April 8, 2014 By Christian Murray
The president of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce was tossed off the board Tuesday in a tense election held at Dazies Restaurant today.
The election was held following months of infighting—particularly after chamber president Swain Weiner laid off the marketing director citing a lack of funds, and for using the chamber’s letter head to promote his real estate business.
Weiner was ousted from the board in a well-executed campaign conducted by a number of disgruntled members and their associates. The rebellious members turned up to the election with proxies from more than 20-member business, most of whom agreed that it was time for Weiner to go.
The group that led to the departure of Weiner also made sure that Chamber Secretary Laura Heim was shown the door too.
To outsiders, the overthrow of Heim was surprising. However, sources said, that she had differences with a couple of people who engineered the coup. Heim could not be reached for comment.
The proxies were what made the difference in the election—since they accounted for the majority of the votes seeking change.
Rigo Cardoso, who is likely to be named president at the next board meeting, along with Luke Adams, the laid off marketing director, and former member Patricia Dorfman had spent the past two weeks visiting businesses to generate the proxies. They had convinced businesses that it was time for a change in leadership.
However, just as the vote was about to take place, Weiner told the 25 who attended the election that he was stepping down as president–although he wanted to remain on the board.
“I think I have had a good run and made some mistakes along the way, but we all learn from that,” said Weiner. He said that he has helped bring some of the organizations in the neighborhood together—particularly Sunnyside Shines, the Boulevard of Bars and the Skillman Project.
While the ballots were being tabulated, members were given the opportunity to present their views on the state of chamber affairs.
Heim said that the chamber is not in a great place right now. “There is so much conflict that no one wants to come [to the meetings],” she said. “I don’t know how to fix it…but it is really hurting business.”
She said that in a small community like Sunnyside people rely on one another.
Dorothy Morehead, who was part of the campaign seeking change, said that she had once been a member for many years and that the chamber needed to bring back some its community-building events.
She said that in the past the chamber would have bus trips to Atlantic City or Amish Country—as well as regular business card exchanges. She said the speakers were interesting and varied—and not just elected officials.
However, Artie Weiner, who is on the board of Sunnyside Shines, said that he was surprised by the level of outrage following some of Swain Weiner’s decisions due to the Chamber’s financial constraints—referring to the layoff of Luke Adams.
“Swain has done the best job with what he has been given and that is not a lot,” Artie Weiner said.
The election has resulted in the creation of an extremely large board. The group that overthrew Weiner and Heim voted to keep the remaining board members and add more.
The board now consists of 22 members. The board will be meeting next Wednesday to announce a new president, which is expected to be Cardoso, and a slate of officers.
Weiner appeared content with the results.
“Hey, I thought I did a good job, but people had a different viewpoint,” Weiner said. “That’s what elections are for.”
Weiner said he was going to continue to be involved in the chamber and the community. “I’m not a sore loser. I’m a big guy. Hey, it was a fair election.”