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Aug 24, 2015

L.I.C.U. Hosts Fiery Special General Meeting

There is a dark cloud of controversy and contention over the La Inmaculada Credit Union following a special general meeting held Saturday in Orange Walk. That meeting was demanded by LICU members who want an explanation for the termination of long-time General Manager, Yolanda Gomez. Gomez was placed on administrative leave in May…then terminated without benefits in July. Two days before the meeting, LICU Board Chair, Ena Martinez, set the stage with a televised statement making very serious allegations against Gomez. So the meeting promised to be very heated, and it more than lived up to expectations. Mike Rudon was in Orange Walk and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

The media was not allowed to record the special meeting held at the Muffles compound, but of course we did anyway. Attended by well over fifteen hundred passbook carrying members of the institution, the session was heated from the start – when Board members read a long list of allegations against much-loved and also much-hated former General Manager Yolanda Gomez. She is accused of criminal breaches of financial policies, including fraud, forgery, faking signatures on loan applications, unauthorized cash movement and loan write-offs. According to Board Chair Ena Martinez, the special investigation covered the period from 2012-2015.

 

Ena Martinez

Ena Martinez, Chair, Board of Directors

“We asked a scope for 2012-2015 and that’s why we stuck to that. It could easily be that there is more in years to the back that we don’t even know because we were not in there.”

 

There was no actual evidence presented because the investigation is not completed. That, of course, angered those members who clearly support Gomez. They believe that the move against Gomez is personal.

 

Ingrid Melendez, Member/Owner of LICU

“Who would go to such great lengths to defame someone? It has to be personal. If they are saying the audit is not finished…if they are saying the investigations are not over, why have they concluded this? Moreover, to dismiss the Manager in that manner shows no respect for the members and the owners because we have the power to decide that, and they did not address us.”

 

Ingrid Melendez

The meeting swiftly unravelled during the question and answer period. At that point there was a clear division in the ranks – those who support Gomez, present at the meeting, and those who support the Board and/or do not care much for Gomez. With tensions rising, the meeting was adjourned and the Board fled the scene, or at least that’s how it appeared. We got a hold of Ena Martinez, who took a last shot at Gomez.

 

Ena Martinez

“That was the scope from 2012-2015. That is what we asked for the investigation to be done…as simple as that. We could have gone and done further, but we just decided to limit it to 2012-2015.”

 

Reporter

“Is the Board taking any responsibility?”

 

Ena Martinez

“Of course not! We don’t work at the Credit Union.”

 

Reporter

“But you supervise…”

 

Ena Martinez

“Yes we do, but we had a lot of trust and confidence in Mrs. Gomez, and being that she receives a very handsome salary, we believe that it is her duty to ensure that she does her work because we don’t work there. We don’t micromanage.”

 

Gomez, surrounded by supporters, told us that it was obvious that the meeting was biased. And as to all those very serious allegations…

 

Yolanda Gomez

Yolanda Gomez, Former General Manager

“Definitely I deny all of them. The president actually claimed that the one in reference to the Visa card that those are paid from the credit union coffers. That’s a blatant lie. And they know. They know. There are senior staff members in there…the acting General Manager knows that’s a lie. So I have to deny all of their allegations and as Mr. Carballo rightfully said in the end…let the Court come out with the facts. That is when things will come to light.”

 

But in the meantime, Gomez has been thrown under the bus by the Board, accused of all manner of wrongdoing – not only at the meeting but in a televised statement for maximum exposure. They say all those things like fraud and forgery can be linked, directly and/or indirectly to Gomez.

 

Yolanda Gomez

“You’re making some senior allegations…you’re talking about fraud, you’re talking about forgery. They definitely don’t have that against me. I think you heard them choose their words carefully as well – directly and indirectly – and they know why they’re choosing that because while they’re trying to paint me in the worst manner possible and they’re trying to put me as the person overall responsible they know…they know that for a fact that when you’re talking about fraud and forgery that’s definitely not at my end.”

 

The former General Manager says the allegations are ludicrous since she does not work in isolation and there are checks and balances in place.

 

Yolanda Gomez

“I’m not the sole person within a process. A process takes more than one person. The procedures are more than one person. And at the end of the day all the loan applications have to be signed by the credit committee that makes it legal as well.”

 

So what happens next? We’re told that if the meeting had progressed longer, a motion would have been passed for a vote of no-confidence in the Board. It didn’t get to that point, but it may still. But for Gomez, the damage has been done.

 

Ingrid Melendez

“The next move for us owners/members who want a change, who know that the Board needs to be removed is that…that they be removed and replaced.”

 

Yolanda Gomez

“I guess like with everybody else it’s just natural. They’re defaming your character and that is the worst thing anybody can go through. It’s only those who feel it know it.”

 

Gomez has retained the services of an attorney, and is preparing for a battle in Court. We also checked with Orange Walk Police who told us that they have not been consulted in the investigation. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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1 Response for “L.I.C.U. Hosts Fiery Special General Meeting”

  1. Credit U Watch says:

    The problems at LICU are just the beginning of a much deeper crisis
    in the Credit Union services of Belize. They are all under-managed and
    under-supervised by the Central Bank of Belize. And the members are
    being told one lie after another. Ask members of the Mount Carmel CU
    in Benque who lost their entire life savings and the Central Bank has
    done NOTHING to give them back their money.

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