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Dramatic year for the Dundalk District Credit Union

Record profits, an armed robbery and a quickly- squashed “soft take-over” bid.

That was the riveting story shared with a good crowd of members at the Macintyre Building last week for the annual meeting of the Dundalk District Credit Union.

It was a year Janice Mason called “without a doubt, the most challenging of my 16 years as CEO.”

As a well-run and tightly-managed organization, its annual meetings are generally uneventful. Members receive updates, approve reports and appoint board members for the thriving financial co-operative.

Those things happened last Wednesday, Nov. 29, too.

But the CEO also shared news back in February of an organized attempt to flood the Credit Union with new members with the aim of electing directors to take over the board.

What those orchestrating the effort probably saw as a weakness – the small scale of the locally-governed institution, actually was its greatest strength.

Because of the personal knowledge the staff has of its members, the unusual requests for membership were recog­nized early.

While the CEO’s first attempt to inform Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario was not given much weight, that changed when the credit union got copies of a flyer being distributed about the campaign.

The Canadian Credit Union Association was quick to respond and help. Dundalk District Credit Union is being encouraged to share its story, to put others on alert.

The attempt was detected early and addressed, with legal consultation fees of about $7,500 to ensure proper procedure was followed.

It became evident through many requests from outside the area, with no reasonable explanation for choosing the Dundalk Credit Union. These applications often came with inquiries into how to circumvent government regula­tions, and how to get on the board, it was reported.

“This group seemed to be of the misconception that they would be able to change operations to suit their own purposes,” Ms Mason said.

“Credit Unions are highly regulated and must operate within stringent guidelines. Directors have a duty to act in the best interest of its membership within these regulations.”

The year may have had its stresses, but the six increases to prime during the fiscal year meant the Credit Union earned its highest interest revenue ever, just over $3 million.

As announced previously, $250,000 has been returned in various ways to the co-operative’s member-owners.

All maintenance fees on accounts have been refunded, and about nine percent of interest, either paid by members on loans or earned on their deposits, was deposited directly into members’ accounts the week before the meeting.

As well, the board decided to pay out its full commitment to the new Markdale hospital, completing its $50,000 donation with $25,000 this year.

Foundation chair Harvey Fraser and CEO Darlene Lamberti were present, and took everyone on a virtual tour of the hospital. That includes an exam room with a sign recognizing the Credit Union members’ contribution.

Ms Mason also spoke about the robbery at the Feversham branch in May, and its subsequent closing. The building is now for sale.

She told the annual meeting that she is aware of four other suspiciously similar robberies of low-traffic Credit Unions in Ontario last year.

Eligible deposits (not in registered accounts) are insured up to $250,000 with the FSRA.

A major effort during the year was adopting the significant changes made in the regulations governing Credit Union, which required a new bylaw to be adopted at the meeting.

Board policy will also be changed to be more restrictive than the bylaw on some specifics.

Ms Mason extended sincere appreciation to all staff and board members for their efforts in meeting the challenges of 2023.

Karen Hannon, a retired Credit Union staff member, was welcomed as a new board member, following the resignation of director Bill Anderson.

The 80th anniversary of the Credit Union was celebrated with a special cake.

M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald