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Clay County nonprofit head let go


The Register-Herald

BECKLEY, W.Va. — The executive director of a Clay County nonprofit who made a Facebook post comparing the First Lady to an “ape in heels” will not return to work.

Jessica Tice, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s communications director, announced the development in a Tuesday press release. Tice said the Appalachian Area Agency on Aging would take over daily management responsibilities for the next six months, starting Tuesday, Dec. 27.

That same morning, Bureau for Senior Services Commissioner Robert Roswall and the AAA met with staff  at the Clay nonprofit’s office. Several board members had resigned, he said, but he could not confirm what members had left.

Roswall said he and the agency will work to help move the nonprofit forward, especially in updating outdated and inefficient equipment. He also said the nonprofit did not follow open meetings and FOIA laws.

Pam Taylor was suspended after making the comment. The nonprofit’s board met in executive session last month after the Facebook post gained notoriety and issued a letter saying Taylor had been given verbal and written reprimands, one year of probation and a six-week suspension, which was set to end last Friday.

In its meeting minutes, the board cited the reason for the reprimands and suspension “based upon the fact that the statement was made outside of the agency on a personal social media post on personal time.”

The letter did not specifically state whether the suspension was unpaid and also did not say what would happen after the suspension ended. Last Friday, when Taylor’s suspension ran out, the corporation’s building was locked tight.

The West Virginia Bureau for Senior Services recently secured the agreement between the corporation and the AAA.

“This agreement, which was approved by the CCDC board of directors this past Friday, includes oversight of work carried out by the CCDC as part of state contracts to provide essential services for senior citizens in Clay County,” Tice said in the news release. “Robert Roswall, commissioner of the Bureau for Senior Services, met with representatives of the AAA and CCDC today to ensure continuity of the state services provided as this transition takes place.”

Tice said the six-month period will give the corporation time to make management or governance changes necessary to ensure it’s in full compliance with the state.

“Following the state’s request for specific assurances that the CCDC is following anti-discrimination policies, we have been assured that Pamela Taylor has been removed from her position as CCDC director,” Tice said.

During those six months, the corporation will be in a transition period to take back control of the entity, Roswall said.

“They will start transitioning it back so they will have a new director, new board members and people from the community who want to help to continue to move in the right direction,” he said. “If you’re going to be on the board, ask questions, continue to ask questions. They’re not friends. The director is accountable to you. Ask questions and get answers.”

The management agreement between AAA Director Ramona Stanley and the corporation’s board president Eunice Thomas, dated last Thursday, listed the tasks the AAA would manage.

Under the agreement, the AAA would be in charge of duties including hiring and firing; make all decisions about day-to-day activities, including employment decisions; assisting in reorganizing and restructuring the corporation’s board of directors to meet standards in the bylaws; and appoint a liaison to the AAA.

The nonprofit’s board will meet with agency staff to inform them that AAA is the operating agency of the board of directors.

The agency also will be paid to manage operations on a monthly basis for an amount not to exceed 100 percent of the current director’s salary and benefits. In 2014, Taylor reported making $82,926 heading up the nonprofit.

Roswall clarified the salary figure, saying most of the salary for Taylor’s position is set and the other parts are bonuses, which add up to the final figure.

“We couldn’t get a definite answer,” Roswall said of the bonuses. “When we talked about the salary, the board said it wasn’t her salary – that she had got bonuses. I’m not sure what that is.”

Recently, a Putnam County official whose agency handles nutrition and food services for Clay County seniors said the food-service-for-the-elderly contract was set to expire at the end of this month but because of the fallout brought about by Taylor’s post, Putnam Aging will keep serving Clay seniors until March.

It was a lack of funding, not Taylor’s comment, that originally made the organization want to cancel its contract with Clay County.

Roswall recalled the atmosphere at the Clay offices Tuesday morning, saying staff members were very emotional since they had been uncertain of their future and whether they would still have jobs. Some were fighting back tears, he said.

Roswall said he assured staff that they would not lose their jobs, adding that staff members were fine with the agency taking over operations for the next six months.

“The staff was relieved this morning,” Roswall said. “It was very emotional … and they were concerned about their jobs. They’re good workers.”

In an interview earlier this month, Roswall said his staff was looking into contract obligations and how money related to expenses and grants was spent.

The bureau contracts with the corporation for various senior services. For the current year, the corporation received $358,000 from the bureau.

He said staff members were worried about losing funding completely, which could mean a loss of jobs. Roswall said this would not happen.

He said they will re-evaluate the jobs and how they are organized and will also look at policies, governance and how the nonprofit is set up, saying he hopes this will move the organization in the right direction.

One board member, Keith Wray, owner of Total Comfort Heating and Cooling in Clay, attended the morning meeting, and was supportive of the action.

“It went very well,” Roswall said of the meeting. “We were very concerned. We feel much better about it.”

Roswall said the bureau and the agency will work with the corporation to upgrade its existing computer and accounting system.

He said staff members are limited based on the equipment they’re trying to use, especially with their accounting system. He said payroll and accounts payable had to share time on the same program on one computer, which puts one behind the other. He said hopefully, in the future, they will not be sharing computers.

 “It’s not efficient for that type of operation,” he said. “With Ramona, they can’t print off normal reports that she would want for her agency. We are working to change that.”

CCDC is a nonprofit but does not fit under West Virginia’s nonprofit law, except for a part of the conditions of the contract that says it will operate under the law even though it is not technically under it, Roswall explained.

“That means they have to have open meetings, respond to FOIAs, those types of things,” he said.

He said the corporation was not following open meetings or FOIA requirements.

Roswall said the organization does not have a nondiscrimination policy as it relates to serving clients but did have an Equal Employment Opportunity policy.

He said staff had been working on changing the locks on the building and today, was working on changing information as it relates to bank accounts.

He mentioned the corporation does not have a full contingency on its board as it stands right now since some had resigned over the situation. He did not know who had resigned. He said the AAA will work to get the board back in line with its bylaws and will work to update the bylaws.

After that point, he said, the corporation will advertise for a new executive director.

Roswall also said when talking to the board, he found out that members were not getting financial reports, which is required by contract. He said the auditor should present that to the board, not the director.

“We’re looking at that kind of stuff,” Roswall said. “We are getting that all turned around, too.”

When asked if Taylor was drawing annual leave while on suspension, Roswall could not confirm but said that is what he had heard.

Roswall said he is confident that the AAA management will help turn things around for the corporation.

“Ramona is a good director,” Roswall said. “She was at Kanawha Valley Senior Services. She’s been around 40 years in the aging network. She has great staff and probably the best AAA we have in the state.”

He also wanted to emphasize to the community that seniors will not lose services in this transition.

“There’s nothing with changes as it relates to services delivered, and for the most part with the same staff,” he said. “They will get services, transport services, respite care — it will all be there. That’s part of the whole agreement. We wanted to have smooth transition services.”

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