Followup: Senior Center of West Seattle’s board meets, one day after ‘stay or go?’ community-comment town halls

Following up on Tuesday’s “town hall” meetings (WSB coverage here) for community comment on whether the Senior Center of West Seattle should go independent or be absorbed into the citywide nonprofit Senior Services – we went to last night’s meeting of the SCWS board, which will ultimately make the choice. Toplines ahead:

We counted about a dozen in attendance; having not covered the center board previously, we don’t know if that’s more or fewer than usual. (Board members, by the way, are listed on the SCWS website here.)

Discussion of the Tuesday meetings began early. Lucinda Getz, who had come forward to organize yesterday’s “Should We Stay or Should We Go?” meetings, spoke first as she had to leave early. Asked about Getz’s background, board president David Robertson said she’s worked with seniors for more than a decade and came forward, met with the board, and volunteered to organize the town halls.

Getz said she had several takeways from the meetings, starting with her primary observation, that no one had talked about the risks involved with either decision, staying or going. She gave several examples from both
sides, first about the loss of funds from Senior Services if independence is chosen, then the loss of trust from the membership and the West Seattle community if the center becomes an SS program. Her largest point was that people in the community have the experience and drive to make something happen and are willing to help, so is the board willing to cast aside that support if they choose to let SS run everything?

Getz also said it’s still very unclear where the root of the problem lies – why this discussion is happening in the first place, what problem is it supposed to be solving.

(SS had mentioned, both in an interview with WSB and on Tuesday, that “funders and auditors” were concerned about accountability questions, with both the center and SS having their own boards.)

Some have brought up the Central Area Senior Center’s problems with independence. Getz noted that it had nowhere near the membership or coverage area of the West Seattle center. And regarding funding, she noted that if the WS center does indeed have $200,000 in the bank, what kind of incentive would Senior Services have to seek more money for WS, vs. their other centers?

Bottom line, she said, she and the community need a lot of help understanding what’s at the heart of this potential change.

Later in the meeting, during the public-comment period, one attendee said she would like to hear each West Seattle board member to state publicly, somewhere, their position on staying or going, for transparency.

Some attendees echoed what one person had said in Tuesday’s first meeting, that they don’t trust Senior Services. One said he hadn’t gleaned much from the meeting about what SS really does for the West Seattle center, so he favors independence.

From the board’s side, president Robertson said he would pursue the suggestion made Tuesday, that a board member should be elected from among the general membership. He also said he would follow up on the idea of a regular board Q/A with members.

Board member Patricia Throop said it was clear the board needs to be more open about what it does, and that its sessions should be publicized any and every way available.

No action was taken on this issue, and none expected; it was explained Tuesday that for now, the board has decided to stay with SS while that agency spends a year (or more) exploring how to go about converting centers to programs and comes up with an official plan.

WHAT’S NEXT? The board will not meet in December, it was announced last night, so its next meeting is the second Wednesday in January – January 14th, 5:30 pm.

SIDE NOTE: If you’re not that familiar with what the center does – check out its November/December newsletter, online.

7 Replies to "Followup: Senior Center of West Seattle's board meets, one day after 'stay or go?' community-comment town halls"

  • Woody November 13, 2014 (10:15 am)

    I agree that I don’t trust Senior Services. I think that my distrust stems from Paula Houston. She feels like a toxic influence.

  • Pibal November 13, 2014 (2:49 pm)

    I find it very interesting, to say the least, that SS may require a year or more to determine its vision for “programs,” yet Ms. Houston can fire Karen Sisson within hours of her July 10 e-mail expressing concerns about that vision. The questions asked and issues raised in Karen’s e-mail about the as yet undetermined vision are those that should be part of any due diligence determination for analyzing how best to move forward.

    I went back and reread this October 24 WSB post for more context:

    I am convinced that there is more here than we are being told. Lucinda Getz’s comments are directly on point.

  • coffee November 13, 2014 (4:39 pm)

    Why does everyone assume that 1 email was the cause of the discharge of Karen Sisson? I believe that there is more to the issue, however, since it is an HR issue, it cannot be discussed. We will never know the real reason!
    And people have to understand in the Non Profit world, things move slower, because grants have to be written and sent off to the grantees, whom can be the City, County, State, or Federal level. Even though they provide the funding, they take time to process and get approved. You don’t just magically create a new program, or change a program. Changes can result in the City, County, State, or Federal government saying pay back our money. They have the right to audit backwards 7 years, and ask for that money back. In my non profit work (8 years on a board) we had to repay 2 federal grants because they audited 3 years after the year ended and discovered that a grant was not properly documented, and per the rules, the government gets the money back. Same thing with private funding.
    Keep in mind this in not just in the West Seattle Center, they are looking at all centers.

  • I. Ponder November 13, 2014 (7:47 pm)

    HR issues can be discussed unless the employer wants to be secretive. This thing smells. “Coffee” makes lots of excuses. Transparency is needed in a non-profit serving our community’s seniors. I bet there are WWII and Korean War veterans using the center. They didn’t serve so we can now have secrecy and lies like in fascist dictatorships. They know horse manure when they smell it and I do too.

  • coffee November 14, 2014 (7:48 am)

    I. Ponder, there is an attorney on the board, I would assume that if she cannot obtain information on the HR issues, then they cannot be discussed. I know as a manager I cannot discuss any employee issues internally and if a potential employer calls me for a reference all I can say is if the former employee is able to be rehired, and if they worked for me. I am not allowed to discuss performance, etc. Your comments are frankly cheap about the former military serving people that use the center. Really that’s all you have??

  • I. Ponder November 14, 2014 (3:34 pm)

    Coffee: You are clearly a shill for Senior Services. That’s all I have. And I am cheap. That’s why I shop at the Senior Center Thrift Store on a regular basis.

  • john kennedy November 17, 2014 (3:18 pm)

    It would help this member if we could get an annual report from both Senior center of wst seattle, and senior services including income sources and expenditures.
    Also a statement that auditors are uncomfortable is so nebulous it is worthless. Accountin profession has GAP rules. The issue should be clarified, and identified. what are the actual words in MOU, what words would the auditors want
    By the way is there an actul audit of either entity.
    Should we request an opinion from the State Auditor? Thanks for your efforts. John Kennedy

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