The Line Has Been Crossed
August 4, 2008
introduction and cover sheet from august meeting
This opinion piece is written in response to the allegations, false statements, questions raised and accusations made in the minutes of the July 10th CNA General Meeting. Certain individuals have used the general meetings and the organization as a bully pulpit to carry out a personal vendetta and target me and others in our community for over a year now. This attack has escalated during the past three months, culminating at the July general meeting. I can no longer exercise restraint in addressing some of this blood letting at my personal expense. The line has been crossed.
What is the meaning of the above title? On June 27th, we noticed that Matt Conn had placed an item on the agenda entitled “There Goes the Neighborhood Association.” We believed that this would probably be another attempt to bully Michelle and me and further impugn our reputations. I sent an official request to my fellow board members stating that if the July meeting agenda was going to contain the item, “There Goes the Neighborhood Association”, that individuals such as myself should be treated respectfully for being active, contributing members of the community and not disparaged and asked that this request be entered into the minutes.
Quoting from that e-mail: "It is my desire that anyone else who uses the CNA as a platform to make false accusations and/or assigns responsibility to me for any decline in the performance of the CNA , at least take the time to read all of the minutes, both board and general meetings, that were posted to the web site (before they disappeared). Review the actions, reports from the committees to the board, accomplishments, and focus of the past year as well as the actions and projects of the year before. And most importantly review and have a clear understanding of the finances of the past year. Take a look at how and why new elections were held and why the by-laws revision went in a reverse direction, moving backward instead of forward and how this was all initiated. Why others, who have had the opportunity over and over again to resolve by-law issues, web site issues, list serve issues, communication issues, block watch issues, and historic designation issues, prior to pointing a finger at me, choose not to.
I do not take kindly to the false and misleading information presented as fact by those who have orchestrated this witch-hunt; spreading lies that project me in an unfavorable light regarding the condition of the organization. This constant, childish finger-pointing by the board of directors wastes valuable time and nothing of any consequence actually gets done."
They actually planned social events staged for no other purpose than to devise plans to remove us from the board. Think about it, this is what your board is doing with their time. Does it occur to anyone that this could be the actual reason for the lack of functionality as a neighborhood organization and the collapse of the mission statement?
The evening of the July general meeting, I had a prior commitment meeting with some of the business owners on 16th Street regarding the ideas set forth in my June presentation to the CNA. That meeting ran over and since there was a new election on the way in August, the work on the by-laws that we, the committee did was well in the process of being redone, the money owed by Don Mertes had been paid, I felt that it be best that I not attend the meeting to again become a focal point. I assumed that my above official request would be respected and that Matt would not use the opportunity to denigrate me and Michelle yet again, the neighborhood would have an opportunity to move forward without my presence but no, he made it about us.
Michelle, who had car trouble returning from Tucson, also decided at the last minute not to be a focus once again. She had posted a very nice announcement about the July nominating meeting for the August elections, even though it was an election to remove the two of us from board positions, describing positions and inviting the list serve subscribers to participate, even though it was an election to remove the two of us from board positions. She also posted an invitation to the By-laws workshop to the list serve, inviting those members to participate even though the workshop was orchestrated to undo the work that she and the by-laws committee had done and presented to the membership. Again, both Michelle and I traveled the high road, not publicly disclosing the real reasons for the personal attacks on us and what was really behind it. That opportunity, even though everything had been cleared up, was missed, as the desire to take the stick out and poke one more time could not be resisted, this time, at the July meeting, for what reason but to bully and hurt. The line has been crossed.
