In my September 1, 2022 report I told of the multiple meetings I’ve had with several of our members, potential attorneys and the bank we’ve done business with since 1988. In the report I asked for questions from the membership from which I could put together a question and answer section that would be easy to read and understand. I asked the questions be sent to me by September 15, 2022. I want to thank everyone for their questions and comments via emails and phone calls. I truly appreciate the overwhelming response and concerns expressed about the future of the CCRA.
I have been reflecting on the various communications I have received and how best to respond. My original thought of doing a question and answer sheet doesn’t capture the whole story of what has been happening with the CCRA. I’m not into responding in kind to flame messages since it would be unproductive and not be representative of who I am as a person.
There are at least two sides to every story and this is my version of what has happened over the last several months. I will try to be brief so let us begin…
Most of you are aware of my brush with death after my emergency subdural hematoma operation on February 3, 2021. It took several months to fully recover and led to my retirement from Public Safety engineering management and communications which I loved doing professionally. On the ham radio side I was offered and accepted the help from several CCRA members. I have noted this in an earlier writing when I wrote, “During my recovery I was blessed by the support I received from members of the CCRA leadership group, N6KLS, K6JPR, KA6TZU, WA6JAU, WA6EKS, and KD6RDD to name a few.” I still feel this way today.
I took stock of my own mortality and began putting my retirement years in order. During this process I discovered that back in 1988 I had tied my personal finances to the CCRA while establishing business accounts for the CCRA. This problem lay dormant until I began working on my revocable trust in 2022. My interest was to “decouple” my personal finances from the group finances. I made this known to members of the board.
In listening to discussions on the repeater I’ve heard confusion as to what was meant by the term “decoupling”. It never meant that I wanted to sever my connection to the CCRA after 45 years especially as one of the founding members and Repeater Trustee. The decoupling only applied to the intertwined personal and CCRA group finances. I plan on continuing as Trustee and Licensee of the Contra Costa Repeater Association repeaters. I would be honored to have the repeaters continue to operate under my callsign and be converted to a club license after I die or move out of the state. I hope both of these options are in the distant future.
Over the last several months a lot of questions have surfaced regarding the CCRA and how it is run. The CCRA is not incorporated and is not a legal entity. In 2010 the CCRA Bylaws were drafted and later approved by the members in 2011. The bylaw describes the Repeater Trustee position as a lifetime appointment that must maintain full member status, plan and preside over all technical committee meetings or may designate this to the Technical Lead. Trevor, WA6JAU is the Technical Lead. “With the exception of Repeater Trustee, Officers shall be elected by a vote of members present in person at the regular meeting of members held in November.”
The Bylaws by no means was a finished product and has gone through at least 12 revisions during the last 11 years. The ability of the Board to follow the bylaws was done in a haphazard way with the executive board and officer elections being done when convenient and not per the bylaws stated time of November. This practice of the CCRA Board to operate informally was standard operating procedure.
During the first quarter of 2022, Diana Sage, our Treasurer, determined that a bank card would make her duties easier by remotely accessing the CCRA funds and making deposits. She was unable to gain access to the account due to being unable to figure out how to use the bank security access system. As the primary point of contact and originator of the bank account I was contacted by the bank and after an hour of working with both Diana and her husband and Vice-chair Brad, K6JPR made it possible for them to access the account. Within a few hours of getting them squared away I then set up an email address so members of the Board could access the same electronic banking system per the bylaws. Diana objected to having anyone but herself having access to the bank card access and immediately changed passwords and locked out access to the electronic banking account to everyone but herself. I had multiple phone calls with the Sage’s and they refused to make the electronic banking account available. I called and wrote to Vicki, N6KLS our Chairman. She didn’t return any of my calls or respond to my emails. After a week of this inaction by these board members I took action to secure the CCRA funds by cancelling the bank card and removing Vicki, Brad and Diana from the signature card. I did this as the primary point of contact and originator of the bank account and as Trustee. I instructed the bank to freeze the account until further notice.
