January 13, 2011; Source: Richmond BizSense | In Goochland, Va., the executive director of the Center for Rural Culture, a small farming nonprofit with a budget of approximately $100,000, recently sent a letter to organizational supporters blasting the group’s board of directors publicly for not disclosing its finances to her despite repeated requests. In the letter she threatened to resign Jan. 31 if the board did not submit to an independent review of the books.

As you may have guessed, the board wasted no time in accepting her resignation though it moved up her termination date to last week and took away her keys. Meanwhile it issued a statement:

“In light of the gravity of the allegations made by the executive director against specific members and the board as a whole, the Center for Rural Culture Board of Directors is taking action immediately to resolve all issues relating to its financial records.

“To that end, the Board is investigating the allegations and has sent its records to a CPA firm outside of Goochland County for resolution of the matter. The Board is unaware of any misappropriation of CRC funds. The Board intends to publish the findings of the CPA firm as soon as available.”

Meanwhile, Deardon has said “I’m not saying I’m indispensable . . .They [the board] don’t even know how to log into the computer.” And this may be true at least in terms of organizational accounts.

Today on the organization’s Facebook page was the message:

Update on Executive Director's situation

As of yet, the CRC board has not met any of the demands that its Executive Director has made, ie. (sic) 1) turn over the organization's financials and 2) resignation of the current and past Presidents and Treasurer.

The actions of the Executive Director were done to protect the organization, its members, donors and supporters.

Her resignation was to be effective January 31, 2011, if her demands were not met

We are still waiting for an appropriate response from the board, as they seem to have misunderstood. She was handed a letter yesterday accepting her resignation. It was subsequently torn up. There may be a grassroots movement stirring…stay tuned.

Sigh! ?

Obviously reputational damage has been and is being done. The idea that an organization would employ an executive for three years without providing access to the finances is more than a bit out of the ordinary but letting a dispute of this sort simmer unnecessarily in these times looks just plain silly on a governance level.

On the other hand, sometimes an organization needs such a crisis to take a good hard look at itself. Still, it’s painful and we wish the organization and its supporters the best possible resolution.—Ruth McCambridge