What a Disorderly Executive Transition Looks Like

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April 13, 2014; Charlotte Observer

The 30-year-old C.W. Williams Community Health Center appears to be in some state of upheaval. A few months ago, Beverly Irby, the organization’s executive director, left, citing personal reasons, and was replaced by Leon Burton, who was formerly the executive director of health centers in Charleston and Savannah. The article points out, though, that Irby is still cited as the CEO on the organization’s website, which indicates that maybe the transition was not perfectly orchestrated. And the voicemail message for the office of the CEO has her name.

To be fair, new CEO Burton probably has much, much more on his plate than cleaning up the details; he revealed to the Charlotte Observer that they were “having difficulty in meeting some of our obligations for payroll as well as obligations to vendors.” He said that expenses have been outpacing revenues and that the budget had to be adjusted accordingly. Reductions in staff and clinic hours were made before he arrived, he said, and he also confessed that he did not know how many employees the center had.

A Charlotte physician, though unauthorized to speak publicly and asking to remain anonymous, said the center’s finances are “in a shambles…they laid off as much as 50 percent of their staff…they were short on supplies. It’s been really sad and difficult.”

Operating on a budget of around $5.3 million, C.W. Williams is a critical local resource, since it is the only federally qualified health center in Mecklenburg County. In 2012, it served approximately 10,467 patients, with 99 percent of those being at or below 200 percent of the poverty level.

I think that all nonprofit boards should be made to go through a training on how to communicate in crises, so that their public has its questions answered. On the other hand, according to this article, the Center has not missed a day of service.—Ruth McCambridge

  • Gigi Pedraza

    So I am assuming the board is liable for the situation since their role is essentially governance… I am surprised at the last paragraph commenting on the board needing some type of crisis training; first and foremost they need an in-depth analysis of what went wrong, their role in it and they decide how to assume their responsibilities.

  • John Sayles

    I agree. Behind every dysfunctional nonprofit is a dysfunctional board. It is not something that a new CEO can fix as quickly as the web site.