Child care providers gathered west of Delray Beach on Friday with hired parliamentarians taking notes, a busload of green T-shirted demonstrators stewing in the lobby, sheriff’s deputies watching and attorneys likely to follow up.
The occasion was the Florida Association for Child Care Management’s annual meeting and election of board members at the South County Civic Center.
A dissident faction hoped to sway the elections because it says the association, which hired former Republican state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff as its executive director last year, is too focused on politics and legislation in Tallahassee. The leader of the dissident group, preschool owner Bill de la Sierra of Hialeah, and the two professional parliamentarians he hired got tossed out of the meeting and the 72 proxy votes de la Sierra hoped to cast were disallowed.
“I declare this meeting null and void,” de la Sierra said after being escorted out of the meeting. After the candidates he and his allies backed in the board elections all fell short, de la Sierra pledged to go to court to try to get the disallowed votes counted or an entirely new election scheduled.
De la Sierra blamed Bogdanoff and FACCM President Daniel Osborne, who was re-elected Friday, for steering the association too far in a political direction.
“The organization is more interested in the glitz, the legislative issues, the politics and they have forgotten the members,” de la Sierra said. “The work that this organization was set out to do – which is provide support for the members, whether accreditation or education — has been completely set aside.”
Osborne, who owns child care centers in Wellington and Lake Worth, said the Tallahassee focus is in the best interest of the association’s approximately 1,000 members.
“The legislature is who sets the standards and the statutes and the law that governs our accreditation and so we opt to influence the top and let the bottom follow. Our legislators make the rules and we try to influence the legislators,” Osborne said.
The association hired uniformed, off-duty deputies to be on hand because it thought de la Sierra might cause a disturbance, Osborne said. He said de la Sierra and parliamentary consultants Tim Wynn and Todd Wynn were kicked out for being disruptive.
“He was consistently interrupting and disrupting the meeting. I’ve got to keep some semblance of order for respect for the people who are here trying to move forward,” Osborne said.
After he was booted, de la Sierra and about 60 people in matching T-shirts who came to the meeting on a bus milled around the lobby while the meeting went on behind closed doors. The meeting was closed to the media as well.
Ten of 18 seats on the association’s board of directors were up for election Friday.
Osborne said about 80 or 90 association members attended Friday’s meeting, while others voted by mail or proxy. Osborne said proxy votes that de la Sierra attempted to cast were invalid because they didn’t register by a Monday deadline. De la Sierra said that deadline violated the group’s bylaws.