Salas: The main issue was funding

Published 10:11 am Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The former executive director of the Welcome Center said the board of directors knew she had concerns, namely over finances, which led her to resign last week after only about a month on the job.

Victoria Salas, who proposed her resignation at a May 28 meeting and finalized it Thursday, said in an e-mail that the board is fiscally irresponsible and that they knew she had doubts about the job.

Board members said the center’s finances are solid and that Salas’ decision caught them completely by surprise.

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Salas claimed in her e-mail that the board was operating under a $212,000 budget when they should have been following a $127,000 budget. She also said they lacked reserve funds.

“The main issue was funding,” she said in a phone interview. “It was unfair to be hired under these questions.”

She also said over the phone that the center couldn’t afford her $50,000 contract.

Joe Fuhrman, the board’s treasurer, said the two sides have a “fundamental disagreement” on the question of finances.

Fuhrman said the center has a substantial amount in reserves, especially for a nonprofit, and that the budget was functional.

Fuhrman and board chairman Mark Stevens said they were ultimately disappointed that Salas would leave without giving the job a chance.

“We were in shock,” Fuhrman said. “It was baffling to the board.”

Stevens said he doesn’t think the board will ever truly know what led Salas to quit.

“We thought she was a perfect fit,” he said.

Salas said in her e-mail and over the phone that the board did know she had concerns and that she gave them ample warning on her decision. She said in her e-mail that the board has portrayed her as “irresponsible.”

In addition to finances, Salas wrote in a report to the board, obtained by the Austin Daily Herald, that accreditation is needed to do all types of immigration paperwork—accreditation the center doesn’t have.

She also said the center needs an outside accountant to come in because they don’t have anyone on staff with proper training.

Fuhrman and Stevens didn’t deny that the center may have operational problems, but stressed that they don’t see the center on a day-to-day basis—their job is oversight and guidance, they said, things they think they do well.

“We wanted (Salas) to solve those problems,” Fuhrman said.

Fuhrman and Stevens expressed frustration over having to re-open a search for a full-time executive director, something they agree that the center needs.

The search for a new executive director will be a nationwide search, Stevens said last week. He said the board is looking for someone with strong communication skills, non-profit experience and business savvy.

Salas said over the phone that she was rehired at LA-MANO, a Rochester-based group that works with multi-ethnic communities, where she worked before taking the Welcome Center job.