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CUs announce mergers in three states

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MADISON, WI. (5/11/10)--Six credit unions in three states announced mergers or intentions to merge in the past few days. In Wausau, Wis., members of Wausau City Employees CU (WCECU) voted Thursday in favor of merging with Connexus CU, effective June 1. "The upcoming retirement of WCECU's president [Judy Westphal] as well as an overall desire to offer our members a more robust line of products and services prompted this decision," said Barb Schmidt, WCECU's board chair. "Connexus has a 75-year history of working with select employee groups and providing customized solutions and outstanding service," she said, adding that "Connexus was the obvious choice." WCECU was founded in 1961 to serve city of Wausau employees and their families. It has 820 members and $3 million in assets. Connexus, founded in 1935 to serve employees, retirees and families of Wausau Insurance Cos., has strong partnerships with Liberty Mutual Insurance and Northcentral Technical College, among others. It has 23,000 members and more than $312 million in assets. In Utah, Mountain America CU announced last week that members of the $1.8 million IFA Employees FCU based in Salt Lake City have voted to merge into the $2.8 billion Mountain America, which is based in West Jordan, Utah. IFA's 410 members will join the 341,000 members of Mountain America, said the larger credit union in a press release. Mountain America has 65 branches in four states and offers increased convenience for members, the IFA board had determined when it proposed the merger. In Saginaw, Mich., Generations Family FCU and the Saginaw Veterans Administration Hospital FCU merged, effective May 1 (Michigan Monitor May 10). The combined credit union will keep the Saginaw Veterans Administration Hospital FCU name. The merger means Generations now has three branches in Saginaw, including one in the hospital.

IOpEd NewsI Moving money to CUs in consumers best interest

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DENVER (5/11/10)--Despite the movement to move money from big banks to credit unions and community banks, one writer in OpEd News (May 10) is "amazed at how many friends don't know the benefit of banking with credit unions." Lee Patton, a writer based in Denver, wrote the article, "In Our Best Interest: Let's Move Our Money From Big Banks to Credit Unions." "Credit union membership helps shield the community from powerful commercial banks now hoarding our money after a decade of gambling with it," he wrote. "For most of us, it's in our public and self-interest to transfer savings and checking accounts from big national banks to local credit unions--first thing tomorrow." Patton lists the often-cited benefits of credit unions such as the not-for-profit structure and notes that credit unions represent democracy in action. "If we all transfer our collective wealth to our local credit unions, we will not only be well-served while paying and/or earning equitable interest rates, we will help our neighbors. When we make a deposit at our credit union, we won't be helping some big-bank CEO buy his or her sixth 'second home' in Aspen. Our savings will finance Fred and Ethel's new windows, Alice's new restaurant, Bart's first car, and Lisa's college tuition."

N.J. bill includes CUs in banking development district program

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TRENTON, N.J. (5/11/10)--State legislation that would create a New Jersey Banking Development District (BDD) Program was reported favorably from the state's Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee last week. Credit unions are included in the bill's definition of "bank," according to the New Jersey Credit Union League. The league has gone on record supporting the bill, said Chris Abeel, league government affairs director. "We believe it's a good thing credit unions are included in the bill. We think it helps build momentum for Government Unit Depository Protection Act (GUDPA) reform," Abeel told News Now. The latest bill, called the Bank Development District Act (A-1458), is sponsored by Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19), a co-sponsor of A-1597, which would enable local government entities to use credit unions as depositories, according to the league's The Weekly Exchange (Week of May 3). The state's Division of Banking would administer the program, to encourage establishing bank branches in underserved areas. A municipality, in conjunction with a bank, would submit an application to the commissioner of Banking and Insurance for the designation of a BDD. The state treasurer and municipalities in which a BDD has been designated would have the authority to select a BDD bank as a depository, subject to an agreement for a fixed rate of interest at or below the bank's posted rate. BDDs would still have to meet the state's GUDPA requirements to be eligible as a municipal depository. While the bill includes credit unions, credit unions continue to be excluded from GUDPA and would be eligible only for state funds under this legislation, said Abeel. "Legislation was enacted last year that temporarily expands the range of allowable investments available to the director of investments for state cash management (municipal monies on deposit with the state) and pension funds to include federally insured instruments offered by community banks and credit unions," Abeel added. "This was the first time the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund insurance was given parity with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in New Jersey law." "GUDPA was enacted before credit union deposits became federally insured. The more New Jersey law recognizes the equality of credit union deposit insurance, the harder it becomes to argue against GUDPA reform," Abeel concluded.

