Fresno County Sportsmen's Club dissidents vote out board

But president says vote won't count

The Fresno BeeMarch 18, 2014 

Disgruntled members of the Fresno County Sportsmen's Club met Tuesday night at Valley Oak Elementary School to vote out the club's longtime leaders and take control of the organization's board.

But longtime president Douglas Bowman said later the dissidents had no authority to make such changes.

Tuesday's meeting was the latest clash in a long-simmering dispute between factions over how the club is run -- and who should run it.

At stake is the club's 13-acre spread along the San Joaquin River near Woodward Park and the revenue promoted by weddings, fundraisers and private parties.

The leader of the dissidents, Steve Starcher, 61, of Fresno, called the meeting in an effort to banish the current president and board of directors, who he claims are destroying the club.

"We want to be peacemakers. We want to be healers," Starcher said. "We want the club to move forward."

The Sportsmen's Club has about 350 to 375 members. Starcher said more than 200 members called for the meeting, but only about 80 showed up Tuesday night. Those who did show voted to oust Bowman and his board members, and make Starcher the new president with a new board.

Members at the meeting also voted to reinstate four members -- Starcher was one of them -- who were expelled from the club.

Starcher said the newly elected board of directors is not permanent, and members will be able to vote again in 90 days. This way, he said, members have the chance to get to know the new board before finalizing their decision.

Starcher said it is important to vote again because he wants members to know they have a voice, and that it is OK to speak out against something they disagree with.

"This club had a practice of expelling members who disagreed with them," Starcher said. "Disagreement is a good thing. You learn from disagreement. Whenever you have a community, whenever you have a family you will disagree. We need to learn as a community to disagree agreeably."

But Bowman said Starcher has no authority to make any changes to the club's leadership. The existing board remains in place, he said.

"They can have all the meetings they want," Bowman said. "They don't mean anything to us."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6015 or asasaki@fresnobee.com.

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