Former Station Fire Memorial Foundation Director Dave Kane, a Johnston resident, said on May 10 that he and six other members of the foundation's board still want to help establish a memorial on the land where the 2003 blaze occurred.
Earlier in the day, Kane issued a press release that announced the seven resignations and mentioned "surreptitious and conspiratorial activity" by the two members who opposed asking the town of West Warwick to seize the land by eminent domain.
During a phone interview, Kane said the two members — former President Jessica Garvey and Treasurer Shawn Corbett — acted without the board's approval, and in fact, went directly against the board's majority vote.
Jessica Garvey's response, received by JohnstonPatch on May 10, is reprinted below.
When he appeared before the West Warwick Town Council in March, Kane recalled, "all of a sudden, there was a letter from one of the family members who allegedly offered to buy the land — the two board members (Garvey and Corbett) had conspired to send the letter not to us, not to the president of the foundation, but to the town council."
This led to media coverage "that we had someone who wanted to buy the land, which was not the case," Kane added. "We do not want to buy the land, because we're going to need that money for materials to build a memorial."
Describing the decision to resign from the board, Kane explained that he and the other six former members feel that Garvey and Corbett violated their agreement to work as a unified group.
"Instead of working with the board, they pull this stunt and have really shaken things up," Kane said, adding that after a review of the board's by-laws, "we (the members who resigned) realized we couldn't get rid of them, so we said 'We can't get rid of them, let's get rid of us,' and we left."
The move leaves the board without enough members to fill a quorum and hold meetings, though Kane said there is a scheduled May 25 vote to elect a new slate of board members.
"I'm sure they're going to vote a board in, but they've got to work as one," Kane said. "We stand ready to help in any way to get this land, but we can't do it in that forum, because being undercut hurts all of us."
Jessica Garvey Response
Also on May 10, Jessica Garvey released this statement:
"It saddens me that I had to learn through a press release that seven of SFMF's Board Members decided to resign effective immediately. I am also upset to learn they blame me and the Board's Treasurer, Shawn Corbett, for their resignation because they believe that a 'conspiracy' existed, and they had no other options. It is unfortunate that they should go public with such a belief, rather than come to us first. I would like to reassure everyone that what Dave Kane is reporting to you is untrue.
"In his press release Dave states: 'This move comes after it became clear to those resigning board members that there was surreptitious and conspiratorial activity by dissenting members. We believe that these members, who were against the majority vote to request that the West Warwick Town Council consider taking the Station Nightclub land by eminent domain, acted in a way to undermine and derail this effort.'
"It is no secret that Shawn and I voted against the decision to go to the Town of West Warwick. They would like you to believe that this is because Shawn and I are untrusting of the Town, and don't want them involved. The truth is, Shawn and I voted against this decision because it was made without consulting the organization's members. SFMF is an organization made up of members AND a Board of Directors, not solely a Board of 9. And a decision to request the land be taken by eminent domain is something we need to ask our MEMBERS to vote on. That is ALL immediate family members of the deceased, survivors, and former Board members. And I felt it should be brought before the members to decide. I made this point clear at a Board meeting and via numerous emails. However, it was decided before it was even discussed at a Board meeting. And when Shawn and I said we needed to give the members a voice, we were the minority vote, and we were told the decision needed to be made quickly in order to have news for the upcoming anniversary service. The Board voted 7 -2 to go to the Town. So, Dave went to the town, just like was voted, and the Town said no, we can't take it by eminent domain. End of story. What is there to argue anymore? Eminent domain is off the table at this time as far as anyone was concerned. I still don't understand the conspiracy they believe exists.
"Shawn and I have been perfectly upfront with everything we have felt with regards to any vote brought to the Board. We sent numerous emails and voiced our concerns at Board meetings. Just because we may not have agreed with everything does not mean we would undermine the very organization we've worked so hard to keep. Shawn and I are the senior members of this organization, on the Board longer than the seven that resigned. We have always been there for the families and survivors of this tragedy and have always been looking out for the MEMBERS of the organization, not just the Board. If the vote to go to the Town had been brought to the Members, and the members agreed, then I would vote along with the members. Because that is my job as an ELECTED official of this organization. It doesn't matter what the issue may be, if it is as important as having the Town take the land instead of the organization acquiring it, as is stated in our mission, then the members deserved the vote. And that goes for any vote in the future on any issue regarding the land, the memorial, or the members of the Board of Directors.
"Dave also presented in his press release: 'Due to a serious flaw in the organization’s by laws, that basically prevents the removal of a Board member unless they have committed fraud or theft, the only recourse left was for the majority of the board to leave.'
This is also not true. To correct Dave and the rest of the members who resigned, our bylaw states, as follows:
3(a) Any or all of the members of the Board of Directors may be removed with or without cause by vote of the members of the Corporation. The Board of Directors may remove any director thereof for cause only. Cause is defined as fraud, theft, moral turpitude and using the name and materials of the Foundation in a manner not consistent with the goals of the Foundation.
"So, if the MAJORITY of the Board felt that Shawn and I were undermining the organization, and had proof, they could have brought it up to the members at our annual meeting and asked for a vote to remove us. It doesn't make sense that the majority of the Board couldn't show the proof to their conspiracy theory, since they all believe it exists, and just ask the members to decide to remove us. That is because there was NO conspiracy.
"I want to stress the Station Fire Memorial Foundation is STILL AN ACTIVE AND RUNNING ORGANIZATION with Board Members and monies collected. We will still be holding our annual meeting on May 25th, and urge ANY MEMBER interested in joining the Board of Directors to attend this meeting. Also an emergency Special meeting has been called tonight by the the remaining Board Members, and the results of that meeting will be released to the media upon the meeting's completion.
"Sincerely, Jessica Garvey"