Bay Federal receives governors volunteer service medal

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (5/11/10)--Bay FCU, Capitola, Calif., has received the 2010 Governor and First Lady’s Medals for Service award in recognition of its community support efforts.
Bay FCU representatives accept the California’s Small Business Volunteer Program of the Year award. From left are Angelica Reyes, community outreach manager; Tonée Picard, executive vice president and chief marketing and development officer; Carrie Birkhofer, president/CEO; and Laura Owen, branch manager.(Photo provided by Bay FCU)
Carrie Birkhofer, Bay Federal president/CEO, accepted the award for California’s Small Business Volunteer Program of the Year from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, First Lady Maria Shriver, and Volunteering Secretary Karen Baker. It was one of seven awards honoring the state’s top service and volunteering leaders. Also, Bay Federal was nominated for California’s Small Business Volunteer Program of the Year by the Volunteer Centers of Santa Cruz County. “We work with a lot of local businesses and 100% employee participation is just amazing,” said Karen Delaney, executive director of the Volunteer Centers. “In this economy, it’s important that businesses choose to keep community activities as part of what they’re doing. We are grateful to Bay Federal and all the businesses that do so much for our community.” For seven consecutive years, 100% of Bay FCU employees have volunteered their time and donated money to more than 49 local nonprofits. The credit union’s employees have served in a wide range of volunteer roles to support people, schools, and organizations; everything from providing pro bono assistance with marketing, education and outreach; orchestrating fundraisers; collecting necessities and supplies; and working at community events. Some of their accomplishments include:
* Hosting Italian-style pasta lunches in the employee break room to raise money for Big Brothers and Big Sisters; * Helping to design and launch the “Give A Little, Feed A Lot” campaign for the Second Harvest Food Bank; * Holding an employee head-shaving extravaganza to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network; and * Coordinating the collection of coats for kids, cell phones for soldiers, and supplies for schools.
"Today, we are paying tribute to some true California heroes, seven honorees that are pioneers in service, who have demonstrated a commitment to expanding service in their own unique way and in giving something back,” Schwarzenegger said.

Montana CUs declare VITA sites a success

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HELENA, Mont. (5/11/10)--During this past tax season, nearly 3,000 Montana taxpayers took their W-2s and receipts to credit union Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites in Montana to take advantage of free tax-preparation and e-filing services.
Mary Buck (left), a first-year volunteer with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, works with Joe Corbitt, a nine-year volunteer at a VITA site sponsored by credit unions in Butte, Mont. (Photo provided by the Montana Credit Union Network)
For the fifth year, Montana Credit Unions for Community Development (MCUCD) has partnered with credit unions, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and local volunteer tax preparers to bring IRS VITA sites to Montana communities. “It’s such a good program,” said Bertie Turville, who has served five years as a volunteer tax preparer in Fairfield, Mont. “And people are so happy with it, to not have to go somewhere else and pay money.” Twenty credit unions sponsored 17 VITA sites. This season, they filed 2,620 returns, returning more than $2.5 million in federal refunds back to the communities. Also, credit union sites dispensed more than $407,000 in state refunds. MCUCD began supporting credit union tax sites in 2006, with two VITA sites completing just 92 returns. Sponsor credit unions provide space, supplies, equipment and management for the VITA program. MCUCD provides financial support and technical assistance for the volunteers and credit unions. But local volunteers and credit unions are key to the program’s success. “This is my first year as a site coordinator,” said Jessica Helm, site coordinator for the Rimrock CU site in Billings. “The feeling of helping someone in need and seeing their reaction is more than enough to understand how important this service is. I believe this made a difference in many people’s lives.” Lincoln County CU, Libby, Mont., has made VITA a credit union and community affair. Amy Bennett, site coordinator, recruited four volunteer tax preparers in its first year. The credit union dedicated a large office for the program. “It’s great. The credit union has gone out of its way to provide for us,” said volunteer tax preparer Charlie Lawrence. VITA sites can’t serve everyone, said the Montana Credit Union Network. The IRS certified volunteers are trained to do uncomplicated returns for people who earn $49,000 or less. For clients served in Montana’s credit union sites, the average adjusted gross income was $16,900. The Montana credit union VITA program received financial support from the IRS, the National Credit Union Administration and the National Credit Union Foundation for the 2009 tax season. Montana Credit Unions for Community Development is the charitable arm of the Montana Credit Union Network.