My expectation was Vicki would finally return my call and we could proceed to a closed board meeting. A closed board meeting is a standard method utilized by boards to sort out differences between board members personnel issues and other legal concerns. Vicki took the opposite approach. She didn’t do her due diligence as Chair of the group by returning my calls to find out what I was up to. Instead, she immediately put out an email to all members accusing me of embezzlement and notified the bank of my supposed transgression.
The bank and only the bank did call me. I provided the bank their paperwork establishing my legal rights to the account and after review they concurred with my position. I want to stress to the membership I have never considered or used the funds in this account as my own. The only time I accessed the account was to repay myself for expenditures I made for the group or to pay group bills. All of the receipts were provided and recorded. There was one other area of this part of the story the bank was interested in and that had to do with the issuance of the bank card. There was concern that a debit card had been issued to an account that had no legal entity other than a tax ID number. I had a few additional discussions with the bank regarding the debit card issuance and their possible need to report this back to their fraud group. I’ve heard nothing back from them and believe they have closed their case.
Vicki, Brad and Diana still seem clueless to the legal liability that they exposed the CCRA and me to the banking system. They persist in spreading wild allegations about what happened. I have shared their writings with legal counsel and they referred to what has been written by them as “bat shit crazy”. The legal team seemed amused.
Vicki, N6KLS and I have known each other for at least 30 years. We’ve shared family celebrations and dealt with the death of loved ones together. Recently I’ve stayed with Vicki and Tom while passing through Kingman, Arizona and we have talked about taking them on a side trip around Arizona where I grew up. As to Brad, K6JPR and Diana, KA6TZU I have had the pleasure of spending hours on the phone with them on multiple occasions trying to explain to them how to use Microsoft Excel to run CCRA spreadsheets. I could hear them coaching each other in the background of the call and not getting anywhere fast. I don’t think they ever figured out how to enter the membership data since I ended up doing it myself.
Brad, K6JPR issued on September 11th a rather disjointed summary of what he has been doing in the name of the CCRA board. Apparently he has applied for a Contra Costa Repeater Association club call of KN6VQJ and set himself up as Trustee. He has applied for the Vanity callsign of N6TPR. He probably should reread the rules regarding making false representations and statements to the FCC.
Brad does talk about filings with the IRS and setbacks he has experienced in establishing a not for profit. If you carefully read what he has written in his posting and previous posting you will clearly see why he has been unsuccessful in this effort. He doesn’t know how to properly respond to the IRS qualifying statements. If you look at his September 5th posting you will find him questioning the need for incorporation. Vicki and Brad seem conflicted and appear to be inflicted by the “Not Invented Here Syndrome”.
In reviewing Vicki and Brad’s posts you will find they make several references to CCRA funds and refer to monies they have provided to the group. As you might recall during the summer of 2020 the VHF repeater at Kregor Peak had failed after 20 plus years of service. Vicki and the Sage’s provided a generous financial gift to the group for the purchase of the replacement repeater and wanted to remain anonymous. After 2 years I believe they now regret their financial gift and would like to have their money returned. If that is what they want I fully support returning the money they provided.
Vicki and Brad do not understand that running a repeater system is an all-encompassing technical effort that takes tens of thousands of hours to design, construct, maintain and rebuild. I have repeatedly explained that the CCRA is run by a technologist group called the Technical Committee and led by the Trustee or someone appointed by the Trustee. This is spelled out in the Bylaws. The repeater system is not a single repeater but rather a network of repeaters interfaced over a digital system financially supported by a user group. The “Board’s” purpose was to handle the social and administrative aspect of the group and nothing more.
Many of the member questions revolved around personalities and conflicts between the CCRA Board. In many ways this period of time has turned into quite the drama for the CCRA members to watch unfold. In talking with the user group they are embarrassed by the personal attacks and do not want to be drawn into the mean spirited conflict. I agree with the general assessment and have tried to refrain from publicly making statements or being drawn into an argument with other board members. Personally I’m embarrassed by this situation and am very concerned for the survival of the CCRA.
