Monday, October 12, 2015

West Side Regional Center - Message to parents, consumers and stakeholders.

I received this letter today. My son is not a Westside Regional Center Consumer, but I know many families who are. This information comes to me from Judy Mark, a longtime supporter of individuals with autism, and I wanted to make it available to families who want to investigate, and or get involved.  I know this may not hit most of you in time to attend tonights meeting, so I have included Judy's email  information so you can connect with her to learn more. 
Thanks,
Donna
From: Judy Mark <judymark@earthlink.net>
Date: October 12, 2015 at 9:25:05 AM PDT
To: Judy Mark <judymark@earthlink.net>
Subject: MEETING STILL ON TONIGHT! - SAVE WESTSIDE REGIONAL CENTER
Hello again friends,

Over the weekend, the executive director and board chair of Westside Regional Center sent out a notice unilaterally and illegally attempting to cancel the special board meeting for tonight. (They are calling it "postpone" but we know they don't intend to have the meeting at another time.)  This meeting was called and noticed according to the state law governing regional centers -- the Lanterman Act.  The attempt to cancel is illegal and many members of the board are moving forward with the meeting -- all that is needed is 9 members to attend.

Please come tonight if you are able to.  This meeting is about supporting the consumers whose rights have been stripped and who have been summarily excluded and ignored.  If anything, this attempt by the executive director and board chair to silence concerns will just unite the consumers and their supporters even more.  This is the new civil rights movement.

We hope to see you tonight at:
Westside Regional Center Board of Directors
Special Board Meeting
Monday, October 12, 2015
6:00 pm
Westside Regional Center
5901 Green Valley Circle
3rd Floor Board Room

Thanks for your support.

Best,

Judy Mark
Proud Parent of a Westside 

__________________

Dear Friends,

I wanted to alert you to some very disturbing events at Westside Regional Center.  For the last eight months and since the retirement of the Executive Director Mike Danneker, WRC has undergone a rapid change that has led to some very serious consequences.    Last week, the new executive director, an individual who has never worked at a regional center before, fired -- for no cause -- three respected senior staff who have more than six decades of experience between them.   Equally shocking, he also abruptly terminated the contract for the facilitator who works with the consumers who sit on the board of directors and committees.  Consumers are legally entitled to a facilitator to help them participate fully in meetings and the person they have trusted in that role for years was removed with no notice and for no clear reason. 

It is hard to recognize Westside anymore.  There is so much fear among the consumers, staff, and families.  These are complaints I sometimes hear from people at other regional centers -- but not at Westside.  

My heart is particularly breaking for the adults with developmental disabilities who call Westside Regional Center their "home."  They are experiencing high levels of anxiety, which are causing health issues and other problems.  For many months they have been marginalized and discriminated against, belittled and made to feel like tokens. They asked for their civil rights to be respected and instead they feel they have faced retribution.  They have been the trailblazers in this fight and we follow their lead.
  
While my son is not able to sit on Westside's board, I am joining the self-advocates' fight because I am concerned for my his future.  I won't let his regional center fall apart.  I need it to stay strong and remain a model for other regional centers around the state.  I want to be secure in the knowledge that Westside Regional Center will be there after I am gone to ensure that my son gets the supports and services he needs to live a full life.

I am attaching a document that was produced to support the efforts of the Consumer Advisory Committee at Westside Regional Center.  This document lays out of the facts and details of what has been happening.  It is long so if you only have a little time, please read their Executive Summary.

So what can we do?  I want to let all consumers, family members, service providers, and others know about an important special board meeting to discuss these critical issues.  Even if you are not part of Westside Regional Center, we hope you will join us to see the incredible self-advocates speak passionately about their civil rights.  We would love to get support from clients and families from other regional centers to show that this is our system.  It is very important that we get a big turnout of folks.

Westside Regional Center Board of Directors
Special Board Meeting
Monday, October 12, 2015
6:00 pm
Westside Regional Center
5901 Green Valley Circle
3rd Floor Board Room

Please spread the word about the special board meeting and what is happening at WRC.  Please help us SAVE WESTSIDE REGIONAL CENTER before it's too late!

Thanks for your help!

Judy

 

 

 

 

SAVE WESTSIDE REGIONAL CENTER!

Executive Summary

Westside Regional Center (WRC) has often been referred to as “one of the best regional centers in California.” Individuals with developmental disabilities, referred to in the system as “consumers,” and their families have always felt lucky to be at Westside. The respect and support that these consumers and families have received over the years was part of a culture within the organization they call, “The Westside Way.” This culture was created and nurtured over a 32Gyear tenure by WRC’s Executive Director, Mike Danneker, and the wonderful staff he hired and let do their jobs well. Last year, Mike announced his retirement, giving the organization and its board of directors more than eight months for the transition.   Come February 2, 2015, Mike turned over the keys to the front door to newly appointed Executive Director Kevin MacDonald.

Sadly, actions taken over the last ten months by leaders of WRC’s board of directors and its newly hired executive director have shown how quickly an esteemed organization can lose its heart and soul. These actions have led to a complete disenfranchisement of adult consumers who sit on the board, the unexplained firing of several experienced and devoted senior staff, the abrupt cancellation of the contract with the consumer board members’ trusted facilitator, and the potential imploding of the entire organization.

How did Westside Regional Center fall so far so fast? Here is an overview:

DECEMBER 2014: The process of hiring the new executive director was controlled by a small number of board members, locking out almost half of the board and all of the members who were consumers.

DECEMBER 2014/JANUARY 2015: Shortly after the vote, it became clear that at least four of the board members, including the board chair, had been serving beyond their legal terms of seven years, in violation of state law. Three of the four were also members of the small group that pushed Kevin MacDonald through as Executive Director.

MARCH 2015: The process of nominating new board members excluded meaningful participation by and were hostile to consumers and minorities.

JUNE 2015: An effort by current and former board members to retain control of the executive committee and officers resulted in an illegal vote that was overturned by DDS.

JUNE 2015: During the election for the office of secretary, the former board chair, in an apparent coordinated plan, called the election of a consumer as an officer “dangerous,” which led to the continued alienation of the most active consumers at Westside Regional Center.

JUNE 2015: Fallout from the board elections caused incredible stress on the consumers yet only a deafening silence from the Executive Director and Board Chair.

JULY 1, 2015: The morning of the July 1st board meeting, the WRC Board of Directors received another letter from DDS, this time questioning the “improper election of board officers … that may have unfairly influenced the officer nominations and voting process.” DDS also relayed concerns about the interference with the role of the facilitator.

JULY 1, 2015: At the board meeting that evening, the chair and executive director attempted to brush the illegal elections under the rug and prevent a thorough discussion of the mishandling of the election process. But the consumers stood up for their rights.

JULY/AUGUST 2015: The consumers continued to feel more disenfranchised from their regional center and had little trust that the new executive director Kevin MacDonald would protect them.

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Save Westside Regional Center – Executive Summary



AUGUST 2015: Despite a deadline from DDS in their letter, the 30 days went by with no response from the board about the improper officer elections. Finally, on August 13, Priscilla Hoe, without asking for input from most of the board, sent an unsatisfactory explanation that did not adequately address their concerns.

AUGUST 2015: Executive Director Kevin MacDonald continued to isolate himself from the consumers, the staff, and the community by moving his office to a different floor, rejecting offers of help from more experienced colleagues, and making decisions without consulting with his management team.

SEPTEMBER 4, 2015: Three months after the verbal abuse occurred at the June board meeting, Board Chair Priscilla Hoe finally sent a written apology to the CAC. For the CAC members, it was too little, too late and her sincerity was in question. In fact, while discussing with a parent of a board member who is also a consumer Chair Hoe stated she did not feel she needed to apologize.

SEPTEMBER 2015: The September 16th board meeting was filled with emotion, sadness, and anger expressed not only by the consumers but members of the board and the public. Instead of bringing the community together, Mr. MacDonald and Ms. Hoe were presiding over a community that is fractured and falling deeper into a seemingly irreparable hole.

SEPTEMBER 23S24, 2015: One week after the board meeting and without explanation, Executive Director Kevin MacDonald fired three longtime senior staff and the consumers’ trusted facilitator. The next day he held an allGstaff meeting and directed the staff that they can no longer be friends with anyone on the board.


