BOISE — After a contentious election last month that resulted in a turnover of nearly half its board of directors, the North End Neighborhood Association has yet to certify the results, and neighbors remain locked in conflict over future leadership of the largest neighborhood association in Boise.
Three members of the 11-person board of directors, who either were voted out last month or appeared to resign, remained on the board Tuesday during a monthly meeting that would have seen a transition to newly elected board members. Instead, as the newly elected members watched from the sidelines, the current board chose to hold-off on ratifying the results until a special meeting, led by a professional mediator, reconciles the bitter debate.
The North End Neighborhood Association (NENA) is a nonprofit organization that represents Boise’s North End, a historic neighborhood with more than 10,000 residents. Among other projects, NENA’s board of directors is responsible for planning the Hyde Park Street Fair — an event that drew tens of thousands to the North End, pre-pandemic. NENA also submits opinions on city and county government affairs that impact North End residents.
On Oct. 27, the NENA board of directors held its annual meeting and election, in which six seats — three vacant — were up for grabs. Just one incumbent, Tory Spengler, was reelected, and five newcomers — Carlos Coto, Sitka Koloski, Chrystal Allen and siblings Sarah and Daniel Foregger — won seats.
More than 100 people attended the annual meeting and cast votes, which marked a spike in participation compared to previous elections, according to several board members.
Ahead of the October election, several issues caused a schism among North End neighbors and sparked a renewed interest in the board's activities. Among the disputes was a proposal to host events at a historic church managed by the Treasure Valley Institute for Children’s Arts (TRICA).
The NENA board supported the plans, but some neighbors opposed the idea due to parking concerns. Another clash involved Franklin House, a North End bed and breakfast that was operating an unpermitted tavern. Additionally, a yearslong debate over what to do with a vacant lot, known as Block 75, owned by Cathedral of the Rockies, resurfaced in the last year.
Newly elected board members, including Coto and Sarah Foregger, told the Idaho Press they were frustrated by the lack of outreach and transparency by the board on those contentious issues.
"NENA has done a poor job collecting the community's sentiment or informing the community," Foregger said. "If you're getting special consideration (from the city), and you aren't truly representing the neighborhood, that's problematic."
Those opposed to the election results say the insurgency of new members has an agenda related to TRICA, Block 75 and Franklin House, in part because several of them live near the contentious properties.
Ahead of Tuesday's meeting, more than 150 people had signed a petition asking the board to hold a special meeting to invalidate the election results. The petition alleges the new members were "not fairly or honestly elected, do not share the values of the North End neighborhood, and would not appropriately represent the neighborhood at large."
"They have a documented agenda that is self-serving (see: TRICA, Block 75)," it says. "Instead, we believe that board members should be elected based on their experience, qualifications, prior volunteer history, and dedication to the good of the entire neighborhood."
Kate Henwood, a NENA member but not a board member, on Tuesday spoke in support of the petition. She accused the newly elected members of spreading misinformation and conspiring to take over the board by running as a slate.
Flyers posted in the North End leading up to the election urged NENA members to vote 'no' for all incumbents except Spengler and vote 'yes' for Spengler, Coto, Sarah Marang (Coto's wife, who was not elected) and Sarah and Daniel Foregger. Another flyer claimed the city of Boise was investigating the controversial election format, which was not true, according to city officials.
"Yes, there was an election and this group begot the winning votes," Henwood said. "They campaigned and organized and recruited; all things that are technically allowed. But just because you are technically allowed to do things a certain way doesn't mean it's the right or ethical way."
During Tuesday's meeting, held virtually, board member John Llewellyn, who was not up for reelection in October, urged the board to recognize the petition to hold a special meeting and table certification of the election until then. NENA bylaws require the board recognize special meeting requests signed by at least 100 North End residents.
Fellow board member Ann Hausrath, who also was not up for reelection this year, moved to certify the election results prior to the special meeting, but she did not receive a second from an active board member. Who is recognized as an active board member currently is a point of contention, as political maneuvering during and prior to the election led to several resignations.
The special meeting will be held on Dec. 13 at a time to be determined. Thomas Banducci of Banducci Mediation and Consulting will lead the meeting.
As NENA attempts to resolve its conflict, one resident, James Bailey, hopes the debate will result in the board facilitating a more "robust" process for engaging the community in the future.
"If we come out of this with a better process, the North End will be stronger as a result of that," Bailey said.