Idaho league announces awards new board chair

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BOISE, Idaho (5/11/10)--The Idaho Credit Union League announced the recipients of its volunteer and professional of the year awards, and its new board chair during the league’s 74th annual meeting in Coeur d’Alene last week. Chris Martson, board member of Potlatch No. 1 FCU, Lewiston, won the league's 2009 Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award. He has worked for Potlatch Corp./Clearwater Paper for 33 years, and has served on the credit union’s board for the past 26 years. He also chaired the board for eight years. Brad Swartzentruber, president/CEO of Northwest Christian CU in Nampa and Boise, was named the 2009 Outstanding Credit Union Professional of the Year. He became CEO at Northwest Christian CU in 1999 and has worked in the credit union movement for 19 years. Swartzentruber also is vice president of the board of directors for the Southwest Chapter of Credit Unions in Idaho. Denay Moles, CEO, Idadiv CU, Nampa, was elected board chair. Former chair Glenda Hart, CEO of Latah FCU, Moscow, completed her one-year term and is preparing for her retirement. Moles has been CEO of Idadiv CU since 2002 and has been employed by the credit union since 1979. She has served on the board for the past four years and also has served as its secretary/treasurer. She was elected during the Idaho league's annual meeting.

Maine league Auto dealer yanks ad misrepresenting CUs

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AUGUSTA, Maine (5/11/10)--An auto dealer’s unauthorized ad insert that misrepresented some Maine credit unions and ran in several editions of the Portland Press Herald last week will no longer run, according to the dealer’s attorney. The ad for Yankee Ford in South Portland, Maine, had a lead headline that said in bold print, “ATTENTION ALL CREDIT UNION MEMBERS,” said the Maine Credit Union League. The ad implied that 0% financing options were available at 12 credit unions it listed without obtaining authorization to use their names. It also made several mistakes, including misspelling of TruChoice FCU--listed as True Choice. The ad listed cPort CU twice--once as Seaport--and two other credit unions that have limited or no operations in Maine--Navy FCU and GTE FCU. The ad had solicited a quick rebuke from the Maine league and the Maine Bureau of Financial Institutions. “The Maine league got a response Friday from the Yankee Ford attorney, and he said the dealership would cease the practice of running unauthorized ads,” Jon Paradise, league manager of governmental and public affairs, told News Now. After conferring with the credit unions listed in the ad, the league found that none had approved the use of their names or inclusion in the ad, according to league president John Murphy. “The credit union brand and reputation was not only misrepresented but was done so in a misleading manner that attempts to capitalize on the strong and positive image of credit unions without their permission,” Murphy said. “With a nearly half a million dollars committed to our statewide awareness campaign this year, the league and member credit unions have made a significant investment in the credit union brand so we certainly have an obligation to protect these types of unauthorized actions.” In a letter to the owner of the dealership, the league's counsel, Rod Rovzar, wrote: “Your ad is violative of both state and federal (Lanham Act) law. The ad falsely represents an association, and at a minimum gives the public the perception of an association between Yankee Ford and the named credit unions and moreover, it falsely suggests that the credit unions have approved of their inclusion in the piece. The ad is an unfair (deceptive) trade practice.” Rovzar noted that several credit unions had received calls from members asking for the 0% financing. “This caused unnecessary confusion and embarrassment to the credit unions.” The ad also got the attention of the Bureau of Financial Institutions as a violation of Reg. Z “as terms were not actually at all creditors listed and of a new Maine Law that prohibits the unauthorized/deceptive use of financial institutions’ names by non-financial institution entities.” The bureau also sent a letter expressing its concerns to the dealership, the league said.

