FORT WAYNE — The fractured membership of the African/African-American Historical Society Museum now appears to have two factions, each with its own board of directors.
Lending to the confusion, both have dug in their heels and refuse to acknowledge the opposing side.
The contention stems from personality and power issues between Pompia Durril, who says he’s the chairman of the board of directors, and Hana Stith, the museum’s co-founder.
Durril announced Feb. 4 that the society had hired professional historian John Aden to lead the museum and that Stith had retired effective Dec. 31. The next day, Stith fired back, saying she did not retire or resign but was fired by Durril on Dec. 28.
During a meeting of the museum’s membership Monday, 64 members voted for dissolving the current board and 19 voted against that.
Durril said the vote failed because they needed a majority of the entire membership of 146, not just a majority of the members at the meeting.
Countering that the vote was valid, Stith said members later held a meeting, without Durril, and elected five new board members.
Stith’s attorney, A. Dale Bloom, said in a letter sent to Durril on Wednesday that, according to the group’s by-laws, a quorum was present when a majority of the membership was present and voting.
The majority of that quorum voted to overturn the board, Bloom said.
“A valid meeting and vote was had and the corporation is currently without a board of directors, along with yourself as the former chairperson,” Bloom said in his letter.
Stith and Durril accused each other of misinterpreting the bylaws.
Asked if the matter can ever be resolved, Durril said, “I would hope rational people can come to rational decisions.”
The current board of directors is still in place, Durril said, adding he knew nothing of a new board. He was in the process of organizing a meeting next week, he said.
Stith said the membership is meeting today at the museum. The purpose is to write new rules and regulations and get the museum in order, she said.
“We will also form the qualifications for the board members,” she said.
Durril is not planning to attend.
“I have not been invited to any of those clandestine meetings,” Durril said.
“I would like to see people unite and work together,” Stith said. “There are a lot of hard feelings.”
Stith said she was particularly hurt when a museum official called and told her that her video presentation on behalf of the museum, which was to be filmed Saturday, was canceled.
“As long as there’s been a museum, I have done that presentation,” Stith said.
Stith and Miles Edwards founded the museum in 1975 after realizing that the Allen County Historical Museum had not preserved African-American history. The museum, 436 E. Douglas St., opened in February 2000. Stith has been the director/curator and is well known as a civil rights icon in the community.