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Matthew Hedger
07/18/2014 12:23 PM
Members of The Arc of Amador and Calaveras cast votes at a meeting June 18. Photo courtesy Mark Borchin

UPDATE: SHAWNA MOLINA HAS RESIGNED, SAY MEMBERS WHO ATTENDED A MEETING FRIDAY AFTERNOON.

The earlier story is below.

Allegations of an adversarial management style, a high number of staff turnovers and fiscal concerns top the list of a group calling itself the Committee to Save The Arc, or COSTA, — but executive director Shawna Molina says the accusations reflect “twisted truth” by “select members of the management team who since have resigned their positions with the agency.”

Documents obtained by the Amador Ledger Dispatch, including an anonymously produced booklet of board meeting minutes and letters to The Arc board indicate at least 12 Arc staff members have left the organization during Molina’s tenure, including Chief Financial Officer Diane Little, who worked at the Arc for 18 years before abruptly resigning in October 2013. In addition, three board members, Joan Watkins, Mary Kuntz and board president Jody Wilmarth, all resigned in 2014. In almost every case, resignation letters point the finger of blame at Molina.

A grievance letter filed Sept.19, 2012, by several Arc staff members complained that “the entire management team and several direct service staff believe a hostile, oppressive, intimidating and abusive work environment has been created by the new Executive Director.” The letter goes on to say, “The severity of the working conditions has led to deep distrust, and an oppressive, intimidating environment that threaten’s the Arc’s programs and relationships.”

Little’s resignation letter read, in part, “I can no longer work effectively under the disruptive, demoralizing and stressful working conditions that have been present at The Arc during the past 16 months.”

Fiscal concerns voiced by COSTA members include the alleged mismanagement of The Arc’s investment portfolio and bills not being paid on time for client services at New York Fitness.

COSTA also claimed Molina acted outside of the scope of her authority when she sought an appraisal for a piece of real estate The Arc owns in Ione. An investigation of The Arc board meeting minutes conducted by the Amador Ledger Dispatch failed to turn up a single instance of Molina acting without having first obtained tacit approval of the majority of her governing board.

In a statement received this week, Molina offered her take on the accusations, and what she looks forward to in the future.

“Thank you for the opportunity to send a statement on behalf of the self-proclaimed committee to save The Arc’s booklet of concerns,” she wrote. “I am completely saddened and sickened that The Arc is being highlighted in such a negative light by the group. The facts speak louder than accusations and I ask the Board of Directors to share the facts around the necessary changes that took place internally as a direction set to correct Federal and State improprieties.”

Molina said she encountered resistance as soon as she took over the executive director chair vacated by Mike Sweeney.

“From the day I started, it was clear I wasn’t liked by select members of the management team who since have resigned their positions with the agency,” she explained. “I represented changes, transparency, equal opportunity vs. favoritism, transition, forward movement, accountability and new ideas. It is evident that organizational change succeeds or fails based on past leadership, management/employee buy-in to leadership transition and new leadership style. I never had a chance.”

Molina said she plans to continue to keep The Arc’s stated mission of providing services to people with developmental disabilities intact.

“I take my obligations to The Arc’s mission, vision, direction, and sustainability very seriously,” she said. “How I implement the responsibilities as executive director represent every being of who I am, my moral integrity, my ethical standards, my responsibility to the community we serve and the business partnerships The Arc has established.

“The packet which has been so generously provided to the community and press is twisted truth and full of pages and pages of appalling accusations,” she continued. “The board, over the past two years, set a direction to bring The Arc back into legal employment requirements, all of which can be hurtful to employees. The intention was never to hurt employees, make them feel unappreciated or to bring such negative attention to the agency; the intention was to sustain the future of the mission and vision while developing new opportunities for everyone (consumers and employees both).”

Molina said the difficult transition continued to worsen as she began efforts to bring the agency into compliance with changes in state and federal law.

“Many of the changes, set forth by the board and I, to get the agency into Federal and State compliance, didn’t allow for a strategic 5-year plan – there was a great deal of urgency as I refused to sign off on anything illegal that would jeopardize the agency or my ethical integrity,” she said. “The difficult task was to manage the collision of transition, change and new policy in such a brief period of time. Every corner I turned, I was the bad guy – I was never afforded the opportunity to prove myself.

“The board and I have never been awarded, the once internal and now external, recognition of all the positive contributions — nothing was ever good enough. I feel as though I was constantly swimming against the current of a raging river, a river that I eventually will not survive or thrive in.”

Molina said despite the accusations of a disgruntled few, The Arc’s mission and vision remain unchanged.

“The fact is, The Arc is an amazing place — full of magic, life, opportunity and friendships,” she said. “I’m saddened that I have never been embraced by the staff to be a true part of the community it represents. I will always support The Arc, its mission, direction and vision. The Arc is an important place and I ask the community to read past the accusations of the self-proclaimed committee and to see the true work and successes happening regularly. I want to thank all of the supporters who continue to see past the ugly that is being highlighted – it will pass, and people will be compassionate once again.

The Arc is a non-profit membership corporation that has been providing support and services to people with developmental disabilities since 1971.

Copyright © 2014 Amador Ledger Dispatch
K Betton
07/29/2014 10:32 PM
While this story does address two obvious sides (seems to be a bit skewed towards the former director) the reporter has failed to address the third side. How do the consumers, the people The ARC serves, feel about Molina? I'd like to know. Majorfail!
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