THE FUTURE: The future of Westside Regional Center is uncertain. Walking through the halls of Westside Regional Center today, one feels the confusion, fear and an air of intimidation. It is clear that “the Westside Way” has disappeared and the pride that everyone had in their regional center has waned. Staff, board members, parents, providers, and particularly consumers are living in fear. Fear that they may lose their services. Fear that they may lose their jobs. Fear that they may lose their contracts. Fear that they will be the next target of retaliation. The Consumer Advisory Committee continues to lead the efforts and their demands have only increased.

Will the Department of Developmental Services step up in a timely manner with Westside in order to avoid another regional center imploding? Will every future board meeting be dominated by the continuing disrespect of the consumers as opposed to the ways to better serve them? Will social activities among consumers be replaced by political protests? Will the Westside Way no longer mean love and support but now mean fear and intimidation? What is the path to a peaceful and respectful future at Westside Regional Center?







SAVE WESTSIDE REGIONAL CENTER!
The Full Story

Westside Regional Center (WRC) has often been referred to as “one of the best regional centers in California.” Individuals with developmental disabilities, referred to in the system as “consumers,” and their families have always felt lucky to be at Westside. Parents have sought homes and apartments in the Westside catchment area so that their son or daughter would have better supports and opportunities funded by WRC. Staff have been known to leave other regional centers in order to work at WRC. In fact, the respect and support that these consumers and families have received over the years was part of a culture within the organization they call, “The Westside Way.”

This culture, a model for the state, was created and nurtured over a 32Hyear tenure by WRC’s longtime Executive Director, Mike Danneker, and the wonderful staff he hired and let do their jobs well. Last year, Mike announced his retirement, giving the organization and its board of directors more than eight months for the transition. Come February 2, 2015, Mike turned over the keys to the front door to newly appointed Executive Director Kevin MacDonald.

Sadly, actions taken over the last ten months by leaders of WRC’s board of directors and its newly hired executive director have shown how quickly an esteemed organization can lose its heart and soul. These actions have led to a complete disenfranchisement of adult consumers who sit on the board, the unexplained firing of several experienced and devoted senior staff, the abrupt cancellation of the contract with the consumer board members’ trusted facilitator, and the potential imploding of the entire organization.

How did Westside Regional Center fall so far so fast? Here is the full story:

1.       DECEMBER 2014: The process of hiring the new executive director was controlled by a small number of board members, locking out almost half of the board and all of the members who were consumers.

The Board of Directors established a committee to work with a search firm to hire a new executive director. Four board members who are also consumers volunteered for the committee but were told by the board chair, Rene Rivas, that the process would be “lots of paper and legal issues.” He asked them, “You don’t want to be part of that, do you?” He then promised them that they would be part of the interviews of the final candidates. As it turned out, not a single consumer was asked to participate in any interviews or even had the chance to meet the final candidate before the job was offered.

Mr. Rivas also promised the WRC staff that they would have meaningful input and that Mike Danneker would be part of the hiring process all the way through to ensure that the individual selected would carry on the “Westside Way.” Mr. Rivas and the entire board assured the nervous staff that their overriding concern was to guarantee that the culture at Westside would not change. Those promises were also broken.

Throughout the selection process, board members, staff, and members of the community felt that it was tainted and biased. Some board members were intentionally excluded from the process and prohibited from meeting with the board leaders’ favored candidate. The process completely lacked transparency and only a select few board members were kept in the loop.

In addition, the board chair held an event to meet the final candidate, Kevin MacDonald (a finalist who had the least amount of Regional Center experience). A significant number of selected board members were in attendance. In fact, a quorum was reached.  They discussed official board business – the hiring of a new executive director.  Yet not every board member HH and not a single consumer board member HH was invited or informed about the event. While this gathering clearly could be considered a meeting, the public was not provided notice nor an opportunity for input.


Save Westside Regional Center – The Full Story



A few days later, the board met to voteHin the final candidate. No board members were given any written information about the candidate in advance of the meeting in order to prepare. Forty percent of the board members never had a chance to meet the candidate. Some tried to reach out to him to meet but were chastised by the Board Chair and instructed that under no circumstances were they allowed to talk with Mr. MacDonald until he was hired. Several consumers and other board members expressed their discomfort with voting and asked for a postponement until the candidate could meet them all. Their concerns were ignored, dissent was squelched, and the vote was pushed through.
Kevin MacDonald became the new executive director. The final vote was not unanimous.

2.       DECEMBER 2014/JANUARY 2015: Shortly after the vote, it became clear that at least four of the board members, including the board chair, had been serving beyond their legal terms of seven years, in violation of state law. Three of the four were also members of the small group that pushed Kevin MacDonald through as Executive Director.

As part of their contract with DDS, WRC is expected to be in compliance with the Lanterman Act’s provisions on board composition. This includes ensuring that members stay within their legally mandated term limits of seven years. In December 2014, complaints were filed with DDS concerning four board members who had illegally exceeded their term limits. On January 20, 2015, Board Chair Rene Rivas, himself one of the individuals who was serving illegally on the board, sent a letter to DDS acknowledging that there were four board members serving beyond their term limits. But instead of stating that the board members would immediately resign, he promised that they wouldn’t stay beyond June 2015. (See Attachment 1) This prompted DDS to send another letter questioning “the Board’s commitment and intent to comply with all applicable laws and regulations” and giving them yet another 30 days to correct the nonHcompliance. (See Attachment 2) Finally, two weeks later, and only after Mr. Rivas had negotiated a generous compensation package for Mr. MacDonald, the four board members, including the chair, resigned. (See Attachment 3) But their illegal participation and their tactics in the hiring of the new executive director made the process suspect and possibly null and void.

3.       MARCH 2015: The process of nominating new board members excluded meaningful participation by and were hostile to consumers and minorities.

To replace the slots of the four board members forced to resign, a nominating committee was established. Despite the need for diversity required by law, the committee included five Caucasians, one Latino, and one AfricanHAmerican, who was also the only consumer. The committee chair, Paula Hilton, provided information about the board candidates only electronically, even though the consumer member, Portia Griffith, did not have access to the Internet. When questioned about this, Ms. Hilton responded by stating that it wasn’t the board’s fault if the consumer can’t use the Internet. She asked, “How is she on the board? Isn’t it is a board requirement?” (In truth, there is no such requirement.) But Ms. Hilton was informed, as had other executive board members in the past, that if they need to email Portia, they could email her mother who would give her the information.
Unfortunately, this was not being done.

4.       JUNE 2015: An effort by current and former board members to retain control of the executive committee and officers resulted in an illegal vote that was overturned by DDS.

At the June 2015 annual meeting, two of the four officer positions on the board were being contested. The slate of officers presented by the nominating committee included Judy Blumenthal for vice chair. Sandra Gonzalez, who was also running, had received a phone call the day before the election from Acting Chair Priscilla Hoe discouraging her from seeking the office.  During the vote for viceHchair:





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Save Westside Regional Center – The Full Story


·         The instructions on how to vote using a secret ballot something rarely done were confusing and the consumers were not provided adequate support. The information should have been provided to the consumers and their facilitators in advance so that they could be prepared for the process. As their trusted facilitator approached the table to explain the process, she was told by board chair Priscilla Hoe, that she should “step away from the table.” Thus, several of the consumers told of being confused about what they were voting on and either abstained or voted for an individual who was not even running.

·         Newly elected board members were discouraged from voting. The chair stated that “if you are a new board member and don’t personally know the candidates, you should probably abstain from voting.” This created a chilling effect on a vote that the new board members had every right to make.

·         A board member who had stepped off of the board and had been replaced by a new board member still voted. When his vote was questioned, the chair said that the byHlaws are confusing on this point. The byHlaws, however, are quite clear that newly elected board members immediately take the place of outgoing board members.

·         The result of the election was a tie. The board chair suggested that the two candidates become coHviceHchairs. Without a vote allowing for such an unusual arrangement or the ability of consumers to access support from a facilitator, the majority of the board agreed.

·         After this election, a whistleHblower complaint was filed with DDS, which led to another letter stating that the election was not valid (described  below).  Ms. Blumenthal eventually  resigned her position of vice   chair.

5.       JUNE 2015: During the election for the office of secretary, the former board chair, in an apparent coordinated plan, called the election of a consumer as an officer “dangerous,” which led to the continued alienation of the most active consumers at Westside Regional Center.