Craig, KD6RDD asked the following two questions.
Question: After the creation of this new entity will all the repeaters, antennas, echo link, and other currently owned CCRA assists be the property of the new entity? Is there any remaining interest in this equipment from the other 3 estates?
When the four founders began the repeater system we agreed to pool our financial resources and in the event any one of use would leave, whatever was put into the repeater would stay with the group. When Peter, WA6WVH went off to school, he left what he had contributed. I still talk to Peter and he has no interest in making claim to something he did 30 plus years ago. The same goes for Louis, WA6OCZ and Brad, WA6AEO who agreed with this practice at that time and are now Silent Keys. Being the last of the four who are active, I see no reason to alter our original agreement. Per my preliminary discussions with the incorporation attorney, he would prepare legal documents covering the transfer of property to the CCRA as a not for profit corporation. My interest is to see the CCRA continue under a new generation of younger hams and work with them to learn how to manage, maintain and rebuild the repeater system for many years to come.
Question: Is there any paperwork on the repeater sites? How will the transfer of the entity affect the right of the club to keep the repeaters on these sites? Will the county be able to adjust to this change without re-assesing the value of keeping the repeaters on their sites?
Two of the three repeaters are located in open racks and accessible to anyone working at the public safety radio site. While we could keep paperwork at the repeaters at the site we prefer to keep records off site. Trevor and I keep notes of our visits and often find ourselves trying to remember where we left the documentation from an earlier visit of a year or two ago. Some of the equipment, like the repeaters themselves, was preprogrammed by the vendor we bought it from. We didn’t want to buy the extra software or hardware needed to program a statically configured radio. Many of the manuals exist as PDF’s and we refer to them when needed. As to how we interfaced the RF, controllers and antenna systems we have system block diagrams to refer to when needed. Could we have done a better job at documentation? I know we could but this worked for us… Trevor and I are committed to training the next generation on the repeater network.
The second part of your question is difficult to answer. I can tell you that in the decades we have worked with the County we have never caused or given them reason to remove us from the sites. In the letter of understanding that was signed years ago they always had the option to remove our equipment at a moment’s notice. We have access to these sites and operate from them at the County’s pleasure. I believe we have been able to continue this relationship since Trevor and I are vetted technical people who have worked with the County for many years. Those of us who maintain the repeater system are known persons and have passed needed security clearances to access the high security radio sites. It will take time to bring the new technical committee members up to speed to understand and maintain the repeater system. Part of their training will also require them to be introduced to the Technical management of the County and work with them in the future.
Having worked in the public safety communications field for a couple of decades I would like to think I understand where the County is coming from in dealing with the CCRA. There are many stories on the public safety side about the “hams” and misdeeds that have occurred over the years. Public safety is skeptical of amateur radio being able to work within the world of law enforcement. The amateur community has lost the use of government radio sites and has had ancillary government programs discontinued. My analysis is if we don’t incorporate we will be on borrowed time with the future use of the County repeater sites.
Next question comes from a member who will remain anonymous. “Who are you to embezzle our money and then demand we spend it for incorporation.”
I know I’ve already answered this question so I’ll pass on this circular argument and answer the question in this way. In my previous writings I’ve gone over the history of the CCRA and explained my role of Trustee which is a lifetime appointment by the group. I have done my best to explain the situation we are in and recommended a course of action to incorporate using a legal firm that specializes in the not for profit corporation work. Several members have contacted me and volunteered to work with me to incorporate the group. This is a good start. I see my role as the point person of the effort and will help others do their part to get the CCRA established as a not for profit corporation.
It is time for the 42 members of the CCRA to decide the future of the CCRA. The question is do we spend the money to incorporate or not. I strongly encourage you to make a decision and send me an email regarding your decision by September 30, 2022.