It is important to now place a series of events into context and without the “spin” that I have allowed to take place for the sake of the community. While running for the board at the May meeting I was subjected to a line of questioning, by certain members of the community, beyond normal curiosity. I responded thoughtfully and was duly elected to a director position. (May minutes here). At my first board meeting in May, it was disclosed by the president, Diane Brennan that there was a very large and disproportional amount of Dispatch advertising revenue due, and no board members at the meeting seemed to know anything about who owed what or even what was actually owed. Michelle and I verbally requested to see the receivables and the financials, which by the way, we had requested many times during the past two years, to no avail. There were a series of e-mails in which board members discussed the disclosure of the financial information to other board members. Which board members knew what, and which board members knew what when, and the request by officers to not disclose the information to the membership. After being told that we would not be given permission to see any of the financial records of the association and feeling very uncomfortable with the escalating hostility, deliberate vagueness and disconnection of the dots in the exchange of e-mails, it was decided by Michelle and I that we make an official request which is dated May 23rd 2008, citing the law that requires financial information to be made available to any member wishing to see it. This is the request that Matt Conn takes out of context in his presentation and quotes at the July meeting. You can see by the response by then president Dianne Brennen on May 27th that it has been unilaterally decided that “that information is not available and will not be made available.” We were also told that no disclosure of the financial information that could provide any kind of explanation of the receivables would be forthcoming. Exchange of emails in context is here.
After citing Arizona law, we were given access to boxes of financial statements in complete disarray, totally incomprehensible and in no discernable order. We went over what we could in a very hostile atmosphere (Michelle and I were in Dianne Brennan’s dining room), and were told over and over that Diane had absolutely no knowledge of what we were looking at or the financials in general. Michelle made the suggestion several times that we hire an accountant to get the books in order so a new treasurer could take over with clean books. That never happened but it seems that Diane worked behind the scenes with Patricia to get the fiscal year 2007 book in order in Quickbooks to have something to provide to Michelle. Most recently the suggestion was made at the June board meeting and again Michelle volunteered to help get the books in order. It was decided that she would work with Matt Marcus and that the newly manufactured records in Quickbooks would be made available to them. It took awhile, but they did eventually grant access to the information.
While Michelle and Matt Marcus were reviewing the receivables in Quickbooks during June it came to their attention that $3750.00 of the $8000.00 was for unpaid advertising in the Dispatch and was owed by Don Mertes the then chairperson of the Dispatch committee. This amount represents unpaid ads from June 2007 to May 2008. The note reads: “This amount was paid from an associate of Don’s to the C.N.A for $3,750.00, dated May 24th, 2007. The memo reads "Don Mertes Dispatch ads 6/2007 - 5/2008". An attached deposit slip shows that this check was deposited to the C.N.A. account on May 27, 2008," just prior to the meeting of the Old Dispatch Staff with the Board. Still outstanding at the meeting was a balance from Don Mertes for the Home Tour sponsorship dated 3/31/2008 for an additional amount of $750.00. I do not know if this amount has been paid as we have certainly been cut off from any financial information. For a total at that point in time of $4500. And since Michelle and I were denied access to any accounting information prior to June 2007, it is unclear if there were any outstanding balances that also went unpaid such as these for the fiscal year May 2006 to May 2007. What has happened to the remainder of the $8000 that was missing or unpaid is unclear and remains an unanswered question as does how or why a third of the advertisers were allowed to continue advertising in the Dispatch while they had outstanding invoices. The new dispatch staff has begun to address these issues for the future.
In hindsight, it is clear why there was such an effort at the May meeting not to have Michelle or I elected to the board, and disturb the prior year’s activities with a different kind of board member, two people that would question the old guard. Well, you can see where that has gotten us. Never question them, you will pay dearly.
It is also clear from the large sum that was paid by Andrea for Don just prior to the Dispatch meeting why there was such hostility at the meeting, and very clear that it was not the confusion with the ballot (remember no one mentioned confusion during the May elections nor did anyone mention dissatisfaction with the results of the election) that supposedly created the need for a new election. Let’s face it; it is abundantly clear why there was a motion to hold a new election, and no announcement made to those who voted for their new board at the May elections to come to the do-over at the August meeting. Like a beautifully orchestrated symphony, a member objects to the recount, another decides that the ballot was confusing and lo and behold; a new election!
What bothers me the most about this whole thing is that Michelle and I were not and do not remain responsible for the events that triggered this situation of negativity that has surrounded the community, prevailed in the general meetings, or resulted in board resignations. Actually, we up to this point have taken the heat and the blame for events that we were not responsible for. Ask yourself what would you have done if you were elected in May to assume the role of board member and the fiduciary responsibilities that go along with that as well as accountability to the membership of the organization and then asked to keep financial secrets, not disclose that fully one-third of the entire association budget was missing and no one was willing to provide you with information regarding the financial health of the organization.
