Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Kamuf: Look into Invest in Neighborhoods turmoil

Preservationist and Sayler Park resident Betty Kamuf warns that the City should take a close look at the bidders before awarding administration of the Neighborhood Support Program (NSP).

In an e-mail to Vice Mayor David Crowley, Betty Kamuf suggests that the City look into the turmoil happening with Invest in Neighborhoods, current administrator of the program.

"At the present time I'm not sure if they have enough board members to sign a contract with anybody," she says.

The controversy stems from a move by some of Invest's board members to name Rick Dieringer the permanent executive director of the non-profit.

"The Executive Board has been plagued with controversy since the arrest and resignation of Jerry Tenbasch," she says. "At that time the president asked if he could take over and tried to get a commitment to hire him permanently without going through an interview process."

Ten of the 17 Invest members couldn't go along with it.

"We had a city contract to distribute funds and didn't think the city would look to kindly at that," she says. "We finally got a process in place and interviewed candidates."

Kamuf says that they were very impressed with a female candidate with a wealth of non-profit experience.

They were not so impressed with the acting director's lack of non-profit experience.

"We voted 9 to 8 to hire the lady," Kamuf says. "But the president of the board said we had to revote because if the acting director didn't get the job he would shut Invest in Neighborhoods down, but we refused."

Kamuf says that he tried to do exactly that, campaigning community council presidents until he got their commitment to throw people off of the board.

"At the annual meeting, in a five minute process without full disclosure, 7 of the 10 members who wanted more control of administrative staff were thrown off the board," she says. "At the very next meeting with 8 or 9 new members, and a policeman in attendance, they voted to hire the acting executive director."

One of those ousted members was Kathleen Garrison, a long-time non-profit volunteer who first reported the controversy to the City in August.

Garrison, who called the agency a "good old boy network", blamed Downtown Residents Council president Conrad Thiede with heading the effort to remove the non-supporters.

Kamuf doesn't go so far as to single out anyone.

"The board is still in controversy," she says. "Since that meeting, three more members have resigned in disgust with the ethics the leadership of this board has come to.

A report from city manager Milton Dohoney Jr. is due before council on November 19.

Following a meeting with the ousted board members in August, Dohoney said that the City will "vigorously monitor this [current] contract to assure compliance with not only the letter of the contract, but with the overall intent of the NSP fund."

Bidding for the NSP has closed, with a new contract expected to be in place by January 1, 2009.

Previous reading on BC:
Invest in Neighborhoods under scrutiny, NSP out for bid (9/10/08)
Former Invest in Neighborhoods board member says agency 'hiding more than they're telling (8/8/08)