WOCCU teaches lobbying in Lat. America Caribbean

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PANAMA CITY, Panama (5/11/10)--Executives from the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), the Iowa Credit Union League (ICUL) and the Credit Union Association of New York (CUANY) combined efforts earlier this month to bring lessons in effective lobbying to credit union and association executives and volunteers from eight Latin American and Caribbean countries.
Click to view larger image Effective lobbying requires one voice, said Brian Branch, left, World Council of Credit Unions’ executive vice president and chief operating officer. Branch and Patrick Jury (right), Iowa Credit Union League president/CEO, offered counsel to Hector Cordova, CEO of FEDECACES, El Salvador’s credit union trade association.
“Your lobbying success will hinge on presenting a single message in a unified voice that represents the goals of all credit unions in your country,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer, to 55 participants in the two-day Panama Advocacy and Lobby Training workshop in Panama City. “By following a ‘one message, one voice’ strategy, your credit unions will demonstrate both a strength and solidarity that will make a positive impression on lawmakers and illustrate your commitment and capability to serve your members.” Seminar participants learned to build coalitions and marshal grassroots support for credit union issues, and how to craft and present an effective message that emphasizes key benefits of credit union development. Presenters also offered case studies of effective lobbying efforts in the U.S. to participants, who represented credit unions and their organizations in Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama and Puerto Rico. “Through our WOCCU Panama partnership, we’ve come to realize that lobbying and regulatory challenges facing credit unions in Panama
Click to view larger image “Credit Unions Are Here to Serve YOU” was the headline of the first industry-wide advertisement for Latin American and Caribbean credit unions in La Prensa, Panama’s daily newspaper.
are common among Latin American countries,” said Patrick S. Jury, president/CEO of ICUL, which maintains a relationship with Panama’s credit union trade group, Corporación Fondo de Estabilización y Garantía de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito de Panamá, R.L. (COFEP), through WOCCU’s International Partnerships Program. “This inaugural Latin American lobbying conference allowed us to focus on common public policy issues that can improve the financial lives of credit union members.” ICUL also joined COFEP and WOCCU to purchase the first industry-wide ad to appear on behalf of Panama’s credit unions in La Prensa, the country’s daily newspaper, which was published during the seminar. The ad’s headline - “Credit Unions are here to serve YOU”--characterized the “one message, one voice” concept and illustrated the effectiveness of simplicity in reaching out to Panama’s consumers nationwide. Special consideration was given to the importance of ethical lobbying practices, since such efforts are not regulated by law in most Latin American countries to the degree they are in the U.S.
Click to view larger image Participants of the two-day Panama Advocacy and Lobby Training workshop in Panama City, Panama, read an ad touting credit unions in the nation’s newspaper, La Prensa. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
Participants also were presented with specific credit union scenarios and asked to design personalized lobbying initiatives to overcome the challenges in their countries. A panel of presenter-judges, including Mike Lanotte, CUANY senior vice president and general counsel, critiqued the proposed initiatives, noting strengths and weaknesses in individual plans. “There was a real need and genuine interest in creating a credit union advocacy program among the countries that participated,” said Lanotte, whose league maintains a relationship with Puerto Rico’s credit unions. The workshop opened with a presentation on the challenges facing cooperatives overall by Ana Giselle de Vallarino, director of the Panama Cooperative Institute. Representatives from several participating countries asked for similar presentations that would help bring the advocacy message to their credit unions, and these requests are currently being considered.

