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Letter from Elliott Skinner

July 7, 2009


From Elliott Skinner

To Bob Gaines, Clerk


Dear Bob,


You have requested that I send you a letter expressing my thoughts on Incorporation. I am leaving tomorrow for seven weeks on the East Coast. I spoke yesterday with David Henkel. He leaves tomorrow for ten days in Ireland.

You recall that David Henkel and I, in our role as Trustees, wrote a letter to Ministry and Oversight requesting a meeting with Ministry and Oversight several years ago. We asked about personal liability of Trustees and the other officers of the Meeting. There was a lack of clarity on this matter. At the end of the meeting, the Clerk of Ministry and Oversight told us that we would receive a response.


Two years later, you shared with David Henkel and myself a letter from Ted Church, sent on January 31, 2008. Ted Church, explaining why Albuquerque Meeting incorporated on November 24, 1958, says the following: “Albuquerque Meeting is incorporated in order to protect the officers in the event of a suit or apprehension including the Meeting or its property …. It is my understanding that unincorporated groups, clubs, etc. are non-entities in the law with the result that their officers are held responsible for all offenses and questions in law.”


As you reported to me on Sunday, Incorporation shields officers from liability. It is an inexpensive and simple procedure. I believe strongly that it is not right for our Meeting to ask its “officers” who volunteer to care for various Meeting functions to assume personal responsibility for actions brought against our Meeting. These officers could be taken in a lawsuit to be Clerk of Meeting, Clerk of Ministry and Oversight, Trustees, Treasurer, and Convener of Buildings and Grounds. Perhaps, others, such as First Day School Committee and the Head of First Day School could be held liable, also.


Why should individuals who volunteer for various meeting functions be singled out? Liability should be a corporate responsibility. In my opinion, this is at the heart of Quaker values. This liability should be covered by insurance. Unanswered, or unclear, liability issues should be addressed promptly by our meeting.


I urge that our Meeting incur the expense of extending our insurance to adequately cover officers of the meeting until Incorporation is achieved. This should be done without delay. Even if the Meeting’s one million dollar liability covers “officers” (and I have heard conflicting opinions about this), David Henkel and I agree that this is not an adequate protection against liability suits.


I also suggest that Ted Church’s letter to you of January 31, 2008 and other relevant documents be made available to interested persons in Santa Fe Monthly Meeting. At the very least, all those who potentially could be identified as “officers” should be informed right away of their personal liability.


As David Henkel requested, I am sending him a copy of this letter.


Thank you for placing this item on the agenda for the July Meeting for Worship for Business.




Elliott Skinner

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