Monday, May 7, 2007

Chavez out at Tennessee Hispanic Chamber; rumors of merger with Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber

Eight-year control by founders comes to a forceful close

Board Chairman Ramon Cisneros continues as acting president

Robert Chavez has been permanently removed from the presidency of the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce*, marking the first time in the eight years since its inception that this chamber does not have a founder serving as its President. The control of the organization was tightly held by its two founders Greg Rodriguez and Robert Chavez. Rodriguez served as President until his death in June 2005 (story here), when Chavez was named his successor (story here). The way the pair obtained and maintained authority at the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber was one of the reasons the separate Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce* was formed, according to the December 9, 1999 edition of the Tennessean:

"Less than three months after the public launch of a Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a rival Hispanic chamber is vying for members and political stature. Founding members of the second organization said they were dismayed that the first chamber's founders appointed themselves to administrative positions and didn't get a consensus from the Hispanic business..."

The Nashville Scene broke the story here that the Board of Directors would let Chavez go after suspending him earlier this year (the Scene also broke the story of the suspension here and ran a cover story here describing Chavez's alleged bad behavior, which was the apparent reason for the suspension itself.)

The Tennessean reported that, with Chavez's departure, the long-running rumors of a merger between the various Nashville-based Hispanic chambers* are circulating again (story here). Some Hispanic Nashvillians believe that having two groups is unnecessarily divisive, but Yuri Cunza of the Nashville Area Hispanic chamber is quoted in the article as saying that there are legitimate reasons for separate groups.

The Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's press release is below:

The Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has decided not to restore Robert Chavez as its president. By a unanimous vote the board of directors decided it was best to move forward under new leadership.

'We thank Robert Chavez for his assistance and taking the helm during a period of transition several years ago. We want to be very clear that Robert was not guilty of any unlawful acts against the Chamber. It was a matter of philosophical differences. Ramon Cisneros, board chairman will continue as acting president until the election of another president,' said Peter Woolfolk, public relations advisor to the Chamber.

*Hispanic Chamber 101: There are four Hispanic chambers of commerce in Middle Tennessee: the three active chambers (in alphabetical order) are the Franklin Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The Tennessean profiled these three chambers in this article in June 2006. A fourth chamber was incorporated in 2006 (the Middle Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce), but no activities have been announced.

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