CU System briefs (05/10/2010)

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* PANAMA CITY, Fla. (5/11/10)--Bay CU, based in Panama City, is suing two men who were accused of robbing the credit union, as well as the Springfield, Fla., Police Department, to recover some of the loot confiscated during the men's arrest (The News Herald May 8). Among the items found during the arrest was about $25,000 in cash. The criminal robbery charges against Freddy Thomas and Darrell Grady were dropped when DNA evidence in the case did not conclusively prove it was Thomas who robbed the credit union's Springfield branch in December and January. A criminal case requires that prosecutors prove a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A civil case requires only a "preponderance of the evidence" to prove guilt. The police department is named in the suit because it is the location where the money is being held, said the newspaper ... * KANSAS CITY, Mo. (5/11/10)--A former branch manager at Media First CU (now First Financial CU in Jefferson City, Mo.) pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to embezzling about $400,000 from the credit union, said the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri. Joyce Buchanan, 55, of Kansas City is charged with theft from a credit institution and bank fraud. The credit union served employees of The Kansas City Star and is located in Kansas City, Mo. She admitted that she embezzled $198,553 by making false loans from Dec. 9, 2002, to Jan. 16, 2007. She faces up to 60 years in federal prison, plus a fine of up to $2 million. The sentencing date is pending a pre-sentence investigation, said the press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri (Targeted News Service May 7) ... * ROCKVILLE, Md. (5/11/10)--Rockville, Md.-based MCT FCU donated $2,500 toward the annual closing cost award given by the Affordable Housing Conference of Montgomery County as part of its "Break the Barrier to Home Ownership" contest. Three residents in the county received a total of $22,500 to help them purchase their first home at the 19th annual Affordable Housing Summit on May 3. MCT's donation directly benefited Ana Bolanos, left, an administrative support specialist with NIST-Department of Commerce in Germantown, shown here with her daughters, and Lise Tracey, executive director of Affordable Housing Conference. The contest asked applicants to state in 200 words or less what homeownership means to them. More than 100 people applied for the award this year. "Helping a local resident achieve her dream of homeownership aligns with MCT's values of supporting our local community and helping local residents and our members achieve financial success," said Robin Bates, MCT vice president of lending. (Photo provided by MCT FCU) ... * TORRINGTON, Conn. (5/11/10)--The Credit Union League of Connecticut partnered with the Leadership NW Group through the Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce for a Financial Reality Fair May 5. The fair allows high schoolers to experience the reality of living on their own as young adults and being responsible for their own living expenses. More than 300 students from 12 high schools attended. Twelve Connecticut credit unions participated, providing 30 volunteers to manage the booths with 60 Chamber member volunteers. The Reality Fair is a REAL Solutions program through the National Credit Union Foundation. Students moved from table to table trying to figure the best deal for the least cost to come in under their projected monthly budget. A Wheel of Reality randomly doled out windfalls or unexpected expenses. In the photo, a student found the right car within her budget. (Photo provided by the Credit Union League of Connecticut) ...

Quirky signs help member win C-Note photo contest

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MADISON, Wis. (5/11/10)--An Oklahoma teenager’s eye for quirky ambiguity led to a $100 win in the most recent C-Note national youth photo contest, which sought examples of funny signs. The contest was hosted by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).
Cody C., 15, a member of Tinker FCU, Oklahoma City, won the Credit Union National Association’s C-Note’s most recent photo contest, which sought images of funny signs. Cody won $100. (Photo provided by CUNA)
Cody C., 15, a member of Tinker FCU in Oklahoma City, photographed a road sign that said, “Lodging: Next Right” with another sign for “State Prison” underneath. Cody’s take on the suggested accommodation was, “Hey, let’s stay at the jail! Sounds like fun!” Credit union members age 13 to 19 can participate in the photo contest. Winners are chosen by online votes. Participants can submit their photos to the themed contests year-round to compete for $100, and at the end of the year, winners compete for a $1,000 grand prize. C-Note is a part of CUNA’s Googolplex, which offers three customizable website for youth with interactive games, videos and stories that deal with money matters and life issues. Each site is intended for a specific age group--5-spot for elementary school-aged children; A-J’s for middle-school aged children, and C-Note for high schoolers. For more information, use the links.