Houston Durga Bari Society General Body Meeting. 7/15/12. Attendees. 110 Attendees Sign In sheets attached at end All attendees are confirmed general members from active member roster. Agenda Items.
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Aurko apprises everyone that there will be ample discussion and that everyone will have a chance to speak who wishes to speak
Aurko explains that we will have 2 minutes each for comments and opens up the floor
BikashGhosh says that he was subpoenaed by Mukerji’s lawyer. Aurko’s attorney submitted a motion to quash and set up a date for hearing. Following that, the lawyer sent a threatening letter that not honoring the subpoenaes would result in being sent to jail. Lists all subpoenaed parties including Ganesh Mandal, Tukun Sarkar, ShilpiSaha, MrinalSengupta, and UdayMukhopadhyay.
Defers to UdayMukhopadhyay
UdayMukhopadhyay says that he was instructed to appear in court on July 9th. His lawyer tried to reach out to SantoshMukerji’s lawyer to no response. Uday M appeared in court and was told that his presence was unnecessary. He says that that is harassment, and that future volunteers need to be protected from these legal proceedings.
Nirmalya R explains that when the mandir was closed, a petition was passed around to re-open the temple, which he signed. SantoshMukerji called his home and asked his wife if Nirmalya wanted to go to court for his actions. He requests that regular volunteers be protected from these kinds of threats so that we can maintain our volunteer commitment, which is critical to our community’s success
SubrotoGangopadhyay explains that the fundamental problem is that HDBS is the plaintiff of record and therefore all strategies to win a legal battle would seem valid. Asks if anybody knows of any voted upon resolution that authorized SantoshMukerji and Champak Sadhu to take legal action on behalf. of HDBS .Nobody raises their hand.
He tables Motion to proclaim that there has been no voted upon resolution by HDBS ,EB, CT and GBM to authorize SantoshMukerji and Champak Sadhu to recruit attorneys, initiate and continue litigation on behalf of HDBS.
Second by Neeta Shetkar
Shaymal Bhattacharya asks if the elected EB still exists. Aurko says that we will address this later.
SusubhanGhoshasks if SantoshMukerji’s email nullifies this meeting. Aurko refers to counter-email sent by interim EB president Alak Ray and says that we will address this later.
AnandaChatterjee affirms there was no official recorded HDBS decision to take this legal action
Tapan Das affirms that there was no decision to take this action, but does not understand the intent of the motion
SubrotoGangopadhyay says that he would like to respond
1.) that this has been an over-reach of executive power by SantoshMukerji, the former president
2.) HDBS violated its own members First amendment right to practice faith by closing its own temple without just cause
3) It violated tradition by interrupting worship of a ritually established Deity without just cause
(It was shown in court that there was no just cause for Temple closure on Safety Grounds)
4.) Denigrated the credibility of HDBS by initiating legal action to close it’s own Temple
5) Exposed the HDBS to open ended litigation and unqualified expenses
Opposed: None. Abstaining: None.
All members voted for the motion. All raise hands in favor of the motion.
Motion passes unanimously.
Abhjit Bhattacharya asks what this resolution means.
AsokDey Sarkar explains that we need to set the record straight for the purposes of the court proceedings
Subroto Gangopadhyay raises a motion that the General Body instruct SantoshMukerji and Champak Sadhu to immediately cease all litigation on behalf of HDBS
Seconded by NagrajEleswarapu
ShibaniHaldar says that misrepresentation by SantoshMukerji should be reprimanded by the community as a whole for the sake of future generations.
NagrajEleswarapuasks if we can remove Santosh M from presidency
Alak Ray says that with 5 of the 6 officers resigned, the previous EB is dissolved, and per the constitution, the CT has established an interim board as a legitimate governing board
ParthaChatterjee declares that no volunteer should be subjected to payment of damages for their volunteer work. And that governance of Durga Bari needs to immediately decide (1. how will expenses be addressed? 2.) how will election be held l?
Certain Members ask how it is possible that this illegitimate president can act as EB president and continue this litigation
AsokeDey Sarkar responds that there is unfortunately no easy way to have this case dismissed, but we need to take legal action to counteract it
NagrajEleswarapu says that HDBS should not be liable for the legal fees of the plaintiff’s actions
BikashGhosh says that we need to set the record straight that HDBS is not the plaintiff in this case
Abhijit Bhattacharya wants to make sure we are simply resolving the involvement of HDBS in the legal proceedings.
