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Round-Up warns stockholders about challenge to presidential nomination

Antonio Sierra

East Oregonian

Published on November 17, 2017 8:42PM

Last changed on November 17, 2017 9:23PM

Dave O’Neill

Dave O’Neill

On Tuesday, Pendleton Round-Up stockholders will convene at the Let’Er Buck Room for their annual meeting, where they will listen to a financial report, get updates on the rodeo’s future plans and elect a new president for the Round-Up Association Board of Directors.

The latter could be the most contentious item of the night.

Stockholders recently received a letter signed by all 17 directors stating the board’s intention to nominate Dave O’Neill — an eight-year director who left the board after the 2016 Round-Up — for board president.

“Unfortunately, we have recently been advised that several past directors intend to nominate a different candidate,” the directors wrote. “We are very concerned about this proposed action to circumvent the will of the board. There is no doubt this action would be divisive and destructive to the cohesiveness and cooperation on the board that currently exists, as well as to the effectiveness of the board in continuing the success of this organization. Moreover, we believe bringing this type of public disturbance to the association is not only unfair and unwarranted, but also detrimental to not only how it is viewed by the community, but also by its partners, vendors, rodeo peers, staff volunteers, and contestants. Lastly, it would certainly create division and resentment that would compromise our effectiveness to work with the past directors.”

Round-Up Publicity Director Randy Thomas said Friday that it’s not uncommon for stockholders to voice differing opinions.

“The great thing is that everybody is included,” he said.

But it isn’t common for a group of past directors to try to nominate someone against the board’s choice, Thomas said.

Thomas declined to name the group of past directors who are pushing the nomination and didn’t want to speculate as to who they would propose.

According to the Round-Up’s bylaws, the Round-Up president must have at least four years of director experience before they are nominated and ratified by the stockholders. If past directors do nominate an alternative to the board’s choice, it would have to be a former director.

Round-Up directors must retire from the board after eight years, creating a large pool of past directors. Several prominent past directors and board presidents interviewed said they had no direct knowledge of the board challenge.

Mike Thorne, a former director, said he had been traveling recently and was out of the loop while John Trumbo said he knew about the potential challenge but gave a similar answer.

“I’m out of the mix,” said Trumbo, a former Umatilla County sheriff. “I’m done with politics.”

Butch Thurman, the board president in 2007 and 2008, declined to comment, citing his seat on the Round-Up Foundation Board.

Thurman’s successor, Randy Severe, said he has also heard talk about the presidential nomination and couldn’t shed any light on the situation. But he did offer a statement.

“There’s a lot of tradition with the Round-Up,” he said. “Nothing about this is traditional.”

The board could have further broken with tradition if they had stuck with a plan to move up the annual meeting to August. But according to an Aug. 16 letter from the board of directors, the meeting was delayed until November after they consulted with past board presidents.

“We understand this will allow for more participation and attendance while enabling the directors to concentrate on their duties in preparation to the Round-Up,” the letter states.

In the letter asking stockholders to support O’Neill, the board wrote that they would also address concerns from “a few past directors” by having a presentation on the future of the Round-Up and the rodeo’s finances.

Thomas said the board has only been able to provide “highlights” during the past two meetings instead of a full financial report because the bookkeeper was unable to close the books for the previous rodeo by the time of the meeting. He added that the Round-Up has changed bookkeepers since then and will have a full report at the stockholder’s meeting.

Thomas said there will be a lot of positive financial information shared at the meeting, including figures that show sales on retail items, tickets and beverages were all up.

As the Round-Up goes for its third Best Large Outdoor Rodeo of the Year award in a row, the board will also share some of its expansion plans, like its partnership with Blue Mountain Community College to bring an indoor arena to the Round-Up grounds.


Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.


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