By Kathy Day
A dispute among former and current members of the La Jolla Woman's Club about its operations and leadership escalated into a shouting match this week, according some who attended a meeting on Monday.
Attorney Steve Haskins, who is representing several past presidents of the club, has submitted three letters to the board outlining issues concerning its preferred catering contract with Abbey Catering and Design, its treatment of guests and its financial state.
On Monday, the membership met in one room while some board members met in another, according to Zy Dewey. She said Tuesday she is still president despite action taken on Sept. 2. That action, Dewey said, was illegal under their bylaws as a nonprofit, which state the full membership must vote to remove the president. In addition, she said, the allegations are not true.
At that time, a group of board members met and "censured and removed" the president, Margo Ehman Singleton, who was acting as presiding president.
Singleton said the nine members present at that meeting acted after Dewey held a closed meeting and recorded it without anyone's knowledge. When asked to delete the discussion, she refused, Singleton said.
She said the board followed Roberts Rules of Order and set up a disciplinary committee to deal with "concerns regarding (Dewey's) behavior and treatment."
Singleton said the parlimentarian approved their action and nine board members voted to remove Dewey from office and the club.
Dewey said the 40 or so member who attended on Monday agreed they want to get back to the club's mission of cultural advancement for La Jolla.
Singleton also said restoring the image of the club is foremost among her goals.
At Monday's meeting Haskins delivered the third letter alleging "improper activities" by employees as well as "improperly closed meetings and the general lack of transparency." It notes that the club is a nonprofit corporation and thus subject to state law.
The letter gave board members until today at noon to provide documentation on a list of eight items, ranging from pay income and expense statements to letters of complaint from vendors or caterers.
Former president Lois Clifton had said previously that she was extremely upset about what she saw as an abuse of the trust of Ellen Browning Scripps, who had the building designed by John Irving Gill in 1913 and later deeded it to the club. She cited personnel issues and complaints from other catering companies who have said they were told to pay fees directly to the club's manager Betsy Ring rather than to the club.
At least one of those caterers, Michel Malecot of the French Gourmet, told the Light in a recent interview confirmed that he had written checks directly to Ring to cover extra time charges when events ran long.
"I know of one instance where she pulled the plug on the last dance of a bride and groom," he said.
He said he used to do "quite a few jobs there" but since Abbey was named the "preferred caterer" he has not been allowed to work there. At least one other caterer, who asked to be unnamed, said the same things had happened to them.
Malecot's company and five other caterers served food at Monday's gathering.
Singleton said Tuesday the board is aware of the issues surrounding Ring and the catering contract and is investigating them.
She added that the 10 remaining board members - there are a couple of vacancies - are considering hiring an attorney to help them sort out the issues.
"We need to find out what is our next best step," she said.
Ring has been on vacation and was not available for comment.