Tapan Das wants to clarify that the second motion is to cease litigation on HDBS’s behalf
Raja Roy asks how we can stop a litigation process
Aurko says that the case says HDBS vsAurkoDutta.
SubrotoGangopadhyay says that that HDBS name cannot be removed without legal counsel.
He also moves a motion : If the request to Cease litigation on behalf of HDBS is not heeded, then HDBS resolves to use all means available to clear the record
Opposed: none: Abstained: none
In favor: all raise their hands
ParthaChatterjee says that there are certain processes of approving funds, regardless of legal proceedings
AurkoDutta wants to count the yes votes of the previous motion. Counts 98 yes votes.
Bhajen Barman responds to the question about the validity of this meeting based on SantoshMukerji’s email by declaring that the meeting is valid. Asks how financial commitments of HDBS are being met.
AsokeDey Sarkar says that we need to proceed logically in defending ourselves from any further legal proceedings.
SubrotoGangopadhyaysays that SantoshMukerji and Champak Sadhu need to know the will of the people. Brings motion to create HDBS legal fund which can be utilized, in accordance to the Constitution, to deal with current and future litigation and to protect its members.
Tutu M explains that the donation to the legal fund is a charitable donation
SanchaliBasu asks if we already have a legal fund.
Aurko says that there is an insurance policy in HDBS’ name, but he is not sure if he qualifies as beneficiary.
BikashGhosh asks if we should consider instituting an official legal counsel
Tapan Das asks if instead of a separate legal fund, HDBS may indemnify its agents (officers, volunteers) within their defined responsibilities.
SubrotoGangopadhyaysays that the legal funds will be distributed according to the constitution
Alak Ray affirms that we have a constitutional process to spend any money.
AnandaChatterjee says that according to the constitution a 10,000 can be approved by EB, $25,000 with EB and CT approval and upwards of that with GB approval.
ParthaChatterjee says that everything will require approval in accordance with the constitution
Alak Ray declares that we are trying to address a crisis.
Tapan Das asks if anyone can ask for the funds.
Abhijit Bhattacharya asks if both sides can ask for the legal funds.
SubrotoGangopadhyaysays that both sides can ask, but it is up to Constitutional due process to determine if funds will be provided to a requesting party
Bhajen Barman asks if volunteers includes non-members
All opposed: none. Abstaining: none
In favor: All (96 members). Motion passes unanimously.
BikashGhosh brings forth a motion that HDBS has to take action to correct the official record legally that it is not/was never/and will not be the plaintiff in the ongoing legal proceedings against AurkoDutta in District Court 129.
Aurko says that he is the one best suited to update everyone, although he would rather someone else address these issues.
Salil Sarkar points out that all HDBS assets have been frozen and we need to have them unfrozen.
Aurko explains that the TRO against him expired, and the re-opening of the temple was allowed. The plaintiff’s side failed to prove that the temple was an imminent threat, and the injunction against Aurko was not granted. Furthermore, the engineering reports were changed several times. Judge agreed that the CT needs to carry out the wishes of the GBM. In the July 9th hearing, the judge denied the plaintiff’s injunction requests.. SantoshMukerji says that since he has the keys, everyone needs to go through him to access HDBS. This is patently false. The court has not issued any injunction or order pertaining to the operation of HDBS in any way. No one needs SantoshMukerji’s permission for access to the facilities. The Judge has ordered court appointed mediation which will be expensive
Outside of court, SantoshMukerji has effected the following:
SantoshMukerji’s attorneys have disputed the signatories on the bank accounts and HDBS’ bank has therefore frozen all accounts.
Some remnants of the EB elected in 2010 have allegedly tried to constitute a new board of 15 members, all of whose members have been kept secret. Furthermore, they are rumored to have created a shadow account which is funding their own decisions.
SouvikGhosh asks how the legal funds can be accessed if the bank has frozen all accounts.
Salil Sarkar raises motion to instruct SantoshMukerji to instruct his lawyers to instruct the bank to unfreeze HDBS’ bank accounts immediately.
BikashGhosh says that Property insurance is about to expire
ParthaChatterjee says that we need a list of all expenses which need to be paid for.