Perhaps this may have been the real reason some board members resigned or chose not to run again in August. I can assure you that at least some of the new members will not have a problem with these issues. I know why I decided not to run again. My decision is for the same reasons as last year which is spelled out in my first Ratero Reporter article where I state that I could not serve on a board where the committees controlled the organization, how prophetic.
Now, since this was all brought up at the July meeting when I was not there to speak to the accusations leveled against me and I was not invited to address those issues and now that there is a clearer understanding to place things in context, let me address some of the comments recorded in the minutes briefly.
c. Matt Conn – “There Goes the Neighborhood Association”
- Got an indication in March that we had uncollected receivables from the Dispatch, but the records were not good. When previous Dispatch staff left, Patricia had volunteered to take over bookkeeping and collections for Dispatch.
- In May meeting, after a new board had been seated, Patricia had a proposal to hire someone to tie up books that were unclear. Came to the board meeting requesting people to work on receivables (about $8,000) – a problem that could be resolved. Michelle at that time offered to help Patricia, her offer was accepted and was later denied access to files and was told not to speak with Patricia. There was no mention that one person owed 40% of the money for well over 120 days The other board members said they were not aware of the problem of the missing money.
- Couple of new board members reacted strongly and assumed that some people had undertaken in malfeasance. After this request a nasty e-mail chain ensued between the board members. Again Matt does not mention anything about the amounts or who owes the money. The reaction he speaks of was not strongly it was one of “did the board know about the accruing receivables, were they being informed by the Dispatch Staff?” Asking how did this occur, and actually what does it consist of?
- Vileness of initial e-mails after this incident caused Patricia to quit. You now have access to the information that shows it was not vileness but a deliberate effort to intentionally not disclose the financial difficulties the CNA was facing.
- Third day after the meeting, Board was given a request from Michelle and Wayne in the form of a legal letter: (read the letter, with some intermittent responses to it). You now know about the civil attempts to receive information and the necessity of the letter that was read out of context. This was a request for information that any member is entitled to and since we had been told we would not have access to it, we decided to attach the law that explained this.
- Question from the audience: Where are Wayne and Michelle tonight? (No one at meeting knows – they are still Board members.) We both were busy that evening and had decided since the situations were resolving themselves, at our personal expense, that we would give the organization a opportunity to “move on”, and not subject ourselves to yet another general meeting where we were targets rather than individuals whom were exercising restraint.
- Problem with this was that the records were not consolidated into an understandable form because Patricia had not done this yet. This did not happen in a void. Who was keeping records prior to Patricia? What is understandable form mean? This is an entire year later?
- Wayne and Michelle went to see the records and concluded that they were in disarray, which is what Patricia had concluded. The conclusion was that vital information to create an “understandable form” appeared to be missing and Dianne would not answer any questions as to how or why the information was missing.
- There exists today an extreme tension between these two members and the rest of the board. A lot has to do with the perception that the conflicts involved are personal. Other board members perceive that past falling-outs were affecting the Board’s business. This pursuit by the new members seemed personal to the other members. The assumption from this statement is that the fact that thousands of dollars missing from advertising revenue appeared to be OK with the other board members and we were expected to be OK with it as well. Since there was no understandable information disclosed, it could in fact be painted as it has been to the membership, to be a personal issue and not an issue regarding the non-payment of accounts for a year by a chairperson and committee members with the expectation that there would be board approval. It appears that the membership feels the same way. While it cannot be undone, had Michelle and I known this, perhaps we would not have run for the position of trust and stewardship of serving on the board.
- A following meeting with the old Dispatch staff became ugly. Matt says that all the questions raised were resolved to his personal satisfaction at that meeting. I would hope so Matt, they paid 3 days before the meeting and that was not disclosed to the rest of the board. Michelle and I sacrificed our personal images in the community collecting funds that for a year you just let go. So now you are willing to collect it, did you not know about it, or were you just willing to have us do the work for you so you can remain above the spin of the situation.
- However, badgering and requests continued. Requests for information and accountability in a non-profit is not badgering when those requests remain unanswered. We are supposed to operate in a transparent fashion, on behalf of the membership, not hide vital information that could negatively affect the operations of the organization.