The two candidates for secretary included Paula Hilton, who had served for many years on the board and as secretary. Her opponent was Portia Griffith, the first consumer to ever run for an office in Westside Regional Center’s history. Immediately after brief speeches from each of the candidates, Priscilla Hoe called on former board chair Rene Rivas, now a member of the public, to speak,. In what appeared to be a calculated attack on a consumer, Mr. Rivas spoke for several minutes about the perils of electing a consumer to the executive committee. Included among the many offensive statements made by Mr. Rivas was:

“It sounds good. We’re all trying to be inclusive. We’re all trying to pat ourselves on the back for being progressive. But when you really try to implement something like this, it’s really fraught with danger.”

The consumer, and many of the other consumers in attendance reacted with dignity, although there were also tears. While there was strong pushback from a few members of the board and the public, board chair Priscilla Hoe and Executive Director Kevin MacDonald stayed silent. When they were asked by a member of the public to offer an apology to Portia and the rest of the consumers in attendance, Ms. Hoe responded by stating that, “everyone has a right to say what they want at our meetings.” Apparently this view holds even if the statement is incredibly offensive to the very individuals the organization is charged to serve.




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Save Westside Regional Center – The Full Story


Eventually, a board member offered a compromise by allowing the two candidates to serve as coH secretary. A vote was never taken to see if the consumer could actually win. The compromise was passed by a majority vote of hands but was not unanimous, and once again, the board did not meet its obligation to ensure that consumers receive facilitation in order to understand what was occurring.

6.       JUNE 2015: Fallout from the board elections caused incredible stress on the consumers yet only a deafening silence from the Executive Director and Board Chair.

In the days following the meeting, neither Kevin MacDonald nor Priscilla Hoe reached out to the consumers. Over the coming days and weeks, the consumers began to suffer from increased anxiety and stress. One had to go on antiHanxiety medication; another started having asthma attacks. Many feared even setting foot inside Westside Regional Center. Some worried that their services would be cut. On their own, the consumers, active members of the Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC), decided to write letters about their concerns. These letters were sent to DDS as a whistleblower complaint. Weeks passed with no apology or even outreach by Kevin MacDonald or Priscilla Hoe.

7.       JULY 1, 2015: The morning of the July 1st board meeting, the WRC Board of Directors received another letter from DDS, this time questioning the “improper election of board officers that may have unfairly influenced the officer nominations and voting process.” DDS also relayed concerns about the interference with the role of the facilitator. (See Attachment 4)

Board Chair Priscilla Hoe received a letter from DDS on the morning of the board meeting yet failed to mention it before or during the meeting to the other board members, even though it outlined illegal voting activity.  When asked about the letter from a fellow board member she simply stated she had yet to receive it. The letter stated that DDS was continuing to monitor the behavior of WRC’s board of directors, focusing its current concerns on the controversial June election, including a former board member voting and a former board member speaking against nominating a consumer to be an officer. They also expressed concern that “the facilitator, hired to assist and facilitate understanding on behalf of the consumers who are members of the governing board, was prevented from assisting during the voting process.” DDS specifically referred to the Lanterman Act section (WIC 4622.g1) that requires regional centers to provide assistance for consumers to ensure “maximum understanding.” They requested that the board respond within 30 days.

8.       JULY 1, 2015: At the board meeting that evening, the chair and executive director attempted to brush the illegal elections under the rug and prevent a thorough discussion of the mishandling of the election process. But the consumers stood up for their rights.

At the meeting of the Consumer Advisory Committee directly before the board meeting, CAC Chair Esther Kelsey told Kevin MacDonald that the consumers had written letters of concern. These letters were combined into one letter that Esther wanted to read at the board meeting. She asked Mr.
MacDonald if he wanted to hear the letter in advance. He told her “no” and that if she wanted to read it at the board meeting, “it is too late to get it on the agenda. It must be read during public comment – and you only have three minutes.” Once again, the consumers felt as if they didn’t matter.

At the beginning of the meeting, Chair Hoe announced that she and the executive director – in a decision not discussed with anyone else on the board had decided to limit public comment. (See Attachment 5) Ms. Hoe and Mr. MacDonald laid out the “ground rules” which included:
·         “Public comment will be limited to three minutes per speaker. Each speaker will have one turn at the microphone. For Action Items, the public will be invited to comment after board discussion is completed but before Action Item is voted on.
·         Any questions should be directed to the Chair. The Chair will answer all questions. If a board member would like to support the Chair’s response, the Chair will call on that person.
·         There will be no dialogue between the Board members and the public during the meeting.”

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Save Westside Regional Center – The Full Story


Despite the intimidating environment in the meeting, during public comment the consumers, at least 20 in number, dramatically stood up while the chair of the CAC, Esther Kelsey, read a statement expressing their grave concerns with how they have been treated. (See Attachment 6) The statement included:

“The consumers want you to know how we feel about your treatment of us last month and for the past 7 months. To the board members, exRboard members, executive director of WRC, your treatment of us is unacceptable. We are here to remind you that you are in our house. You are an invited guest at our table and how dare you mistreat us the way you have. Last month you made us feel afraid.  The board meeting is no longer a safe place. We are afraid to be on the board because you may take our services away to punish us and the people who support us.”

Sadly, Esther had no idea that her prediction would come true just two months later.

The statement directly called for the resignations of the board chair, Priscilla Hoe, and one of the secretaries Paula Hilton, a demand that has been made repeatedly to the present day and has yet to receive a response from the board or the executive director.

A few days following the July board meeting, in an exchange of heated emails among the board members, with no one accepting responsibility, a disturbing comment was written by Paula Hilton, which many suspect reflects the sentiment of others, that clearly displays their continued belief that consumers are incapable of having and expressing their own opinions.  Ms. Hilton wrote on July 5:

“One last question, it may be the $64 thousand dollar question. Who assisted in writing the report Esther read at the Board meeting on July 1st? It appears that someone wants to get rid of the Executive Board and I will never believe that our consumers are the ones.”

9.       JULY/AUGUST 2015: The consumers continued to feel more disenfranchised from their regional center and had little trust that the new executive director Kevin MacDonald would protect them. After the July board meeting, the executive director finally reached out to the CAC but by this time the trust had been broken and remains so to this day. They met on July 15 and the CAC put their demands into more specifics and asked for a response in writing. (See Attachment 7) In addition to the resignations of Priscilla Hoe and Paula Hilton, they asked why it has taken so long for Kevin to apologize for not stepping in to stop the verbal abuse of consumers.  They also asked for Kevin to receive sensitivity training and to stop calling them individually and “singling us out.” They clearly asked for a written and public apology for letting Mr. Rivas go on at the June board meeting.

On July 29, Mr. MacDonald did send the CAC a written response, however, the CAC felt that it did not adequately address their concerns. (See Attachment 8) His letter did not respond to most of the CAC’s specific requests. In his letter:

·         Mr. MacDonald apologized for the “words of one man who is not a board member, during a public comment period, during an open election.” The CAC believes that this “one man,” Mr. Rivas, did not devise his comments on his own but in close collaboration with other current board members. In fact, Mr. Rivas was seen and heard in the corner of the board room before the election meeting, quietly huddling with several other current and former board members and ending his conversation by saying, “I’ve got this, don’t worry.”





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Save Westside Regional Center – The Full Story


·         Mr. MacDonald stated that he “will be reviewing our procedures for allowing public comment and see how we can protect each of you and others from these types of harmful comments.” In practice, however, the CAC saw these new public comment “procedures” as an attempt to restrict their right to speak at a meeting – by limiting comment to three minutes and putting the comment period at the end of the meeting if there were no action items. This was a dramatic shift from the past when consumers felt free to speak out at meetings whenever they felt necessary.

Overall, the CAC felt that the letter was filled with hollow promises of bringing everyone back together
and in the coming weeks, it became clear that their fears would come true.

10.   August 2015: Despite a deadline from DDS in their letter, the 30 days went by with no response from the board about the improper officer elections. Finally, on August 13, Priscilla Hoe, without asking for input from most of the board, sent an unsatisfactory explanation that did not adequately address their concerns.  (See Attachment 9)

Although the 30Hday deadline had passed, the board chair called an Executive Committee meeting to discuss a response to the DDS letter. Almost every committee member received a notice of the meeting a week in advance, and, in fact, was asked about their availability. The one board member who was not contacted until the night before was Portia Griffith. Even though the board chair and others had been given Portia’s mother’s email address, they sent her information by regular mail.
Portia’s facilitator was not informed at all and Portia had to attend with her mother instead.

