Center responds to community queries about leadership

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David Zaccagnino, board chair of the Center of Anna Maria Island, announces changes to the budget to a small audience of community members, elected officials, center staff and board members July 19 at the center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria. Islander Photo: Bianca Benedí

It was billed as a budget presentation, but it amounted to questions about accountability and an explanation about new leadership.

More than two dozen people attended the Center of Anna Maria Island’s presentation July 19.

Some staff, elected officials, board members, former staff and community members attended.

At the meeting, board and staff discussed steps the center took to improve its financial status and presented some changes for fiscal year 2017-18, which began July 1.

Board members and staff also offered reassurance to those attending that they could trust the center’s leadership.

In early June, board chair Bill Shuman stepped down as board chair, although he later chose to remain on the board.

Vice chair Patty McBean, who became interim chair upon Shuman’s resignation, called an emergency meeting June 12 where she presented a list of concerns and questions about the center’s finances and staff turnover rate.

Board treasurer Jim Froeschle resigned and walked out of the June 12 meeting, but on June 16, he circulated an email to the board asking to remove McBean as chair and replace her with David Zaccagnino. The vote was 10-4 for Zaccagnino.
Since June 16, McBean, Ed Chiles, Margie Shard, Frank Agnelli and Sam Pakbaz resigned the board.

At the July 19 presentation, Zaccagnino announced that board member Sean Flynn had turned in his resignation, bringing the total number of resignations in the past 33 days to six.

“Some of those board members that were on there, they just didn’t understand what it is to be on a board. … It’s some work,” Zaccagnino said. “The board members we have now are ready to work.”

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore attended, telling Zaccagnino she was impressed with what she saw. In addition, she told the audience she is working at the county level to help the center find funding and support.

Whitmore said county commissioners are unaware how many seniors attend the center and she suggested there are grants available for senior programs.

Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen had questions for Zaccagnino, a former city commissioner who served with Peelen.
She asked him if it was appropriate for former board member Mike Coleman to provide $100,000 worth of gym equipment with a note that charges 1 percent interest.

Zaccagnino responded that he was not on the board at the time, that he had seen other nonprofit boards do the same, and that the center was changing policy to disclose any conflicts in the future.

But the holder of the note is not Coleman. It is Gulfview Breeze LLC, owned by developer Shawn Kaleta, also a former board member. Half of the note’s principle and interest, totaling $50,650, is due in September.

Another attendee, Bob Carter — an Anna Maria resident and founder of the Carter nonprofit consulting firm, who advised the center in 2016 on methods to improve its financial status and community relationship — asked Zaccagnino why the center only projected its financial status one year in the future.

“Most organizations try to look for at least a three-year projection,” Carter said. “It would be reassuring to show you have a plan carrying into the future.”

“It’s always been, ‘let’s get through this year,’” Zaccagnino said of the center. “It’s been like that for 70 years here.” However, the center was only established in the 1960s.

Former center employee Robyn Kinkopf told Zaccagnino drawing more daytrippers and offering SilverSneakers, a low cost Medicare wellness program for seniors, “won’t help the bottom line, it’s going to make it harder.”

Froeschle responded that the nature of a community center is to lose money. “If you charged people what it costs to provide services, it would drive away people who can’t afford it,” he said.

“The more people you bring in and the more recognized you become as a community value … the more people are going to help you,” Froeschle said.

Other audience members raised questions about employee benefits.

Anna Maria resident Kelly Smith asked Zaccagnino about allegations that more than 20 of the 60 or so children enrolled in the center’s summer camp and after-school care programs are receiving discounted or free child care.

Executive director Kristen Lessig responded, saying the claims are exaggerated and pointing out that there are only five children of staff members regularly enrolled in after-school care. In an email July 20, Lessig said nine children from three employees use the center’s summer camp program for a total of 14 children who receive free camp or after-school programs, either consistently or on occasion.

Lessig said July 19 there was an established precedent when she was hired for offering staff free or discounted child care.

She added that younger staff and volunteers who didn’t have kids had been replaced by more experienced staff members with children.

Zaccagnino said child-care benefits were necessary to retain experienced staff who are expected to work long hours with no overtime. Also, he said, most live off-island due to the high cost of living on the island. However, Lessig added the center is looking to cut back on child-care benefits for staff and creating more stringent requirements for how much work someone must complete in order to obtain the benefit.

Another audience member inquired about a $10,000 donation offer from Coleman, if McBean resigned.

Froeschle said the offer had no influence on the board’s decision to replace McBean with Zaccagnino.

Zaccagnino said the center had not received a donation from Coleman, but he would pursue Coleman on the offer.

“There’s no big conspiracy” about McBean’s replacement and resignation, Zaccagnino said. “She raised up great issues that we intend to follow through on.”

Peelen also asked Zaccagnino whether he believed the center was subject to Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Laws.

Zaccagnino said the center is not subject to the Sunshine Law. “We will agree to disagree,” he said, adding that the center has been willing to comply with document requests from the city of Anna Maria.

In addition, he said, an ongoing city audit of the center’s finances means those records are officially public record through the city.

However, Anna Maria city attorney Becky Vose delivered a legal opinion in February 2016 that the center is subject to the Sunshine Laws.

Peelen also said the center’s decision not to share records contradicts her previous experience with nonprofits. “In the nonprofit world, everyone has open books,” she said.

Lessig said the presentation and complete budget information would be available on the center website, www.centerami.org.

As of July 24, only an incomplete Power Point presentation on the budget was available.

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