I'd like to commend the Indy for printing the article about the failing domestic and sexual violence services ("Crisis at the Durham Crisis Response Center," July 19).
What happened at this agency is a good example of how vulnerable nonprofits are to their boards. If there is nothing in an agency's bylaws to protect the agency from destructive decisions made by its volunteer board, they can essentially send a thriving agency into a downward spiral.
In this case, they unjustly dismissed the co-executive directors, which uprooted the entire infrastructure of a highly functioning agency. The agency's most recent audit revealed that the agency was financially stable. The agency was providing, strengthening and expanding critical programs and maintaining a qualified, dedicated staff (with very little staff turnover during the past two years).
This has all changed because of the board's actions. The "transition plan" that the board chair refers to in the article was inadequate at best, and left staff unsupported and unable to provide quality services to victims. The board admitted to staff that the way they terminated the co-executive directors was a mistake and that the dismissal was due to personality conflicts--not to performance issues. Personality issues can be resolved. The board's response was dramatic, unnecessary and costly.
As the director of shelter services, I stuck it out for five months after the board's actions, but had to make the difficult decision to leave. It saddens me to continue to hear from current staff that the agency is still struggling--because it is ultimately victims of domestic violence and sexual assault who will suffer. This board made a mistake that is having far-reaching and devastating consequences for our community. What they did was wrong, and the community should hold them accountable.
Lesson learned: Nonprofits need to check their bylaws and create a process that protects the agency from its own board of directors.