While the DDS letter was directed at the entire board, Ms. Hoe did not consult them on her response. The letter to DDS contained misinformation to cover up any responsibility for what happened during the board elections:
·         Ms. Hoe claimed that the byHlaws were “unclear as to when a Board Member’s term actually ended.” The byHlaws, however, were clear to any layperson reading them. But WRC decided to pay a lawyer to analyze the byHlaws.  She sent an opinion on July 1 stating that the “vote for   Vice President was not valid because more Directors voted than you had Directors in office and the vote was affected by that additional vote.”

·         Ms. Hoe acknowledged that a former board member spoke during the election against a consumer running for office. But she claimed that he was just “a member of the public,” a statement that doesn’t ring true as Mr. Rivas was clearly known as the former board chair and maintained close relationships with Kevin MacDonald, Priscilla Hoe, and the consumer’s opponent, Paula Hilton. Even though the comments by Mr. Rivas were incredibly offensive to the individuals that the organization exists to serve, Ms. Hoe told DDS that she believes it is her “role to make sure that everyone is heard, whether I agree with them or not.”

·         DDS was also concerned about the board chair and secretary obstructing the facilitator to fulfill her legally mandated role. Instead of taking responsibility for denying the consumers their legal right to assistance, she blamed the “lack of policies and procedures for the role of the facilitator,” and seemed to put the onus on the facilitator by asking her “not to interfere with the clients when they were voting.” The problem with this argument is that there are clear protocols established by DDS and the Lanterman Act for facilitation for consumers who serve on the board. The board chair herself may have been ignorant of these protocols, but they do exist.    In fact, Marcia James, the vendored facilitator, sent a letter to the board and the executive director explaining this issue and asking that the board do their part by ensuring that materials are distributed to the consumers in a timely manner so that they can participate fully in the decisionHmaking process.  (See Attachment 10)

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Save Westside Regional Center – The Full Story


11.   AUGUST 2015: Executive Director Kevin MacDonald continued to isolate himself from the consumers, the staff, and the community by moving his office to a different floor, rejecting offers of help from more experienced colleagues, and making decisions without consulting with his management team.

The month of August showed that the executive director felt that he could make decisions on his own and wasn’t part of a greater team at Westside Regional Center. At the time of his employment, the board promised the community and Kevin publicly agreed that things wouldn’t change and the Westside Way would remain intact. But as his six months at the agency approached, Mr. MacDonald decided to move his office away from the other senior staff on the 3rd floor to the much less accessible 4th floor.

The board had also directed Mr. MacDonald to work closely with outgoing executive director Mike Danneker for six months in order to be mentored in a job where he had little experience. The six months came to a close with Mr. MacDonald rejecting much of the advice that Mike offered.

12.   SEPTEMBER 4, 2015: Three months after the verbal abuse occurred at the June board meeting, Board Chair Priscilla Hoe finally sent a written apology to the CAC. For the CAC members, it was too little, too late and her sincerity was in question. In fact, while discussing with a parent of a board member who is also a consumer Chair Hoe stated she did not feel she needed to apologize.

Ms. Hoe spoke on behalf of the entire board and asked the clients to accept an apology for the insulting words of a former board member at the June board meeting. (See Attachment 11) The CAC, however, felt that even this apology was filled with qualifications and didn’t fully show her contrition. Ms. Hoe stated:  “At future board meetings it will be explicitly stated – as well as written into the agenda – that the Board does not endorse comments made by the public.” The request of the CAC was to ensure that Ms. Hoe stop these offensive comments as they occur, not to just distance herself from them.

In addition, Ms. Hoe wrote:“Hopefully, all of us can agree that it is in the best interests of Board members and clients to move past this unfortunate incident and to work together constructively.” The CAC feels that Ms. Hoe is just not getting how deep the hurt and mistrust is, and that they can’t just “move past” it.

13.   SEPTEMBER 2015: The September 16th board meeting was filled with emotion, sadness, and anger expressed not only by the consumers but members of the board and the public. Instead of bringing the community together, Mr. MacDonald and Ms. Hoe were presiding over a community that is fractured and falling deeper into a seemingly irreparable hole.

Mr. MacDonald and Ms. Hoe knew that emotions were running high but chose to keep one public comment period at the end of the meeting. Instead of trying to heal a fragmented community, they chose to have Ms. Hoe speak about it in her Chairperson’s Report.

The consumers, however, didn’t wait to express their concerns till the end of the meeting during the public comment period. During the report from the Consumer Advisory Committee, board member Larry Ryan delivered a passionate, sad, and empowering speech written by the consumers that drew tears from many members of the public, board and staff. (See Attachment 12) Among his comments were:

“It is with great sadness that we give our report today... Instead of helping us, all of you, except five Board members, have continued to not respect us, treat us poorly, call us stupid, and show us that we are a token to you. All we have seen you do is argue, blame other board members for your lack of knowledge, blame others for your lack of understanding and attack our supporters….

7



Save Westside Regional Center – The Full Story


The Board Chair and the Executive Director make changes that are not voted on by anyone else. The Board Chair and Executive Director allow others to attack us and refuse to stop them. They also make excuses as to why they allow others to attack us.

We think The Chair and the Executive Director did not stop Rene Rivas from saying those very mean things because you agree with him. That would also explain why we had to beg the Board for an apology. Yes, you have finally apologized but it is very unfortunate that you had to be forced to make your apology. We know that up until the last Executive meeting, you said that you would not apologize. These ugly, untrue, limited statements were made in June and it took you until September to apologize.

Priscilla, we asked that you step down. Not because we are mean, not because we are being told what to do. We asked because number one, it is our right... We asked you to step down because you have no intention of protecting us. Don't you know that silence equals consent? Don't you know that you are supposed to run your meeting and protect the consumers? You and the executive director hide behind words.

Instead of stepping down, you are going to destroy CAC, selfRadvocacy, our rights, our ability to use our regional center, and the Westside Way. We are even more afraid now more than ever.

So unless you stand up and tell us different we are holding each and every one of you responsible for making us afraid. We are holding you responsible for making us physically ill. We are holding you responsible for making us tokens in our own house.”

In response to this impassioned plea, Ms. Hoe and Mr. MacDonald provided their clearest condemnation to date of Mr. Rivas and his remarks from three months earlier. Ms. Hoe also said that she would need a few days to think about the CAC request for her resignation. (The CAC is still awaiting a response.)

But three board members, (Courtney Colman, Paula Hilton, and Philip Jackson), who had been part of the original core group who had alienated the consumers in the first place, came to Ms. Hoe’s defense stating that she should be able to continue as board chair. They condemned “Larry’s personal attack.” Ironically, these are the same individuals who were silent in June as Mr. Rivas belittled consumers and they have yet to offer an apology.

Other board members, in particular several of the newly elected board members, offered emotional apologies and expressed their dismay about how the leadership has mishandled the situation. During public comment, members of the community and a few staff rose in defense of the consumers and spoke of their anguish over how the consumers are feeling.

At the end of the night, it remained as unclear as before the meeting how the board, staff, and community were going to move forward. But in the following week, it became clear how the Executive Director wanted to handle it.

14.   SEPTEMBER 23b24, 2015: One week after the board meeting and without explanation, Executive Director Kevin MacDonald fired three longtime senior staff and the consumers’ trusted facilitator. The next day he held an allbstaff meeting and directed the staff that they can no longer be friends with anyone on the board.


Shocking seemingly everyone at Westside Regional Center and throughout the developmental disability community, Mr. MacDonald laid out his response to the crisis at WRC by terminating the employment of three senior staff who provided the backbone of the agency and the continuity of the

8



Save Westside Regional Center – The Full Story


culture. Without giving any reason and without consulting his board of directors, Kevin MacDonald fired:
·         Bill Feeman, Director of Client Services, 16 years at WRC;
·         Mary Lou WeiseHStusser, Director of Community Services, 32 years at WRC; and,
·         Vikki Luke, Training and Project Manager, 21 years at WRC.

It was a particular surprise considering that Mr. MacDonald came to Westside Regional Center from a provider agency with no experience working in a regional center and little knowledge of the complex processes to deal with the state and federal government funding agencies. The firing of three of the top executives have left a huge hole in the internal workings of the regional center. That day, Mr.
MacDonald terminated over 60 years of combined stellar regional center experience to his seven months. These three staff were responsible for community services, quality assurance, client services including Medicaid waiver issues, vendorization of providers, and training of staff, vendors, family members and consumers. Mr. MacDonald has left the regional center in an incredibly compromised position.

