Some troubling information about the Boyle County Senior Citizens Center emerged in a May 16 report by Advocate staff writer David Brock.
Following up on rumors that there may be trouble at the facility, and unable to get anyone with direct knowledge to comment, Brock submitted an open records request for meeting minutes over several months. Even those were painstakingly pursued, but once in hand revealed discussions and motions that shouldn’t have to be taking place among those operating an institution devoted to helping our older residents.
Here’s a sampling from the minutes of March 7:
- An executive session was called to discuss “personnel issues.” This is not an uncommon use of the exemption in the open meetings law, but you have to wonder why Danville’s interim city manager and a police officer were asked to stay in the room.
- A motion was necessary to instruct the organization’s executive director to follow regulations, bylaws and policies “to the letter.” Really? We would have expected that to be in the job description.
- Executive Director Jackie Sims also was instructed not to make any public statements, “especially to the press,” without prior board approval.
- Board member Bob Rowland, a former and longtime superintendent of Danville schools, felt the need to make a motion to restrict weapons on the center’s property. We are surprised this was not already a policy, as it is for most responsible public places, but it begs the question: Why now? That question was not addressed in the minutes, and no one is talking.
Almost a week later, on March 13, the minutes show that Sims’ resignation was accepted “pending consultation with an attorney,” but two days later the board placed both Sims and her son Michael, who also worked at the center, on “paid administrative leave.” Both were barred from the property and contact with staff.
In a March 29 executive session, the board apparently approved a proposal of some kind to present to Sims. Members in open session authorized Chairman Ryan Owens to make that presentation.
Then in early May, Danville City Commissioner J.H. Atkins appropriately raised questions during a budget discussion about speculation regarding the center. The Commission, just before approving a $64,500 allotment for next fiscal year, seemed to accept a vague explanation from Commissioner Norma Gail Louis, a member of the center’s board, that the facility was in the midst of a rebuilding period. Boyle County has budgeted a $71,000 allocation.
Under pressure earlier this year from government agencies, and with some resistance, the board at the center restructured itself after losing the contract to provide home care services to area seniors. The board added publicly appointed members and regained the contract.
But there clearly is more going on here than a “rebuilding period.” When the senior citizens board addresses weapons, gag orders, paid administrative leave, consultations with an attorney and bars its longtime executive director from the property — all within a single month — community members, taxpayers and local government should be alarmed and demanding of an explanation more credible and detailed than the board has thus far provided.
We smell something unpleasant in the air. It’s time this newly-formed board let the public in on the reasons for its curious actions.