The Center of Anna Maria Island saw within the past two weeks two board officers resign, unresign and a board vote via email to replace its chair.
On June 9, board chair Bill Shuman emailed vice chair Patty McBean announcing he wanted to step down.
McBean, who joined the board in October 2015, became interim chair upon Shuman’s resignation and called an emergency meeting June 12, seeking a vote of confidence. However, at the meeting, Shuman expressed a desire to retain his chair seat.
According to McBean’s notes from the meeting, Shuman was allowed to stay on as a board member.
Jim Froeschle also announced his resignation as treasurer at the meeting. But by June 14, Froeschle had requested to be reinstated on the condition that the board vote to remove McBean as chair and replace her with former Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino, who had been added as a board member April 26.
Froeschle circulated the email calling for the vote to remove McBean as chair.
June 12 was Zaccagnino’s first meeting since joining the board.
But first on the agenda June 12, McBean outlined a short-term plan to improve the center’s financial situation, according to her notes.
By May, the center’s deficit had reached more than $250,000, a pattern Froeschle claimed in previous meetings would continue without additional government funding.
McBean and others were critical about the continued spending in view of past months’ losses and, subsequently, the department heads offered to substantially cut their budgets.
McBean said her short-term plan included placing endowment funds that were already withdrawn in escrow, implementing an immediate hiring freeze, a requirement that purchases and employee terminations be approved by board members, and a request for executive director Kristen Lessig to cut the future budget by $20,000 monthly.
It also included a request for copies of all center bank and credit card statements within 48 hours, a request to review credit card statements regularly in the future and a request that the board review employee benefit packages.
And although the board affirmed her plan, it was not fulfilled, McBean said. She had not received records or passwords for access to financial accounts by June 19.
At the June 12 meeting, the board also developed a budget committee and an audit committee to pursue improving the center’s financial records.
Zaccagnino said the meeting became contentious and that board members did not necessarily understand the plan being proposed, adding most members later disagreed that McBean’s plan was approved.
He said no votes were taken at the meeting.
Lessig said the contents of the minutes were in dispute because several board members walked out of the meeting.
Within a day of the meeting, McBean reported to the board in an email that former board member Mike Coleman — who attended and took part in the discussion at the June 12 meeting — requested a private meeting with her.
According to McBean’s account, Coleman asked her to resign as chair, claiming it would provide more stability and that she would put the center at “extreme risk” by staying. Coleman also offered to provide $10,000 to the center on the condition that she step down, according to McBean.
Coleman declined June 18 to comment on the record.
On June 16, an email vote distributed by Froeschle resulted in a 10-4 vote to remove McBean from the role of chair. She remains on the board.
The center’s bylaws state that a board vote can be taken electronically, but must be approved at the next board meeting.
Zaccagnino, who issued a disclaimer that he’s only attended one board meeting thus far, said he believes there’s a lot of confusion regarding the board’s future but “everyone wants the same thing.”
“I think everyone wants to focus on the financials, liability and strength of the center. It’s just how to get there,” he said, that people are disagreeing on.
“I was put on the board to try to help with the government and use my knowledge that way,” Zaccagnino said.
If everyone agrees on my stepping up as chair, “I’ll do that,” he said. “The most important thing is the center. I think it’s on the right path right now. This is just one of those board things that happened where there’s differences of opinion, but everyone wants the same thing.”
After the meeting, The Islander joined McBean in requesting financial records June 14 from Lessig based on numerous claims that center credit cards were being misused. The newspaper received no response regarding the record request from Lessig as of June 19.
Furthermore, Froeschele indicated to the board that, as treasurer, he did not scrutinize spending.
Estimates are the center will be more than $300,000 in the red by the end of June and some board members and Lessig are proposing taking a substantial amount of money — $200,000-$250,000 — from the endowment fund to make up the deficit and for operations.
Zaccagnino said he expected access to the center’s online accounts and signing authority over the weekend — June 17-18.
When asked about newspaper access to the center’s financial records, Zaccagnino said he spoke to Bradenton attorney Scott Rudacille, who said the center’s financial records are not covered under Florida’s Sunshine Law.
But the newspaper and the city of Anna Maria have received legal advice that contradicts Rudacille’s opinion.
Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy said June 16 his city attorney differs with Zaccagnino’s opinion. Murphy said the center’s financial records, including spending and expenses, are public record.
The open meeting laws require discussion of financial matters be open to the public.
Murphy said a February 2016 letter was provided to Lessig asserting the center records are public and, while he did not receive a response acknowledging the letter, records were provided.
Zaccagnino said the center would be prepared to discuss its financial status in more detail after the board completes the 2017-18 fiscal budget, which he said will scale the center budget back to “live within its means.”
McBean’s short-term plan included the same request for scaling back expenses.
The next center meeting will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 21, at the center, 407 Magnolia Ave. Budget discussions are planned at that meeting and June 28. The new fiscal year begins July 1.
Lessig said the June 28 meeting may or may not be public, depending on where the board is in the budget process. She also said that McBean and Shuman were to be granted access to the credit card accounts by Monday, June 19.