If the firing of the senior staff sent a shock through the community, Mr. MacDonald’s termination of the consumer board facilitator seemed like an earthquake. Marcia James, had served as the facilitator since 2008 but had been assisting consumers in various capacities at Westside Regional Center for over 25 years. She helped the CAC members plan their events, meetings, and community activities. Her most important responsibility, laid out clearly in the Lanterman Act, was assisting the consumers who sit on WRC’s board of directors in fully participating in the board and committee meetings.

Ms. James has important relationships with the CAC leadership and the consumer board members. She is gifted in ensuring that the consumers are empowered and informed, but always allows them to take the lead and speak in their own voice. They trust her completely, particularly during the recent tumultuous time. She helps to calm their anxiety and goes above and beyond on their behalf.

No one could see this termination on the horizon. Ms. James was considered to be an excellent facilitator, the consumers had faith in her, and there had been no complaints about her services or evidence of improper activity. In fact, at the board meeting the week prior, Ms. Hoe mentioned in her report that she was planning on bringing in Marcia James to train the board on increasing sensitivity to client needs and the role of the client facilitator.

Yet in his termination letter, Mr. MacDonald went so far as to order the facilitator to halt all communication with the individuals she has served for years. (See Attachment 13) He stated:
“Please cease all communication with the clients for those programs and the Clients Advisory Council and please do not visit or enter Westside Regional Center.”

How has this act affected the consumers that Westside serves? The consumers are interpreting the termination of their facilitator as retaliation for their efforts to speak out and be treated with respect. They are feeling betrayed, lost, and alone. One consumer is unable to sleep and is throwing up everyday. Another consumer, who sees a doctor at the regional center, is afraid that anything he says “will go straight to Kevin.” Other consumers who have a job at Westside Regional Center are fearful that they will be the next to be fired.

The day after all of the terminations took place, Mr. MacDonald led an allHstaff meeting. He explained that the three staff were “no longer with the agency.” His explanation was that “when there is a new President of the United States, he brings in his own cabinet,” although Mr. MacDonald didn’t share his plans of how the giant holes in expertise left by the firings were to be filled.

9



Save Westside Regional Center – The Full Story


Mr. MacDonald went on to say that Westside Regional Center is not the best regional center anymore but that together they could make it so. He also told the staff that “the board members are not your friends,” and that if he sees a staff member fraternizing with a board member, he will “distance himself from you.” The fear and apprehension in the room was palpable.

Kevin also called selected board members to let them know he terminated the senior staff and also provided them with no reason except that “they didn’t fit into the direction he wanted to take,” a vision that has not been provided to board members or staff but that the board should be a partner in developing. Mr. MacDonald never told them that he had terminated the contract of the facilitator.


THE FUTURE: The future of Westside Regional Center is uncertain. Walking through the halls of Westside Regional Center today, one feels the confusion, fear and an air of intimidation. It is clear that “the Westside Way” has disappeared and the pride that everyone had in their regional center has waned. (See Attachment 14) Staff, board members, parents, providers, and particularly consumers are living in fear. Fear that they may lose their services. Fear that they may lose their jobs. Fear that they may lose their contracts. Fear that they will be the next target of retaliation. The Consumer Advisory Committee continues to lead the efforts and their demands have only increased.


Will Westside end up like Kern Regional Center? Just two years ago, Kern, another wellbregarded regional center, hired an outsider as their new executive director. He also fired the senior staff, and other respected staff decided to leave on their own. Staff morale sank low, the community was up in arms, and a few months ago, new board members came on and fired the executive director. But only after the damage was done. Kern Regional Center is still reeling from their nightmare.

Will the Department of Developmental Services step up in a timely manner with Westside in order to avoid another regional center imploding? Will every future board meeting be dominated by the continuing disrespect of the consumers as opposed to the ways to better serve them? Will social activities among consumers be replaced by political protests? Will the Westside Way no longer mean love and support but now mean fear and intimidation? What is the path to a peaceful and respectful future at Westside Regional Center?






















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Attachment 1




Attachment 2

STATE OF CALIFORNIA--HEALTH AND HUMAN  SERVICES AGENCY                                                                EDMUND G. BROWN JR., Governor

DEPARTMENT OF DEVELOPMENTAL SERVICES

1600 NINTH STREET, Room 320, MS 3-9
SACRAMENTO, CA 95814
TDD 654-2054 (For the Hearing Impaired) (916) 654-1958




January 29, 2015




Rene Rivas, Board Chair Westside Regional Center
5901 Green Valley Circle, Suite 320 Culver City, CA 90230

Dear Mr. Rivas:

Thank you for your January 20, 2015, correspondence regarding Westside Regional Center’s (WRC) compliance with Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) section 4622. You noted, in your letter, that WRC’s current Board is not compliant with the statutorily required term limits for four board members and state that the board members were asked by WRC’s Executive Director, Mike Danneker, to remain on the Board to help with the selection and transition to the new executive director.

Your letter indicates the Board is aware that four members have exceeded the statutorily required term limit; therefore the Board is not in compliance with current law. The contract between the Department of Developmental Services (Department) and WRC requires the regional center to comply with all applicable laws and regulations.
The Board had, and still has, an obligation to take action to ensure it achieves compliance with WIC section 4622. The Board’s recent actions lead the Department to question the Board’s commitment and intent to comply with all applicable laws and regulations. In addition, the Department recently received several complaints from community members expressing concern about the Board’s non-compliance with statute regarding term limits.

You state in your January 20, 2015, letter, “A slate of nominated candidates is due from the committee before our May Board meeting and voting on the new members will be done during our annual Board meeting held in June.” The outlined timeline does not demonstrate to the Department that the Board is intending to take the appropriate action to remedy their non-compliance with statute. To that end, the Board has an immediate responsibility to remedy this issue.  The Department is aware that Mr. Danneker informed the Board of his retirement in May 2014, which originally was to take effect in December 2014, so the Board has had ample time to select a new executive director without violating statute. Please submit to the Department, within 30 days of the date of this letter, a written plan of correction which details how the Board has or will timely come into compliance with WIC section 4622(f).


"Building Partnerships, Supporting Choices"


Rene Rivas, Board Chair January 29, 2015
Page two



The Department commends the Board for its efforts to ensure its composition reflects the ethnic composition of its constituency and is comprised of at least 25 percent consumer representation. However, achieving compliance with these provisions cannot result in non-compliance with WIC section 4622 (f), which states:

Members of the governing board shall not be permitted to serve more than seven years within each eight–year period.” [W&I code §4622(f)]

If you have any questions regarding this correspondence, please contact Brian Winfield, Assistant Deputy Director, Community Services Division, at (916) 654-1569. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Original signed by:

NANCY BARGMANN
Deputy Director
Community Services Division

cc:       Judy Blumenthal, WRC Board Member Nilo Choudry, WRC Board Member Courtney Colman, WRC Board Treasurer Ben Davidson, WRC Board Member Cecelia Fabulich, WRC Board Member
Dru Garcia-Richardson, WRC Board Member Fernando Gomez, WRC Board Member Sandra Gonzalez, WRC Board Member Portia Griffith-Lane, WRC Board Member Paula Hilton, WRC Board Secretary
Priscilla Hoe, WRC Board Vice Chair Phillip Jackson, WRC Board Member Gail Louis, WRC Board Member Sophia Orozco, WRC Board Member Jack Rose, WRC Board Member Larry Ryan, WRC Board Member Bob Steiner, WRC Board Member Russell Tanner, WRC Board Member
Michael Danneker, WRC Executive Director John Doyle, Chief Deputy Director, DDS
Brian Winfield, Assistant Deputy Director, DDS


Attachment 3


Attachment 4




Attachment 5

MINUTES
BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING COASTAL DEVELOPMENTAL SERVICES FOUNDATION
WEDNESDAY JULY 1, 2015



MEMBERS   PRESENT:     Judy Blumenthal
Courtney Colman Linda Demer Austin Dove
Camy Starks DuPont Zoe Adams Giesberg Fernando Gomez Sandra Gonzalez Paula  Hilton Priscilla Hoe
Philip  Jackson Portia Lanae Griffith Gail Louis
Adriana Madrigal Larry P. Ryan Maria Soto Russell Tanner
ABSENT:                              Ben Davidson (SPAC), Betty Pearson-Grimble, Bob Steiner STAFF   PRESENT:                            Bill Feeman, Danny Franco, Kevin MacDonald, Carmine
Manicone, Kerwind Portillo, Liz Spencer, Mary Lou Weise-Stusser

GUESTS:                               Joseph Allen Jr., Chris Arroyo, Lisa Basiri, Alicia Bazzano, Desree
Boykin, Linda Butler, Nilo Choudhry, Zakir Choudhry, Nick Coplin, Ana Cruz, Mike Danneker, Marcelo DiMauro, Rayvone Douthard, Catherine Eldridge, Elizabeth Espinoza, Cecilia Fabulich, Sylvia Fahimian, Laurene Feldman, Danny Garcia, Elizabeth Gomez, Brett Gordon, Perry Griffith, Betty Grifford, Marcia James, Betsy Johnson, Rafer Johnson, Raquel Johnson, Esther Kelsey, Soryl Markowitz, Barbara McCants, David Mezquita, Mayra Mezquita, Christine Monroe, Todd Rubien, Robert Schwartz, Mark Seidenberg, Vicki Smith, Martha Thompson, Felicia Williams, Wesley Witherspoon, Steve Yi, Ari Zeldin

Board Chair Priscilla Hoe called the meeting to order at 6:10 p.m.

