Bitter Infighting On ONE/CHANE Board Amid State Probe Of Finances,
April 17, 2005
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
ONE/CHANE is being
investigated by the state, it's so broke that it had to lay off
a staff member and lock its doors, and some board members are
trying to get rid of its chairman and executive director.
Once the premier community organization in Hartford's North
End, ONE/CHANE is in the throes of a politically charged battle
Board member David Hendricks
says that he and his allies have been "shut out" of
important financial and organizational decisions and therefore
new leadership is needed. Hendricks says that he has spearheaded
the effort to remove Terry Waller, a Hartford Fire Department
captain, as chairman, and Frederick E. Smith as executive director.
Smith was just hired in January.
On the other hand, Waller - who says he is still chairman -
contends that his efforts to salvage ONE/CHANE and turn it around
are being torpedoed by a few board members acting in their own
It's clear that the community agency is in trouble, community
"It must be breaking Lucy Summers' heart to see what's
going on," said Andrea Comer, head of the Greater Hartford
African American Alliance. Summers, who died in 1995, and Mayor
Eddie A. Perez were among the organization's founders a quarter-century
ago. "And I think it would make her very sad to know there
is such dissension."
At least two board members say that the current dispute is about
control of the board, and the status that a seat on ONE/CHANE's
board brings in the black community - status that some might
be unwilling to lose.
"In the black community, sitting on ONE/CHANE's board is
a status symbol," board secretary Sheri Frazier said. "You're
trying to make sure that this community utilizes the funding
it gets and that we, everyone living within the Clay-Arsenal
community, gets a piece of it."
All the while, the group is waiting to hear whether it will
get more than $1 million in state funding to help keep it alive,
"This is the neediest community," Waller said. "But
if we can't get our house in order, they're not going to [give
us money], and I don't blame them."
On Tuesday, Attorney General
Richard Blumenthal announced that his office was investigating "evidence of financial and
governance irregularities at ONE/CHANE." On Wednesday, some
on the board - through an attorney they say is the board's counsel
- contacted the newspaper to say that there was more at play
than Blumenthal's investigation.
"The mutiny ... was by Mr. Waller and Mr. Fred Smith," said
Hendricks, who called himself the board's spokesman. "They're
the ones that have taken over the organization. When you're doing
things without board consent and without board approval, that's
what I call taking over."
So, on March 13, seven members
of the board voted to remove Waller, Hendricks said. The vote
didn't happen at a meeting, but rather by resolution in what
the bylaws call an "action
without a meeting."
On Friday, Hendricks circulated a resolution to the board that,
among other things, called for Smith to be fired, he said. The
results of that vote were not clear late last week.
But Waller says that Hendricks and his allies are acting contrary
to the organization's bylaws and to the organization's best interest.
"They tried to pull a coup, and you can't do that," Waller
said, calling Hendricks a "disgruntled board member."
"I'm definitely still chairman," Waller
"If they wanted me out, that's perfectly in order, but
they should have done it on May 5," Waller said, referring
to the organization's impending annual meeting - one that Hendricks
says might not happen.
"They're attacking [Smith] because he's professional and
he's not buying into all the drama and the nonsense," Waller
said. "It's all about the former executive director [Larry
Charles] saying that the word on the street is that if he couldn't
run the organization, no one would run it. They would run it
into the ground and destroy it."
"The community understands exactly what's going on, and
the community is prepared to tackle these issues," Waller
In an interview, Charles, whom the board fired a year ago because
of frustrations with his leadership style, disputed Waller's
comment. He hasn't been involved in the organization or its politics
since he was dismissed, he said.
"I'm just so disappointed that things are happening in
a way that appears to be destructive both to the image of ONE/CHANE
and its ability to provide services to the community," Charles
Frazier questioned whether the actions that Hendricks says have
been taken were done so in accordance with the group's bylaws.
But, leaving the technicalities aside, Frazier said she believes
that this episode is all about a fight for control of the board,
a fight for status. Those trying to unseat Waller and Smith are
doing so out of fear that they might lose their own seats on
the board, she said.
"They're concerned with new board members joining the organization
... and right now, that's what we need - some movers and some
shakers, some people who can bring funders to the table," she
Frazier said that the organization
is now in a transitional period and is taking some positive
steps. "Sometimes a group
has to lose people in order to move forward," she said.
Board member Joseph Harrington said that Hendricks and his allies
are out of line.
"I know Hendricks' position, and I couldn't disagree with
him more," Harrington said, adding that what might be happening
is that some on the board are resisting change. "When more
progressive types come along, they tend to want to isolate them."
The board has a special meeting scheduled Monday at 7 p.m.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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