Monday, April 02, 2007

Appendix to the Oversight Report



An appendix documenting the events of the past few years has been circulating in Chestnut Hill. It is part of the Oversight investigation. The following is a copy of that report.

APPENDIX

OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE REPORT

CHESTNUT HILL COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION

2003 THROUGH 2006

While the Committee has carefully prepared an overview, financial findings, and exhibits, there remains another aspect to addressed. Since the entire organization is based on frequent accurate communication among members, committees, Trustees and officers, some review of how that aspect deteriorated accompanies this report. The community-owned newspaper with weekly editions has long been the backbone of that interaction, presuming it provided the factual details of events, Board meetings, committee activity and the like. The clear separation of news stories and an open editorial policy was its hallmark.

The blurring of those lines began to manifest itself and many saw clear First Amendment issues. The resignation of several editors and key employees underscored these radical policy changes.

Finally, there was the January 12, 2006 issue [of the Local] that actually printed a headlined above-the-fold editorial masquerading as a news story. The headline was arresting --"For the record...the truth." Drafts submitted to the Local in the days before printing attributed authorship variously to Maxine Dornemann (CHCA President), "From the Executive Committee of the CHCA, and finally in the form which went to press, "From the President and Vice President of CHCA Operations."

1. The CHCF “Deficit”
"Statements made about the Chestnut Hill Community Association are alarmist fabrications. For the first time this year, 100% of the money raised during the Fund Drive was allocated to grant recipients – and only the money in hand was allocated."

FACT: " It was also proposed, seconded, and approved that an equity line of credit in the amount of 50K on the property 8431 Germantown Avenue be generated to pay off our grantees from FY 2002/2005."
(Source CHCA Board minutes, March 23, 2005)

2. The CHCA leadership has never budgeted any money toward a building purchase – the building purchase is in the earliest stages of Board discussion.

FACT: Hiram Lodge Acquisition Committee was formed, and $15,000 was authorized for “earnest money” and an appraisal and inspection. Maxine gave tour of building.
(Source July 22, 2004 CHCA Board minutes)
Sanjiv Jain gave a report about the proposal (sic) purchase of the Hiram Lodge Building. He has met with the bank and "a mortgage is no problem."
Source October 7, 2004 CHCA Executive Committee meeting)
Chair (Sanjiv Jain) announced that “an offer will soon be made to Hiram Lodge."
(Source November 11, 2004 Executive Committee minutes)
"An offer was presented to Hiram Lodge."
(Source November 18, 2004 CHCA Board meeting)
Fee of $3,500 to $5,000 approved for Urban Partners to estimate the financial viability of owning the building.
(Source August 11, 2005 Executive Committee meeting)

3. There is another rumor frequently sited (sic) that the association somehow “lost” a $10,000 grant in the past year . This is another falsehood. The money was never lost, but files badly kept for the past two years meant that the documentation on the grant had to be reapplied for, so that the money can be spent as specifically granted.

FACT: There was no such accusation made that the $10,000 had been "lost". The concerns raised month after month related to the contractual obligations under the terms of the DCED. Based on the information provided to the State DCED on the Grant Closeout Report, no part - not a penny - of the grant was spent on the agreed-upon items. Since the CHCFund budgets a yearly amount (headed Repair & Maintenance - 2004/05 $9,000 and 2005/06 $10,500), it was interesting to find that the work performed was "repair & maintenance" (repairing leaks, electrical outlets, patching and priming for paint jobs) and paid out of the $10,000 grant amount.
(Source - invoices attached to the DCED Grant Closeout Report - office copy)

A more recent claim made by Maxine Dornemann, CHCA President at that time, that she has documentation which supercedes the agreement of October 14, 2004 has not been produced as of today, March 22, 2007.

4. The Editor of the Local was NOT fired.

FACT: The editor of the Local was blasted and blamed in public by two members of the Executive Committee at a contentious meeting at the Water Tower Recreation Center, but the anger and outrage were directed at Tia Burke and Bob Previdi of the“Water Tower Committee” whose ill-prepared presentation raised the ire of the many neighbors who use the facility.
(Source July 28, 2005 issue Chestnut Hill Local and other Board members at meeting.)