INTRODUCTION OF GUESTS
Guests were welcomed and invited to introduce themselves. Chairperson Priscilla Hoe announced changes to the Agenda and set ground rules for an effective and productive meeting. Public Comment has been moved to the end of the Agenda and will be limited to three minutes per speaker. Each speaker will have one turn at the microphone. For Action Items the public will be invited to comment after board discussion is completed but before Action Item is voted

WRC  Board Meeting Minutes                             1                                                           July 1, 2015


on.  The Executive Director’s Report will be moved earlier into the meeting.  Board members will be recognized by the Chair in order to speak. Board members may speak one at a time and there should be no interruptions when a Board member is speaking. There should be no sidebar conversations, whispering, or private conversations when a Board member is speaking. Each speaker should be given undivided attention. Any questions should be directed to the Chair. The Chair will answer all questions. If a Board member would like support the Chair’s response, the Chair will call on that person. There will be no dialogue between the Board members and the public during the meeting.

The Chair was questioned about the changes and the order of the Agenda. In working with the Executive Director the Chair made all the decisions in the changes of the Agenda. It was noted that there was no item within the Agenda asking for the approval of the Agenda itself. This agenda was set by the Chair and the Executive Director because of the advance public notice requirement set forth by the bylaws.

TO APPROVE THE MINUTES
There was a discussion that the June 3rd, 2015 minutes were incomplete. The following words were added to the minutes and accepted by the Board:
(1)  There was discussion from a Board member expressing concern on the validity of how the voting is being carried by the fact that new members were given the right to vote while an outgoing board member continued voting while technically termed out.
(2)  Strong objections were expressed to a point made by a member of the public regarding clients holding offices.
(3) Although the motion to split the Office of Secretary and have Co-Chairs carried, the vote count should be corrected to reflect the actual numbers. The actual numbers were 8 in favor, 2 oppose, & 4 abstentions.
M/S/C   (Blumenthal/Jackson)    To accept the corrections to the minutes of June 3, 2015


CHAIRPERSON'S REPORT
Chairperson Priscilla Hoe addressed the issues concerning the Officer elections. There was a tie in the election for Vice-Chair. The solution recommended by the Chair was to have Co-Vice- Chairs pending legal counsel. The attorney’s interpretation of the Bylaws shows that it is permitted to share the office of the Vice-Chair. The Bylaws provide that newly elected Board members take their seats immediately and are allowed to vote. A sitting Board member that was vacating their seat by the end of the year also voted in the election. It was the attorney’s conclusion that this outgoing Board member’s vote should not have been allowed.  The need for a re-vote for the Vice-Chair Office was planned for the September 2015 meeting. Judy Blumenthal, Co-Vice Chair withdrew her name from the ballot, thus eliminating the need for a re-vote, but will continue on the Board and continue as Chair of the Client Services Committee. As a result Sandra Gonzalez is the new Board Vice-Chair.

The Nominating Committee will be reactivated. Paula Hilton and Phil Jackson will be on the committee. The Chair would like participation from one of the new Board members.  The purpose of the committee will be to recruit and identify two additional Board members. The two new members would need to be Latino in order to bring the Board composition closer in line with DDS guidelines.



WRC  Board Meeting Minutes                             2                                                           July 1, 2015


Attachment 6

Esther Kelsey Speech to WRC Board – July 1, 2015

Good evening.  As CAC Chair, I would like to address the board.

For those of you who may not know, I am the Consumer Advisory Committee Chair. I am also involved with several other advocacy groups. As CAC chair, and group member, the other officers and I are the voice of the WRC consumers. The consumers want you to know how we feel about your treatment of us last month and for the past 7 months. To the   Board   members,   Ex-Board members,                                                            Executive  Director of WRC.  Your treatment of us is unacceptable. We are   here to   remind you that                           you are in our house.  You are invited guest at our table and how  dare  you  mistreat us the way   you have.            Last    month  you  made us feel afraid, the  Board  meeting  is No longer a safe  place.

We are afraid to be on the  Board  because  you may take our services away to punish us and the people who support us. Stop punishing us. You made us embarrassed, you hurt our feelings, and you have no ability to see us as people first. Some of you are even rude. As we were being insulted, someone from the audience asked for you to apologize and you refused by saying that anyone can say anything that they want.  No they cannot.  You and  anyone
who thinks that it is okay to disrespect us, talk down to us and not help us should not be here. We do not need people like you. You lack character, you lack morals, you lack the ability to speak for us because you do not have any idea who we are and what we are ca-pa- ble of doing.  You lack the ability to keep us safe, in fact you are the very people who make us unsafe. You show prejudice. In the past you acted like you liked us, but we see that’s not   true.

It makes us wonder why you are on the board because you show that you have no respect for us. Just because some of you have relatives with a disability that don’t mean that you should use that as leverage. and use your relative as an excuse to act like you have an interest in
us. We say shame on you. Frank Lanterman had to help make a law because of people like you. Shame on you, Shame on you, Shame on you. Since you have made it clear that you agree and support someone saying that we are less than and dangerous and you have no ability to see us as people who can function with some  assistance,

We are asking that Chair of the Board, The Secretary, and outgoing Treasurer to step down from the Board. We need to go forward with people who are not going to crucify us, penalize us, punish us, destroy our character or discriminate against us. Thank you for taken the time  to hear us and we are expecting to hear a respond to CAC soon. Thank you and madam chair  I would like to have this entered into the minutes.


Attachment 7
July 15, 2015
What we want at the CAC:

We at CAC want all the following in writing in the next two weeks. If there is something that cannot be done, we want you to tell us why it is not possible in writing.

1.  We want to know why it has taken over a month for Kevin to apologize. If you cared enough that night you would have apologized then. We should not have to beg for a simple apology.
-   We want a written and verbal apology
-   In your apology include why you allowed for the insults and emotional abuse in our house, especially when your job is to protect us.
-   In your apology tell us why it was wrong what happened
-   In your apology explain to us why it wont happen again.

2.  Correct at next board meeting who is in charge. At the last Board meeting you said that the staff answers to you and you answer to the board. You need to add what you left out. You need to inform everyone that the Board answers to the Consumers and families at WRC.  Stop taking our power away.

3.  We do not want Kevin training us in anything he has showed us he needs professional training.
-   Sensitivity training
-   Respect training
-   Lanterman Act training
-   Diversity training
-   People skills training
You need to practice what you learn and preach from these trainings.  In our CAC meeting we told you that we wanted to speak about how badly we felt and were treated at the June Board meeting and you told us we could not unless we called you to get on the Agenda or we could speak after the meeting for two or three minutes after. You told us that how we were treated  at the Board was just how Board meetings go and we have to just stand up and tough it out. You said this is how the board meetings ran where you are from. Well, we are on several boards, including the WRC board and we have never been treated like this, so don’t tell us a lie.
You also showed us a film about Respect and got a guy from Chile to teach us about respect and you show a lot about what you use to do at ARC, but you showed us no respect. Stop the videos until you mean what you say it.

4.  We don’t want you as a friend we have friends we want a leader who know how to be a leader. Stop singling us out. We do this as a team. If you give something to one member you need to have enough for everybody the same. Because we feel you want to butter us up to get on our good side. So no more emails texts or calls unless we are setting up a meeting. And another thing, we will not keep having meetings. We want the answers in writing and the only other meeting we will have is with the board after you answer this letter.

