Ignoring threats of legal action, about 30 members of the YWCA of Central Orange County voted Thursday to override its board of directors' decisions to sell the group's headquarters and merge with the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Ana and Tustin.
The members also voted to remove the eight board members who voted for the sale and approved a slate of candidates to replace them.
"The YWCA doesn't belong to the board, it belongs to the members," said Arianna Barrios, a current board member who had questioned the merger and, with others, formed a group called Save the YWCA Community Coalition to oppose it.
YWCA Executive Director Shannon Tucker characterized Thursday's meeting as unsanctioned and irrelevant: "The calling of the meeting is illegal and will have no bearing on future operations of the YWCA."
Tucker said she stood by a Feb. 26 letter to coalition members that threatened legal action. "If you attempt to use the facility without authorization," she wrote, "you will be arrested for trespassing." She also warned the group not to contact members using the Y's letterhead and threatened to sue for damages if they "defamed" the Y.
The meeting followed several months of bickering over the future of the beleaguered 81-year-old branch of the organization, which has about 130 members. In November, Tucker announced that the YWCA, no longer able to cover program costs, would close in June. She said the Y was negotiating with the Boys & Girls Club to take over its programs and facilities.
Following criticism by Barrios and others, however, the board agreed to consider other options, including one in which the Boys & Girls Club would own the building but give the YWCA free office space.
That agreement appeared to be on track last month when the board approved transferring the building's title to the Boys & Girls Club in exchange for the club's assumption of the Y's $306,000 loan on the property at 146 N. Grand St., Orange. The Boys & Girls Club also agreed to provide up to $50,000 to help pay off the Y's debts and to take over its child development center.
But critics say they have received two better offers. One, Barrios said, is from a businessman willing to donate $60,000 to clear the Y's debts and to refinance the building with a no-interest loan. A second offer, she said, is from a group of business leaders that says it will buy the building for $1 million and allow the Y to remain there rent-free for at least two years.
"It's what's right," she said of the offers. "You don't throw the baby out with the bathwater just because a small group of people has made some bad decisions."