issuing official statements and for improving relations with World of Westchase.
Others downplayed the seriousness, citing the publication schedule for World of Westchase. "It's nothing more than the schedules, the times and descriptions of the classes . . . and it occurred in a more timely fashion than the WOW was able to distribute," said board member Kris DiGiovanni.
World of Westchase is a not-for-profit organization with an independent board of directors appointed by the association, while the Program Information Guide is published by the commercial IKare Publishing Inc.
The Swim & Tennis Committee turned to the Program Information Guide after missing the information deadline for World of Westchase, committee member Don Costello said. World of Westchase, which comes out the first day of every month, must receive its information by the 15th.
Board member Maria Kletchka emphasized that since community information is public, the association cannot restrict what private publications, such as the guide, print.
Also, "the more money we generate for this facility, the better off we are," she said.
Prior to the meeting, the Swim & Tennis Committee had reached an agreement with World of Westchase to insert an information flyer in the Aug. 1 issue, DiGiovanni said.
Still, the issue prompted several votes. The board narrowly defeated a motion that would have prohibited any committee or association members from making official statements without the association's prior approval. They unanimously passed a motion that prohibits committee or board members from endorsing any commercial enterprise without prior board approval.
By a 7-1 vote -- with Chuck Schroeder abstaining -- the association created a subcommittee to work these issues out with the World of Westchase. DiGiovanni, Mark Ragusa and Anthony Sanchez will serve on that subcommittee.
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