5.  We don’t know what is in your contract. We want it put in your contract that you are to get evaluated year to year by CAC, staff and the board. We want to know from Mike would you stay longer if Kevin does not want to stay and train someone else for the position and can we be a larger part of getting the next person.

As far as the Board at WRC is concerned we want the resignation of the Priscilla H. and Paula H. We want a written and public apology and why it was wrong to let it go on.

Kevin no offended to you. We don’t want to hurt your feelings but what is dangerous is you have not shown us that this is the job for you. You kiss up to the board and you do not protect us.  Thank you for your time.





Attachment 9

August 13, 2015 Mr. Brian Winfield
Assistant Deputy Director
Department of Developmental Services 1600 Ninth Street, Room 320
Sacramento, CA 95814 Dear Mr. Winfield,
I am pleased to respond to your letter of July 1, 2015 regarding concerns brought to you about the governance and the processes on the Westside Regional Center Board. We appreciated the extension of the timeline so that our Executive Committee could review the document.

We have made significant progress since I assumed the role of President in March, when our former President resigned as a result of term limits.

First, I would like to address point #4. - Closed Board Meetings

It was brought to my attention that the long-standing practice at Westside Regional Center of having Board elections in a private meeting just prior to our Annual Dinner was not consistent with our Bylaws or with state law.


This year, to comply with the Lanterman Act and with our Bylaws, we held an open Board meeting on June 3, 2015, at which we conducted the elections and other Board business. Our Annual Dinner was held on a separate date, out of the regional center, with no business conducted.  This will be our practice from this point forward.

The challenge of holding our first open elections, trying to interpret unclear Bylaws, and encouraging public input naturally brought up issues. We used our attorney throughout the process, as questions arose, to keep the proceedings compliant with legal requirements. Our goal was to have open and fair elections. We documented everything and are revising our Bylaws, so that future elections will not be open to interpretation.

1.  Improper Election of Board of Directors

1a. The Bylaws were unclear as to when a Board Member’s term actually ended (customarily, it is the end of the fiscal year - June 30th), but since the elections for new officers were being held before that, the other option raised was that it might be as soon as the new general board elections were concluded.

This became an issue during the most recent election process. Not knowing how to respond, we permitted one individual to vote, even though he was resigning and would
Committed To  Providing Support And Services To  People With Developmental   Disabilities
5901 Green Valley Circle, Suite 320, Culver City, CA 9023096953 < (310)25894000  FAX:  (310)64991024 www.westsiderc.org


not be on the new Board. He felt that he was entitled to vote and believed his term ended on June 30th.  We said that we would check with our attorney after the meeting to make sure that his vote did not cause a problem. We did get a written opinion from our attorney advising that the Board Member’s term ends immediately upon the election of the new general board.  We will add this to our revised Bylaws to avoid this question in the future.


We brought this issue of the former Board member voting to the next Board meeting. The improper vote had only affected one office, which resulted in a tie for the position of Vice-President resulting in Co-Vice Presidents. We recommended that the Board conduct another election in September for that seat. The new election became unnecessary when one of the Vice-Presidents declined to accept the position and that left only the one individual as Vice-President. In any event, the Bylaws do permit the Board to create new Co-Offices.

1b. A former Board member, who is no longer on the Board, did speak during the election process. I have encouraged public input since I took office and we have had more in the last few meetings than in the past few years combined. I have not curtailed the public input despite the fact that it has often been contentious. I allowed public input during the election process and prior to the vote, in accordance with my understanding of the law. Members of the public spoke against some of the candidates, both clients and non-clients. In this particular case, the former Board member argued that clients should not serve as Officers. He did not speak in an advisory capacity; he was present as a member of the public. His comments were not endorsed by the Board. In fact, he was condemned for his remarks by several individuals and the client he was speaking about spoke in her own defense. She was elected to the position notwithstanding his arguments.

As is the practice in most public meetings, the Chair does not support or oppose the statements expressed during public comment. It is my role to make sure that everyone is heard, whether I agree with them or not.

1c. The Bylaws state that once the full Board is elected, the voting for Officers is to follow. This meant that seven new Board members had the right to vote for the new Officers for the Board. The Chair of the Nominating Committee told the new members that they were not required to vote for the Officer positions if they didn’t know the candidates and many did not. The Nominating Chair left it up to the new Board members’ discretion, but no one was told not to vote. This lack of knowledge about Officer Candidates raised the need for a process to give new Board members a way to get to know candidates for Offices prior to election time, which we shall address.

1d. In our first open elections, we encountered a new challenge and our attorney supported the decisions we made. The Board may vote to have Co-Officers and this happened twice in our first elections. As discussed above, the Vice-President position became Co-Vice Presidents until one of the holders of that position declined to act. The Board voted to create a Co-Secretary position, as it is permitted to do under the WRC


2


Bylaws. The two individuals were then voted into the Secretary positions. (Attached please find the procedures we followed that night and attorney correspondence.)


2.            Board Composition – Our Board composition complies with the requirements of Welfare and Institutions Code section 4622 in that it reflects “the geographic and ethnic characteristics of the area to be served by the regional center.” I have attached a chart setting forth DDS guidelines and the composition of the WRC Board.  Several individuals were disappointed in not being selected by the Nominating Committee. In another effort to increase Board diversity, we have expanded our Board to 21 members, with both of the two vacant positions to be Latino. We are now in the process of putting together a new Nominating Committee to recruit the additional members. But as noted, even without these efforts, the Board composition already complies with DDS guidelines.

All of this is within the context of our losing four minority positions in February when it was realized that those four Directors were on the Board beyond their term limits.

3.            Board Facilitator – This was another challenge that came from the open election process and the lack of policies and procedures for the role of the facilitator. I did ask the Facilitator during the voting process not to interfere with the clients when they were voting. The voting process must be transparent.  New procedures will address ways to avoid the perception that clients are being told how to vote. WRC staff will be meeting with the Facilitator, a WRC vendor, to develop appropriate protocols for her role with Board members.

As the new President of the Board, I inherited much dissention due to a number of issues. We have made great strides in putting Westside Regional Center back on track. We will continue to make progress and address the issues as they come up. It will take patience to bring everyone into a cohesive whole, but we are committed to doing that.

Please let me know if you need any additional information. Sincerely,
Priscilla Hoe President

cc: Executive Committee
Kevin MacDonald, Executive Director

Enclosures: Election notes, Board Composition, Attorney Correspondence








3


Attachment 10




August 28, 2015

Good Morning Priscilla, Executive Members of the Board, and Kevin. I truly hope that everyone is able to enjoy this beautiful day.
Recently, it has come to my attention that there is a grave and potentially recklessly irresponsible misconception by members of the Board specifically, and others generally, that there are no protocols in place for the facilitation of consumers who serve on the Westside Regional Center Board. Executive Board has stated, ”… and the lack of policies and procedures for the role of the Facilitator. I did ask the Facilitator during the voting process not to interfere with the clients when they were voting. The voting process must be transparent. New procedures will address ways to avoid the perception that clients are being told how to vote...” I assure you that this could not be further from the  truth.
The Lanterman Act and DDS have protocols and mandates that have been in practice since 2008 with me specifically at WRC and I would imagine with the previous board Facilitators.

I understand that the Board is going through transition and I have exercised months of patience through the process because I do understand that change needs time. With this being said, I was wondering if we would be able to ”get back on track” by the Board forwarding the necessary information to the Facilitator in a timely manner, so that the Board members, who are being served by facilitation can be assisted. In recent months, it has been very difficult to obtain the necessary information prior to meetings so that the consumers, who are also Board members, can be apprised of said  information. Additional time is required for the consumers to fully familiarize themselves and have questions answered so that they can, to the best of their ability, be fully contributing members of the Board.  Without this preparation,
they are not being fully embraced. There is much to be discussed regarding the new style of how meetings are being conducted in general and how this is impacting our consumers who are board members. We also have great need to discuss how the recent process is affecting their ability to vote with confidence. Their current position is one of stress, fear and disenfranchisement.

If you had questions and concerns regarding facilitation, as I am the Facilitator,  I really wish you had just asked. Please feel free to contact me any time.
Should you wish to have training on the role of a Facilitator, I am available for that as well.