- Andrea has a question: How are the receivables now?
- Matt: receivables have gotten lower. Seems to omit how, how much and at who’s expense. Is Matt or Andrea taking credit for the collection at this point of the meeting?
- Patricia had been quietly working with Diane to keep records moving forward, assisting Diane. Patricia has subsequently gotten all our records caught up, except for the Tree Fund, in Quickbooks. New treasurer would get a clean slate. What does “working quietly” mean in the context of the financials of a non-profit. If Michelle and I had not been elected, would the work of the receivables continued as “quietly” as they did before our positions on the board. Quietly in a non-profit where law requires transparency?
- Uncollected receivables today are about $5,000 total.
- Steve K.: During this controversy, ran into Wayne at Home Depot, and Wayne accused the old Dispatch staff of embezzlement. (Steve said he thought this was an inappropriate accusation and told Wayne that at the time.) What I asked Steve at Home Depot, since it was after the May board meeting and the resistance to disclose was very apparent was whether he was aware of the missing money, and if there was a process whereby the committees reported financial information to the board. He was unaware of any receivables, and said that Matt and Dianne knew about the finances, not the rest of the board. I never used the word embezzlement, the Dispatch staff would not have had access to the accounts so it would be impossible. And at this point I did not know who owed what. That was my question to Steve. No accusation.
- Don: That is possibly slanderous. And CNA is not ensured against lawsuits. We can always count on you to chime in with that word you love, in a clear attempt to redirect the attention off of what your actions and intent of those actions were.
- Matt: Wayne had some good ideas, and thought if he were on the board, these notions would be dispelled. My notions and my intent to be on the board were presented in the presentation linked here that I gave in June, as an outline as to how the organization can be effective in the community. I was consistent with my promise to the membership and to those who elected me to that position of stewardship and trust.
- Wayne had also said that some alleged corruption and problems had prevented him from running for the CNA board in the 2007 election. I was told that the committees would run the organization, not the board, I was uncomfortable with that, and did not run. I was unaware of any corruption, I did not like the direction and was told I would have no power to change it. So I did not run. Same as why I am not running in August.
- A lot of people on the Board have thrown in the towel.
- Doesn’t want to not have people volunteer for new positions, but wanted to explain the board’s attrition because the board acts on the will of the membership and he believed the membership deserved to know. The chosen information, perhaps not all the information.
- Randy: the intent of those two board members is to take down this organization. The intent was to clear up the receivables, and to make sure the use of the non-profit for personal gain did not occur again. I was willing to take the hit along with Michelle for this, until the July meeting. It is and was made abundantly clear my intent when I became a board member. It is clearly spelled out in the time and the effort I put into the presentation "Here comes the Neighborhood" of problems and then solutions presented at the very next general meeting in June. I am a property manager and co-owner of 60 rental units in the Coronado Neighborhood. My intent is and was clearly to move the organization to improve the quality of life for those renters, and at the same time those others living in the community with us-them it is one and the same and a review of the work that we put into the plan to move forward is explicitly clear in the intent, and should remain unquestioned. Perhaps the question should be redirected at those on the Dispatch staff whom felt that they did not have to pay for advertizing and what was the intent of that non-payment and and to what purpose and benefit community improvement was presented by those actions. See the next comment.
- Don: Wayne has already applied for grants in potential competition with the CNA. This seems unusual coming from someone who did not apply for the money nor come to the board for approval for the free use of the non-profit newsletter for advertisement for a year, as well as sponsorship of the home tour. My grant was for the advertising of the Central City Discuss list serve, that benefits the neighborhood and was above board. What was your use of the Dispatch for?
- Andrea: he can do that; didn’t get the grants because they weren’t good proposals. I provided all copies of the grant proposal to the board. I also mentioned to George Martin at the City that the E-Hood grants would subordinate to the CNA applications if that was the case.
- Don: Undermining negativity is shutting down things at the CNA. Now let us look at what was the root cause of the negativity, and how it undermined the effectiveness of the CNA.
- Jason: Implication of impropriety doesn’t have to bring everything down; bring everything to light, stop whisper campaigns, and make accusations publicly so they can be disposed of. And then I assume that it was brought up the year of free advertising in the Dispatch. The only accusations that have been allowed have been those against Michelle and I.
