- Eye on Media
“Much Ado About Nothing”
ORRCA administers community service programs throughout the South Coast including South Coast Head Start, South Coast Food Share and health, energy and weatherization assistance.
Earlier this week Executive Director Mike Lehman told The World newspaper that a deficit of $170,000 reported on MGx is an exaggerated number spread by “former employees”. “In big terms, it’s much ado about nothing,” said Lehman. The deficit is “$30,000 to $50,000″, he claims and an amount that can be made up from block grants and other funds within the agency. The budget adopted by the board of directors on June 19, however, paints a different story. The budget reflects an operating shortfall of -$172,801 through June 30, 2013 and a projected deficit for the 2013-14 fiscal year of another -$177,586.
ORRCA constructed a $10 million campus and food bank completed last year. The new food bank facility can distribute up to 3 million pounds of food annually. Audit reports show that SCFS carried over a modest but positive fund balance each year until 2012-13.
Year to date figures reflect private donations have dropped off and reimbursement payments from the pantries are well below target. The budget notes reflect no mention of pending donations or grant applications or explain how Lehman arrived at the figures he provided to the paper when the budget clearly shows -$172,801, or the $50,000 to $75,000 range he provided to MGx a day earlier. Lehman’s answers on the surface are unreliable and the board of directors has been unresponsive to requests for clarification.
Agency Lacks Grant Management Experience
Schoen-Clark resigned late last summer after a series of articles criticizing the agency and Lobsinger left this spring. At the request of the board of directors Energy Services Director Pattie Gouveia stepped in as interim CEO from late September 2012 until February 2013.
Complaints surfaced last year over SCFS billing errors with some of the pantries and disputes with ORCCA management, namely former CEO Mary Schoen-Clark and food bank director, Rollie Lobsinger. During all the negative reporting by The World newspaper about Schoen-Clark’s management style and Lobsinger’s personality conflicts with some of the pantry managers, little attention was paid to the overall fiscal health of the agency, particularly in light of the debt burden associated with a new $10 million complex that houses Head Start and other programs. ORCCA is a private non-profit agency funded by grants and donations and blames its current budget crunch on heightened competition for grants and an increased demand for services. Maintaining a steady stream of grant revenue is critical to staying abreast of the debt service. A review of recent board minutes shows very little effort being made toward securing new grants and donations.
Schoen-Clark may have been difficult to work with but both she and interim CEO, Pattie Gouveia are seasoned and accomplished grant writers. Schoen-Clark expanded ORCCA services from $4 million to $10 million annually during her tenure and Gouveia brought in $3 million in grants during her four years as director of essential services. ORRCA’s board passed over Gouveia for the permanent position and instead brought in Lehman who had no prior experience running an organization like ORCCA and no grant writing skills to take the helm last February. Lehman who is currently paid $80,000 per year plus benefits just interviewed a grant writer flown out from Arizona at a cost to the agency of $1,172.53, and hired her at $3,450 per month to fill the experience gap.
Internal Upheaval and Ethical Concerns
Before starting with ORCCA Lehman was Human Resources Director for Coos County. Several county staff disclosed to this author discomfort with his management style and questioned both his competence and ethics and were relieved to see him leave. An email between Lehman and HR Director Carol Douglas agreeing to remove complaints filed by staff from her own personnel file may again raise ethical questions.
DOUGLAS: Mike, attached are the write up’s I received from Pattie Gouveia and other’s help, that I feel were very inappropriate in the fact that I think Pattie was trying to fire me. I would like to see these write up’s removed from my file within a 6 month time which would be about 8-4-13.
With each write up I attached my response that I had Susannah sign for as she was my supervisor at that time.
Carol A. Douglas
LEHMAN: I see no problem with that, remind me and I will send you an email at that time removing them.
Douglas records some of her time as an assistant to Lehman and he relies on her for advice, once even asking her to explain whether or not a “trial balance” would be useful*, calling in to question who is really running the agency. The special treatment afforded to one employee combined with recent layoffs, new hires and raises for SCFS staff despite budget deficits challenges Lehman’s assertion and by virtue of their silence, the board’s assertion as well, that questions about ORCCA’s fiscal and organizational health are “much ado about nothing.”
Can ORCCA and South Coast Food Share survive? So far, the board of directors have chosen to take a passive role and are not responding to requests for information.
*Douglas advised Lehman a trial balance wasn’t necessary.