Again, Enjoy Your Day, Marcia  James, Facilitator


Attachment 11

To: esther.kelsey78@yahoo.com; bgriffith@cityofinglewood.org; rescue51lr@gmail.com CC: mtjam21@yahoo.com
Subject: an apology
Date: Fri, 4 Sep 2015 08:18:47 -0700

Portia, Esther, and CAC members,

Portia, with this apology I believe that I speak for the entire Westside Regional Board. We are sorry.

We sincerely regret that you were insulted by the words of a former Board member spoken during the June Board meeting.

And, Esther, you represented all clients in the statement you made at the July meeting. We ask that you and the clients accept this apology.

We clearly understand your feelings were deeply hurt by the comments and that the pain caused by those comments not only has lingered but has intensified.
Being insulted in an environment in which you felt safe and expected only support made the comments even more objectionable.

At your request I will read this apology at the September Board meeting.

At future Board meetings it will be explicitly stated - as well as written into the agenda - that the Board does not endorse comments made by the public.
We won't let this happen again.

Hopefully, all of us can agree that it is in the best interests of Board members and clients to move past this unfortunate incident and to work together constructively.

We have a formidable task ahead. We must speak with one voice to our legislators in Sacramento. There are threats of changes to the Lanterman Act and budget cuts that could significantly affect our programs. These are big issues. We have to be united to protect and expand our services.


Respectfully, Priscilla


Attachment 12

Statement from the CAC  Board Meeting – September 16, 2015



Good evening Members of the Board and Guests.

It is with great sadness that we give our report today.

We have requested several times for the Board to respect us and our wishes.

Instead of helping us, all of you, except five Board members, have continued to not respect us, treat us poorly, call us stupid, and show us that we are a token to  you.

Some thing to be used for your ego instead of doing your job. Your job is to help us live the best possible life. Your job is to learn what you need to know to be effective in your role as helpers.

All we have seen you do is argue, blame other board members for your lack of knowledge, blame others for your lack of understanding and attack our supporters.

You make excuses and continue to hide behind arguments. You refuse to do what is asked of you. You being here is harmful. We will never feel safe with the current Board Chair or Board Secretary.

The Board Chair and the Executive Director make changes that are not voted on by anyone else. The Board Chair and Executive Director allow others to attack us and refuse to stop them. They also make excuses as to why they allow others to attack us.

We think The Chair and the Executive Director did not stop Rene Rivas from saying those very mean things because you agree with him. That would also explain why we had to beg the Board for an apology. Yes, you have finally apologized but it is very unfortunate that you had to be forced to make your apology. We know that up until the last Executive meeting, you said that you would not apologize. These ugly, untrue, limited statements were made in June and it took you until September to apologize.

Priscilla, we asked that you step down. Not because we are mean, not because we are being told what to do. We asked because number one, it is our right.

We asked you to step down because you do not have the experience to run this Board. We asked you to step down because you do not respect us and you refuse to respect our wishes. We asked you to step down because you have no intention of protecting us. Don't you know that silence equals consent?

Don't you know that you are supposed to run your meeting and protect the consumers? You and the executive director hide behind words. You two keep saying that you did not have to protect Porsha because she defended herself. Really?

When she was sitting there crying and you continued talking as if she were not there and her feelings didn't matter, was she defending herself then?

When time went by and you were asked by someone in the audience to offer an apology and you refused by saying that anyone can say what they want, was she defending herself then?

It was at the end of the debate that Portia finally said that she was going to prove you wrong. That was a comment, not a defense.


What is also unbelievable to us Priscilla, is that your term is up in June of next year. Instead of stepping down, you are going to destroy CAC, Self Advocacy, Our rights, Our ability to use our regional center, and the Westside Way. We are even more afraid now more than ever.

We are more afraid because we have asked for you to step down and the rest of the board, the staff and the Executive Director have ignored us and have not given us anything that we have asked in writing.

Chris Arroyo talked to you and he told us he was going to help. What he said to us is that he wanted a couple of CAC members to meet with a couple of Board members. We don't go behind our group members backs.

He would have to meet with as many members of CAC that would want to meet with him. We also were not told what board members would be meeting with us and even we know that you continue to make your own rules, so we cannot trust you.

We will keep our promise. Once Priscilla and Paula step down, we are willing to meet and discuss how to heal and how to move forward.

We have so many life changing issues to focus on. Instead of going forward we are here every meeting being afraid and being blocked from doing important work.

You harm us. You hurt us. The only reason you will not step down is your ego. The Board will not fall apart.

We are asking each and every board member if this is how you see us?

Do you think that our wishes are not to be respected? When Priscilla makes a motion, a vote, or a statement, are you aware that she is saying that you agree?

So unless you stand up and tell us different we are holding each and everyone of you responsible for making us afraid.

We are holding each and everyone of you responsible for destroying the Westside Way that took over thirty years to build.

We are holding you responsible for making us physically ill. We are holding you responsible for making us tokens in our own house.

Are you sleeping at night, because we are not. Are you proud of yourself for how you are destroying our house, because we are not.  Are we a joke to you, because we are not.

We no longer have any confidence in what was once a great Board. For those of you who are new, why did you apply?
Do you join us in our sadness? Do you join us in our anger? Do you join us in our humiliation? Do you join us in our embarrassment? Because That's now all we have in common with you.



And that's our report.


Attachment 13





September 23, 2015

Ms. Marcia James
6709 La Tijera Blvd. #352 Los Angeles, CA 90045

Re: WRC Vendor Numbers:

PW 5267 Facilitation to consumer’s at Board of Directors meetings, Consumer Advisory Committee, and Executive CAC Meetings as well as self V advocacy meetings and

PW 5267 – Facilitation for Recreation and Travel Support Group Dear Ms. James,
The purpose of this memo is to let you know that effective this date – September 23, 2015, Westside Regional Center is terminating the contract for all services you and your staff or associates provide to clients of Westside Regional Center. See Vendor numbers above which reference to two different contracts and any other agreements you may have with Westside Regional Center.

Item #10 in both agreements dated June 29, 2015 stipulates that the agreement may be terminated by either party without cause… giving sixty (60) days advanced notice. Westside Regional Center is hereby giving the sixty (60) day notice.

However, all activities with WRC clients and these two Vendor numbers must cease immediately. Please return any files or property you may have of WRC to our Accounting Department. Please cease all communication with the clients for those programs and the Clients Advisory Council and please do not visit or enter Westside Regional Center.

WRC understands that it is financially liable to you for regular contracted expenses normally occurring over the next 60 days, but our financial obligation will end on November 23, 2015.

We are sending this correspondence as an eVmail today as well as certified mail today to the address we have on record.

Thank you for your cooperation. Sincerely,
Kevin MacDonald Executive Director Westside Regional Center


Attachment 14




THE WESTSIDE WAY


Here’s what you need to know to be successful at Westside.  Show up.  Be on time.
Work and act like a professional. Answer all your phone calls and e-mails within 24 hours, even though they might be painful. Tell everybody you talk to the truth--we are all adults and can handle it. Be kind to one another. Listen. Fight for your clients. Do whatever it takes to get them the best--they deserve it. Challenge yourself—don’t be satisfied just getting by. Be creative. Almost anything is possible, but only if you share your ideas. Challenge the system--it’s what makes things change, usually for the better. Remember you were new once and somebody helped you become successful--now it is your turn to help somebody. Don’t be afraid to speak up. This is one of the few places you’ll ever work where you’ll be listened to, even if people don’t agree with you. Listen. Number one rule for success:  It’s all about relationships!  Some of the best relationships are formed by using the Golden Rule, humor, empathy, and honesty. Share your knowledge, experience, self. Put your ego away. Be agreeable when you disagree. Don’t interrupt. Be sensitive to others’ feelings. Clients and families can be difficult, but that’s why you’re a special person and able to handle it. Nobody likes doing paperwork, but it’s got to be done—it’s about money. You should become a better person, professionally and personally working at Westside. If you don’t, maybe you should find another job.  Respect other people’s opinions even if you don’t agree with them.
Everyone wants to be liked, but not everybody is willing to do what it takes to be liked. Listen. People know how much effort you put forth--just like you know. Relax. Have a good time.  Enjoy what you do.  Laugh every day while doing your job.  This is Westside.  You were chosen to be a part of it.  This is your regional center.  Whatever you give will be returned to you. The greater the giving by all, the more you’ll like working at Westside, and conversely. You’ve been given an opportunity to serve others—do your best.


Mike Danneker – May, 2005

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