- Was going to invite Wayne and Michelle, if they were here, to make accusations in front of the group so the group could hear them and decide it. Disclosure of what you know and knew is something you could not have done. You were the vice president during this period of time.
- Ellen: interjects to introduce Hal Korff, who will conduct the bylaws workshop on Saturday.
- Also introduces Brad from the Willo Board, asks him if he knows Wayne; says yes; asked if he attended the Willo meetings, said he didn’t recall that.
- Brad introduced himself to nurture a relationship between Willo and Coronado,
- Question: With the books how they are right now, is the organization in the black?
- Joanie: If you’re 90-120 days out on receivables, that’s bad if there’s been no collections. But they are going to be collected.
- Matt: When dealing with small vendors it can be difficult.
- Jason: Published on Monday, had 21 advertisers, over half have paid.
- Don congratulates them on the recent Dispatch.
- Jason sass the Dispatch is no longer running ads from accounts two issues overdue.
- Goal is still for the Dispatch to pay for itself. Summer is not a great time, and the economy hurts. Overall, dispatch doing fine. Under-budget on printing.
- Prior to old Dispatch crew, Dispatch was losing $11,000 a year, which was made up in grant money.
- Elizabeth: Many would be willing to help on the Board, but have seen the barrage, and aren’t inclined to volunteer because they don’t want to subject themselves to acrimony.
- Don: this is a constant thing that happens to all boards.
- Ralph: When Michelle and Wayne ran, they said they could work with the other members; Ralph did vote in that direction, and feels that there was a misrepresentation. What can we do at this stage? Ralph, first you are welcome for the half page ad that I sent the new dispatch crew from Medispa. Secondly, I did not agree to work with board members who were not going to be forthcoming with the membership about vital financial shortfalls. I did not agree to protect former officers to the detriment of the association. I did not agree to be beholden to special interests (sorry, not that kind of guy). And third, you may have missed it, but I presented what I thought was important for the community in my June presentation "Here comes the neighborhood" and outlined solutions. A short review will familiarize yourslf with my intentions of a board member and whom I may actually be as a person and how I could have contributed to the community. I was unaware that the continued harassment of Michelle and me would continue on past the discreet collection of the money into a form of ongoing punishment.
- Matt: nominations for new elections tonight.
- Maureen: can they be voted off? Answer: board lacks ability, due to resignations. In case you had not noticed, we were not there, were not nominated, and probably would not have run under the circumstances. Can you explain the intent and bully attitude of not being able to wait 30 days for the new board? And the apparent necessity of having a record of us being voted off the board? For what? The disclosure of the past dispatch staff’s activities? And who says that this negativity is not personal and apparently from this statement, insatiable.
I think what bothers me the most about the past three months of being on the board is that no one stepped forward to say anything at any one of these meetings on our behalf. And yet there were a large number of people in the position of leadership who knew that Don continued to advertise without payment of a single cent, not even a token effort to make good on the account for not just one issue but for an entire year, every issue and as well as taking credit for being a sponsor of the home tour. And then this staff of “volunteers” had the audacity to publish the April/May issue of the Dispatch praising themselves in a article about their outstanding and extensive contributions knowing full well that thousands of dollars owed to the membership, those that would be receiving this issue and attending these meetings, was outstanding. What a great joke, no wonder they look so smug in those pictures.
And to continue to make disparaging personal remarks about Michelle and me, assuming that we would never ever step forward and breathe a word of what had transpired, and then, to stage a second election and run us off the board and run for the board themselves thinking we would never breathe a word out of fear and or how far our public integrity could be pushed.
No doubt that you still are able to gather round the table with wine and brie in July. No one will stand in the way of the new elections or the obliteration of the by-laws, and it appears that Michelle and I have completed our duties as volunteers in raising the awareness which resulted in the $4500 in receivables that were brought back to the association’s coffers.
Again we respectfully request that the organization and it's new leadership respect the distance that we will place between our lives in the Coronodo Neighborhood and the functioning of the CNA in the future in the hopes it can move beyond the root-causes with a clearer awareness of our perspective.
Sorry but the line has been crossed