Updated

Brazos Valley Schools Credit Union under fire

By KELLI LEVEY

Eagle Staff Writer

Numerous area residents are complaining that checks they wrote from their accounts at Brazos Valley Schools Credit Union haven’t cleared because they contained an incorrect routing number.

The credit union changed the routing number on Jan. 16 when it stopped using an outside company for check processing, and officials said they have sent members numerous notices about the impending changes since October 2002.

A letter from an attorney for the credit union said a notice was mailed April 3, 2003, to all members with money market or checking accounts. The attorney, Joe Hegar of Katy, said similar letters were mailed in July, October and December 2003 and that inserts about the change were placed in each statement for May, June, September and October 2003.

But several people caught up in the transition said they never were alerted, including Cindy Nichols-Gordon of College Station, who has hired a lawyer to pursue repayment of $910 in fees for 26 returned checks.

“ I look at my statement every month to balance my checkbook, and I never saw a notice in there,” she said. “I’ve been in that bank numerous times — in the drive-through, at the Pulse machine and inside — and they never said anything. When I asked why they didn’t put out signs, they said they just decided not to notify us that way.”

Nichols-Gordon said she was told at the College Station Wal-Mart last week that 20 members of the credit union already had been in to reconcile their returned checks, and she said she heard of one student who had 72 checks out.

The credit union has provided a letter to members who request it that explains the situation to merchants and asks them to consider waiving returned-check fees and “re-establishing the good standing of our member with your organization.” The letter, signed by vice president Lois Rothrock, offers to honor checks with the old routing numbers at the credit union’s branch offices if funds are available in the members’ accounts.

Barbie Jaloway, the credit union’s vice president of administration, said she has no way to track the number of transactions that were affected, but she estimated a small percentage of the credit union’s 18,000 members had checks returned. The Katy-based organization has approval to do business in 13 counties.

“ Every person thinks they’re the only one this happened to, but they’re not,” Jaloway said. “It was unfortunate that it happened to anyone, but we feel we did our best to notify our customers it was coming.”

Jaloway said her company was exonerated in a letter from the Texas Credit Union Department, a regulating agency through which Brazos Valley Schools Credit Union is chartered.

“ The essence of the letter is the department feels the notice was adequate and does not feel an individual investigation is warranted,” she said, but she said she could not release the letter to The Eagle without the permission of the credit union president, who was out of the office until Monday.

Nichols-Gordon, who has been a member of the credit union for 21 years, said she plans to take the case to court if she is not refunded the charges.

Jaloway said the credit union’s board members plan to discuss the topic at their next meeting, which is Friday.

“ At this time we haven’t refunded fees to anyone, and I don’t know that we will,” she said. “If we give the fees to one customer we have to give them to everyone, and we could be talking a very large sum of money.”

• Kelli Levey’s e-mail address is klevey@theeagle.com.

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