FACT: Allison Grove of D/P Communications Group made a presentation to the Executive Committee for a public relations project to “Change the Perception of CHCA.” Their *challenges* to "re-branding Chestnut Hill"? According to their professionally produced brochure, An internal and external perception of a fragmented group at war with itself, A less than positive relationship with the local newspaper, and a perception that CHCA is "steamrolling" or taking over valued neighborhood programs (see Water Tower above). Ms. Grove, in this atmosphere felt emboldened to state, "That's another lie by the Local!"
The editor covered that meeting for the paper.
(Source D&P Communications Group brochure, page 14, first person accounts.)

FACT: A meeting of the Publisher’s Committee was called by Chairman George Parry for August 16, 2005. In Parry’s email of August 12, the following comments appear: “Maxine seemed quite peeved about that description and told me that numerous CHCA members wanted Jim fired. If you know of anyone who feels that the Local is misstating the facts or has adopted an offensive editorial posture, please invite them to present their views at the meeting. Maxine said that Bob Previdi might attend and address the issue. I also heard from Maxine that Leigh Filippini and Tia Burke also disagreed with the path the Local is taking. By copy of this email, I am inviting them to the meeting.” (In addition to the members of the committee, the above named Board members plus Stewart Graham were in receipt of this email.) Only Maxine Dornemann attended for the detractors.
(Source: Email from George Parry dated August 12, 2005)

FACT: The word "fired" appears again that week. "He (the editor) gets to write his editorials, and they (CHCA Board) get to fire him."
(Source: Email from George Parry dated August 18, 2005)

5. On October 18, three fellow staff members at the Local/Association suggested to the editor that he revise or not run a planned editorial in that week’s paper.


FACT:
On October 6, at a staff meeting which the editor was not able to attend, one of his “three fellows” had been promoted to “Managing Editor” effective October 10, 2005. The on-line version of the Local reflected this change and the Organizational Chart showed the new position, "Managing Editor," listed above all other Local staff by October 12, 2005. Internal documents stated that the Managing Editor then had oversight of all departments and final say on the editorial content of the Local.
(Source: Memo to All Employees dated 10/6/2005 from Kari Ghezarian, Chestnut Hill Organizational Chart and job descriptions dated 10/20/05)

FACT: October 18, 2005 Seven working days into the “restructuring,” the Editor was either asked, urged, or ordered to suppress the editorial. His letter of resignation the following day, October 19, says: “I have come to understand the extent to which the CHCA leadership has ceased to place much stock in the continued editorial independence of its newspaper, especially
as regards comment and coverage of itself."
Source: Letter of Editor's resignation dated October 18, 2005

6. *SABOTAGE* The authors state the following: "Although the Associate Editor was given full support and editorial control for the transition period following the editor's resignation, he nevertheless also resigned on Oct. 28."

FACT: The *full support* came with some strings attached -- the associate editor would not write about the CHCA or the newspaper crisis in the editorial box."
Source: Email from Associate Editor to some Board members 10/27/2005

*SABOTAGE* Part II A Board member was charged with "abandoning fiduciary responsibility for convincing a young man to quit a job and forgo a paycheck he needs to make a political point for someone else is heartless on its face."


FACT:
They got the wrong suspect - for the record. It was I who counseled him to quit - calmly. While the proof of that is personal mail which is not suitable for distribution for prurient or other interests, the email is in my file and is dated late at night on October 27, 1005.

The dust would take a long time to settle. Attention was drawn away from the truth with multiple distractions. Much was made in public and in print about the "purloined organizational chart," false irrational accusations came from George Parry and Joe Pie of the Publishers Committee as well as the loyalist CHCA staff, "barred from the building lists" were compiled and Local staffers were promised a swift dismissal for consorting with those who would "take control of the paper." Letters to the editor (sic) filled the pages of the Local with uninformed and frequently actionable statements about the former editor and other Local staff as well as Board members. An apology on 11/24 notwithstanding, Pamela Waters' astounding "Open Letter to the Community" was aching for a libel suit had the injured parties at that time had the time and energy to pursue such a path. Her role in editing the bookend piece by Vijay Kothare boggled the imagination of civilized readers.

(Source: George Parry memo 11/7/05, "the truth" 1/12/06, "Open Letter to Sanjiv" and "Open Letter to the Community of Chestnut Hill"

For the record.... the Editor and his young family moved from Chestnut Hill as soon as it was practically possible. The young Associate Editor landed on his feet and is employed at the Las Vegas Sun - covering news of the national election as well as more local political stories. He sent us some photos of himself interviewing Former President Jimmy Carter and Senator Joseph Biden.

Martha Haley
Oversight Committee

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