OFFICE OF SENATOR BARRY R. FINEGOLD
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, 02133-1053
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 7, 2011
Contact: Autumn Gould
LAWRENCE DELEGATION PRAISE CHANGES AND PROGRESS OF GLCAC
State officials commend group’s steps forward
LAWRENCE, MA—The state delegation from Lawrence, including Senator Barry Finegold and Representatives David Torrisi, Marcos Devers and Paul Adams, called a meeting with the interim executive director of the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council (GLCAC) and a number of board members and program directors on Tuesday to discuss the changes and progress made by the organization in the past few months.
“Ever since the poor management and lack of oversight at GLCAC was exposed months ago, the delegation has been eager to help the organization recover and rebuild,” said Senator Finegold.
“I believe this organization is now headed in the right direction there is an emphasis on bringing in new blood which will allow them to focus on their core mission of helping people.”
Christian W. Dame, GLCAC’s Interim Executive Director said they are readily executing improvements to the organization. “We were pleased to meet with Senator Finegold, and Representatives Torrisi, Devers, and Adams to discuss the progress we’ve made at GLCAC since the critical state report last March, and to hear their views,” Dame said. “We explained we are rapidly implementing governance, organizational, financial, and program improvements. We have built a positive working relationship with both federal and state officials, and we look forward to creating a bright future for this important social service agency which serves over 27,000 people in the greater Lawrence area every year.”
Thomas Perrault, interim president of the Board of Directors, said the agency has been working very hard to move forward. “I’m grateful to our legislative delegation for their support and guidance. I’m also am grateful for GLCAC’s excellent staff leadership and their hard work which has moved our agency forward in the past several months,” Perrault said. “Creating lasting change is never easy. The Board recognizes the diligence and commitment needed to move Greater Lawrence Community Action Inc. forward. It is reassuring to hear directly from them that our legislative leaders are solidly behind us as we implement change. I am very optimistic about our future.”
"In every crisis there is an opportunity to reflect and rebuild. I am pleased that the board and senior staff members at GLCAC have taken steps in restoring confidence in this agency,” said Torrisi. "There is more work to be done to done but it seems the oars are all pulling in the same direction and the GLCAC will be able to continue to focus on the primary mission of helping those in need."
“I am very pleased with the commitment demonstrated by the GLCAC leadership by acknowledging that the crisis it went through provided an opportunity for innovative restructuring and re-invention of the agency,” said Devers. “GLCAC will continue being that great source of hope for the people that need it.”
“I was very pleased to hear about the changes in policy with the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council. I think these reforms will go a long way toward restoring the confidence of taxpayers, and ultimately provide better services to those in need,” said Adams.
Dame said a number of measures have been put in place that will improve governance and the overall operation.
A major part of this recovery is reconstructing the board of directors, said Dame. Recruitment for nine empty Board seats has begun, with eight acceptances. This new slate of Board officers is more diverse, said Anne D’Errico, Director of Head Start. They are working to bring new skills to the Board by filing the open seats with individuals with varying backgrounds in hopes of drawing on their differences to improve the organization as a whole.
Perrault also said the new Board’s main charge will be to define a new and powerful vision for what they want GLCAC to achieve.
“If the board creates an exciting and inspiriting vision for its direction, then that is the best way to attract new, young and innovative leaders to join GLCAC,” said Finegold. “That is a key part of never allowing GLCAC to slip back into its bad practices. Other organizations, like Community Teamwork in Lowell and Lawrence CommunityWorks in Lawrence, had problems in the past but were able to remake themselves into incredibly strong programs because the right people were in place.”
Other changes to the board include adding a Conflict of Interest policy to its bylaws, as well as term limits for its members, and staggering members’ terms for better transition periods.
Dame emphasized that the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s on-going federal audit has reported no money misspent, and no criminal activities or malfeasance to date. Rick Robichaud, finance director, said he is working to document financial control procedures already in place and to implement cohesive financial guidelines throughout the entire organization. “We’re looking at all systems from payroll to purchasing,” said Robichaud. “We want more regularized compensation and operations across the whole organization.”
Lack of a whistleblower policy at GLCAC was blamed for a number of the organizations previous problems. Dame said he and the Board, at the suggestion of the Department of Housing and Community Development, have instituted such a policy and no complaints have been recorded to date. They have also added suggestion boxes for all GLCAC facilities and are in the process of detailed Self-Assessment Process which includes an outside peer review done by Northeast Institute of Quality Community Action (NIQCA). Additionally, human resource and finance consultants have been selected.
Dame said GLCAC has been actively following DHCD’s Corrective Action Plan that includes 39 specific steps to health. He noted that the quarterly goals of DHCD’s Corrective Plan have been achieved. “We’ve had a tough time but every crisis holds opportunity, and I’m glad to report that we’re now a much better agency,” Dame said.
Those at the meeting included:
- Senator Barry Finegold
- Rep. David Torrisi
- Rep. Marcos Devers
- Rep. Paul Adams
- Christian Dame, Interim Executive Director
- Richard Robichaud, Finance Director
- Thomas Perrault, President of Board of Directors
- Christine Kuzmitski, Human Resource Director
- Anne D’Errico, Director of Head Start
- Judith Yelle, Board of Directors (Andover Representative)
- Maureen O’Neill Mulcahy, Planning Director