Director resigns over pay dispute

The executive director of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce said Thursday a pay dispute with the chamber's new board of directors prompted her resignation.

The chamber's executive board accepted Karen Chrjapin's resignation Wednesday, and the full board was notified in a meeting Thursday morning, said Board Chairman John T.Y. Smith.

"It's very friendly; it's very amicable," Mr. Smith said. "At this point we want it to stay that way."

Mrs. Chrjapin submitted her resignation Jan. 15, the day after the executive board voted to withhold merit raises for chamber staff members, she said.

"We've got a new board and a new executive committee, and things just change," said Mrs. Chrjapin, who has been director since March 2007. "It doesn't mean anyone is right or wrong."

Merit raises of up to 5 percent for all staff members had been approved in December as part of the chamber's 2009 budget, Mrs. Chrjapin said. But when new board members took over in 2009, she said its members didn't think raises would be "prudent" during the current national financial crisis despite the chamber's solid financial standing.

"We just have a different business philosophy," Mrs. Chrjapin said, adding that she didn't feel she could "stay around and adapt."

Mr. Smith said Mrs. Chrjapin's resignation allows her to stay on for 60 days while the chamber conducts a national search for her successor, and that the board could also appoint an interim director if needed.

All chamber functions will continue uninterrupted, Mr. Smith said, including the Jan. 28 Columbia County Day reception at the state Capitol.

"It's business as usual," he said.

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