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The St Francis Xavier Credit Union struggle: Ex-General Manager to weigh in

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Posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2022. 8:07 am CST.

Photo Credit: Corozal Daily/Facebook

By Aaron Humes: The second-largest credit union in Belize and financial force in the North, St Francis Xavier Credit Union (SFXCU), has seen its internal struggle spill out into an ugly front-facing battle.

Members of the credit union sent out a press statement on May 9, announcing an Annual General Meeting (AGM) for May 29, or in the alternative a special general meeting to address “very urgent and important matters” including the election of new officers for the Board of Directors, Credit Committee and Supervisory Committee; discussion of the “illegal dismissal” of general manager Rafael Dominguez; alleged “unethical behavior by high-ranking officials,” the credit union’s standing and special resolutions. The press release noted that nearly two thousand members have signed a petition backing the meeting.

The current Board, headed by president Roy Smith, disowned the activity of the dissident members in its own release issued on May 11. It added that Dominguez’s five-year contract had expired and would not be renewed amid concerns about language within the contract and undescribed “issues” with Dominguez himself. It says Dominguez left without issue and an interim replacement was appointed. It called the claim of unethical behaviour “entirely baseless” and said the official AGM would be held on June 26.

The dissident side raised the stakes with a protest in front of the credit union’s offices on May 13.

But two days earlier, the Central Bank through Governor Kareem Michael, who is also designated Registrar of Credit Unions, issued a statement advising that the planned May 29 AGM was illegally called as under Section 26 of the Credit Unions Act only the Board of Directors shall hold, and himself call or direct the calling of any such meeting.

The release took note of the Dominguez dispute and “persistent unauthorized actions of some members of” SFXCU and reminded that members’ funds and financial stability are his objectives in shepherding the sector. He warned that he would “take decisive action in a situation where he deems that the well-being and interests of the members of a credit union are being compromised” and urged all parties to resolve the dispute.

Now Dominguez has spoken out, claiming the Board has delivered “glaring misrepresentations” in its April 26 and May 10 public releases. He insists he was dismissed by letter of April 20 – “[my services] are no longer required effective immediately” while time remained on his contract – and accused of leading SFXCU to an “economic crisis” and a “precarious state” of liquidity in justification of his termination and refusal to renew his contract.

Dominguez firmly denies the Board’s claims, insisting that in his decade-long run the credit union prospered and there were “no major problems.” He also insists that per the language of the contract, only members by resolution could back his removal, not the Board, and he notes that more than 2,000 members have backed his return.

Dominguez also stated that he supports the call for an immediate AGM and notes that the Board had an opportunity to call one in the middle of last year with support from the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

He claims that he was prevented by certain members of the Board from dismissing an employee for alleged embezzlement; then certain directors allegedly breached protocols on containing misappropriation after a second individual with ties to the Directors was alleged to be embezzling after the protocols were flouted.

Dominguez intends to meet the press on Wednesday to outline the position above.

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