This motion is tabled in favor of a motion by SubrotoGangopadhyay
SubrotoGangopadhyay brings motion that the General Body validate the Interim EB (whose officers were elected by the Council of Trustees on June 10th and have already been announced) as the only valid EB which will govern the HDBS until it can organize a prompt election as per Section 6.9 of the Constitution. General Body is also confirming the Interim EB’s decision to ratify the decision of the previous EB to make UdayMukhopadhyay the chair of the Puja Committee of 2012/2013. The officers of the Interim EB are President: Alak Ray; Vice President: SubrotoGangopadhyay; Secretary: AsokeDey Sarkar; Asst. Secretary: Tapan Das; Treasurer: BarunTarafdar; Asst. Treasurer: Salil Sarkar.
SudipBandyopadhyay asks what happens if the SantoshMukerji “EB” has its own General Body Meeting.
SubrotoGangopadhyay says that there has been no due process or activity by the SantoshMukerji “EB” and there is nothing to indicate that this meeting is invalid.
Aurko emphasizes that the approach to calling this meeting was noticed to EVERYONE in the General Body
AnandaChatterjee says that only the CT chair can preside over a GBM, and that the interim EB is the only valid EB.
ShielaElesarapu asks if all checks are going into the frozen account. Based on information and belief, it seems that some checks may be being deposited into a separate bank account.
Nirmalya Roy emphasizes that the puja is coming and we are running out of time.
Seconded by SubirSaha
Opposed: None. Abstaining: Alak Ray and AsokeDey Sarkar
LalitaSen says that accountability is essential to funding, and the priest needs to disclose the source of his income.
Rita Rudra asks if the priest has received any pay since the freezing of the accounts.
Aurko says he was told that he was due one payment and that the payment was made, but the source was not disclosed on account of its being a sensitive matter.
ParthaChatterjee says if another meeting is called by the alleged “EB” led by SantoshMukerji, that everyone should attend, as well to voice their opinion, and that the members aligned with that alleged “EB” who did not attend today’s GBM should be apprised of the resolutions we have taken during this GBM
Several members mutter opposition to this based on the illegitimacy of the other alleged “EB”
ParthaChatterjee explains that there should be a communication to the alleged “EB” concerning these decision that were made in today’s GBM
Alak Ray says that the interim EB will consist of a full 15 members.
Aurko says that ParthaChatterjee should play an integral part in communicating these GBM decisions to SantoshMukerji’s alleged “EB” as he has already been named as a member of SantoshMukerji’s alleged “EB”, and yet ParthaChatterjee voted in favor of motions today which directly contradict the legitimacy of that “EB”. ParthaChatterjee agrees.
RapinderDutta wants to go back to discussing the financial matter. She asks why is asking a simple question to the priest regarding his check such a sensitive matter? If his feelings get hurt, can we not get another priest? Who has been collecting the donations from him and where are those collections being deposited?
RumaDey Sarkar says that it is all of our duty to put an end to this lawsuit. She says that she is tired of this soap opera which is causing too much stress to all of us, and she doesn’t understand why a priest is getting involved in gossiping and politics. We are all equally responsible for ending this lawsuit.
GouriMitra thought that the point of this meeting was to take the issue out of court.
BikashGhosh says that the IRS has to be provided details relating to the priest’s salary, and also a quarterly payment will be due soon.
Alak Ray feels that we have reached a point where the only resolution to get SantoshMukerji to drop the lawsuit is to hire legal counsel for HDBS.
SubirSaha says we should hire a lawyer to defend HDBS while coordinating with Aurko’s lawyer
AsokeDey Sarkar said he has approached an attorney who will represent HDBS. Lawyer costs a retainer of 15,000 USD
AsokeDey Sarkar further affirms that out of court settlement negotiations have broken down.
Aurko says that it seems what is most important to suing party is the composition of the EB, but the mechanism they are using is a lawsuit against Aurko, which he does not understand because he does not have the authority to approve their alleged “EB”. He expresses that this legal process has been torture for his family and has caused significant financial strain. He goes on to thank those who have helped him with this strain.
Collections were taken and a pledge sheet was handed out, and the money required for the lawyer’s retainer fees was raised at the meeting.
MrinalSengupta gives a vote a thanks to Aurko Dutta, which is applauded.