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Saturday, October 6th, 2012

Sources director fired

Board gives no reason for dismissal; Farrell plans to appeal

By William Kincaid
CELINA - The board of directors of Sources Community Network Services fired executive director Deb Farrell on Friday afternoon without stating a reason or explanation.
Farrell, who had served as executive director for the anti-poverty organization for more than 20 years, was first removed Sept. 4, when three board members and the board's attorney told her she was being put on leave until an investigation into management issues was complete.
  After an executive session held during a three-hour special meeting on Friday, 10 of 11 board members approved a motion to permanently remove Farrell. They also approved a severance package - payment of wages and health insurance from Sept. 24 to Oct. 31 - to offer Farrell.
The board's recently appointed attorney Bryan Niemeyer refused to answer any questions about the board's actions.
"No comment. I'm not ... not talking," Niemeyer said. "You saw everything in our open meeting and that's all."
When asked whether the investigation has concluded, Niemeyer told The Daily Standard via email that "the review of operations is ongoing."
All board members have remained silent during the investigation per Niemeyer's directive.
Farrell found out about the loss of her job from the newspaper.
"I'm astounded by it," she said Friday. "I have no concept of why this is being done."
Farrell said she has nothing to hide, and added Niemeyer nor any board member has ever told her why she was being investigated. She said she was not invited to or notified about Friday's meeting, and has never had a chance to defend herself against any accusations.
She said she plans to appeal the decision to the board of directors' personnel committee.
Celina Police Chief Dave Slusser attended a portion of the meeting and briefly remained with board members during the executive session. Former employee Mike Bottoms also attended a portion of the executive session.
Slusser said board treasurer and interim executive director Tammy Barger asked the police to attend the meeting to make some employees who reported being threatened by a former coworker feel safe.
Wearing street clothes, Slusser remained in the meeting area while a uniformed Sgt. James Stelzer sat in Sources' front office.
Both officers exited the building after Bottoms' departure.
Twelve of the board's 15 directors attended the special meeting Friday. Board president Rev. Kenneth Baker left before the executive session to avoid a conflict of interest - he is Farrell's pastor.  Board members Nick Dammeyer, Wayne Sweigart and Karen Platfoot were absent.
Voting yes to remove Farrell were James Carpenter, Kathy Bayless, Barger, Carol Berg, Karen Blumhorst, Larry Heitkamp, Karla Kincaid, Karen Seibert, Kathy Mescher and Roberta Wycuff.
Mary Laws abstained from all votes.
"Because I didn't want to vote," she told the newspaper when asked about her abstention.
In addition to approving a severance package, board members approved a motion to offer Farrell a neutral job reference and agreed to not contest unemployment.
They also approved a motion to hire a temporary, part-time coordinator. Details about the position were not stated and Niemeyer refused to answer questions.
Board members did not indicate if or when they plan to search for a new executive director.
On Sept. 4, three board members and Niemeyer approached Farrell and told her she was being placed on unpaid administrative leave pending an investigation. She told the newspaper she believed they were looking into allegations made in what she calls a retaliation letter written and delivered to them by an upset former employee who resigned after being written up.
Fifteen days later, the board of directors met in a special session to formally vote on and approve Farrell's leave. During the same meeting, Barger, who is also the Mercer County Recorder, was appointed to serve as an unpaid interim executive director to sign necessary documents as well as serve as a liaison to the board. Bayless was appointed to serve as temporary assistant interim executive director.
During a special meeting Sept. 19, board members approved a medical leave of absence request from Farrell, which allowed her to use accrued sick time from Sept. 4 to Sept. 23.
Sources provides residents with housing and utility services, home weatherization and rehabilitation, transportation and assistance with various emergency needs. According to an audit for the fiscal year ending March 31, Sources had $2.17 million in revenue - $1.75 million from grants - and $2.05 million in expenditures.
The board of directors determines personnel, organization, fiscal and program policies and authorizes all program proposals and budgets. One-third of the members are elected public officials or a representative of their office, one-third represent the poor and the remaining members represent business, industry, labor, religion, welfare, education or other community groups.
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