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Posted January 28, 2012 | comments 25 Comments

Troubles mount for Agency on Aging

Organization won't be able to make payroll in March without cuts

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- A new financial storm is heading toward the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging and is likely to force cuts in personnel, programs or both, the board of directors learned Friday.

The agency has no way of meeting its payroll in March without cutting, staff members warned the board.

"We have to do something," Jonathan Price, the agency's director of housing development, said after the meeting.

A deluge of bills from lawyers and accountants is fueling a cash flow crisis and diverting money from debt reduction and other agency programs, staff members said. They also cited reduced aid from the state's Department for the Aging as another major source of the cash flow problems. The reduction is linked to an earlier crisis that included state help in paying for accountants, staff members said.

The money advanced to the agency from the state to survive a cash flow crisis in late September has led to lower amounts currently received from the Department for the Aging, Price said.

"It's a tough time, and I hate to think about laying off people, but it's a tough reality we face," said Clarke County Sheriff Tony Roper, who sits on the board.

The agency has budgeted $100,000 for legal and accounting fees in this fiscal year, but has already paid or received bills equaling nearly 90 percent of that amount. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

One major legal expense stems from lawsuits the agency and its former executive director have filed against each other. Helen Cockrell is suing the agency for $20,000 in accrued annual leave and sick leave that she contends is owed to her after the agency fired her in early September.

SAAA, in turn, has sued Cockrell, accusing her of fraud and embezzlement and demanding a total of $70,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, plus attorneys' fees and costs.

Price said no new attorneys' bills have been received in the past few weeks, but that is likely to change as a May 22 trial date in Warren County Circuit Court draws near.

Board Chairman John Hudson estimated that the agency's legal expenses could reach $150,000.

"There are months left on these lawsuits," Hudson said.

Agency officials also face mounting bills from Yount, Hyde & Barbour, a Winchester accounting firm hired to conduct an audit of agency finances that includes examining the possibility that laws have been broken.

State police also are investigating the agency's finances.

Hudson said he and other agency officials will be meeting with bank managers in the next few weeks in an effort to obtain a loan that was deemed necessary to balance the budget even before the magnitude of the legal and accounting expenses became clear.

Price warned that the fiscal uncertainty is likely to last until July, when the agency expects money from the jurisdictions it serves -- Warren, Page, Frederick, Page and Shenandoah counties and Winchester -- to begin flowing in for fiscal year 2012.

"This will carry over for the next three or four months," Price said, referring to the cash flow shortage.

The agency has not eliminated any positions since the dismissal of Cockrell and two other top agency executives in September. Price said agency staff members are running "preliminary figures," and have yet to determine what combination of services and personnel will be cut.

Price and Lance Barron, the agency's interim financial director, said the agency has $20,900 in the bank and is facing $253,000 in unpaid vouchers.

Barron said the agency does not have enough money in the bank to meet its payroll due next week, but said he was confident that money from the state Department for the Aging and Federal Transit Administration would be arriving "any day now" and allow the agency to pay its employees through February.

But March is another matter, he said.

Pressed by Roper whether the agency would be unable to pay its employees in March, Barron replied, "There is a possibility of that, yes."

Price said the cuts being studied could reduce the deficit to a manageable $38,000 in March and $17,000 in April.

25 Comments | Leave a comment

    Maybe this should have been considered sooner.When any administration has so many assistants,it could indicate that someone cannot do their job correctly,without help!!Housing developer ? There is no longer a housing project!Are all the employees at the office really necessary?Does an Ombudsman have enough referrals to warrant the time and salary?Ido not like to see anyone lose their job.BUT, when people are commanding salaries,and are not essential to this agency,it is time to look to alternatives.The senior services are more important than the people in charge.Compare salaries to workers in the area...or has anyone even reviewed them.We know what Ms. Cockrell was making.Are the others in the same salary range? We can only hope not.But I would not count on it!The Active Living Centers are already functioning on too few employees,so please when cuts are made,start at the TOP.Reduce salaries,or cut jobs.Do not punish the seniors for the failure of the "leaders" of this agency..

    This is such a sad situation.

    Has the Board considered the possibility of everyone in the agency (including the seven Directors listed on the SAAA website) taking a voluntary temporary pay cut to avoid, or at least reduce, the need for layoffs?

    Morale among the rank and file employees of the agency is at an all time low.

    A sincere gesture by the current Directors to volunteer to take part in a temporary voluntary pay cut to avoid or reduce layoffs would at least help the "lower level" employees regain trust in the current management.

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    Those that took the money, should just own up and pay back the money they took, so the agency can continue.
    Also, those that have donated in the past, should realize that a few bad apples do not spoil the entire agency. The agency provides wonderful services to those who desperately need a hot meal during the day. For some, this is the only meal they may get. The centers are a wonderful outlet for those seniors who may have no other outlet for communication and socialization with others their own age.
    This is especially important if they can not drive.

    I was very amused to read in the Winchester Star,that apparently the former director of housing,Mr.Price, title has been changed to "Director of operations"Is this how this agency plans to cut expenses,in order to pay for the seniors services?Board members are you aware of this? Did you approve this?If he is now directing operations,what is the interim CEO doing? I believe they are all mired in who can, or cannot function in their jobs.No one, it would seem is doing anything constructive to solve these problems.Board, it is time you took charge and made the necessary changes to save this program.Do NOT cut days and, or services.Cut the outrageous salaries,unnecessary positions,and do whatever is necessary but do not short change our seniors.

      Martha--I just checked: On the SAAA website, Mr. Price is still listed as the Director of Housing Development, but, since you pointed this out to the general public (thank you for bringing it to our attention, by the way!), I will watch the SAAA website to see if it is changed there. As you pointed out in a previous comment, I guess SAAA does not need a Director of Housing Development if they had to give up the Housing grant to another agency..... Director of Operations must have a nice ring to it...... Have to keep all the "Directors" employed, I guess...

    Some people work for insurance in our schools and don't take any pay home,just think about it that the employees at saaa get a pay check and insurance. Im sure saaa could find people that will work for far less money. just my thinking!

    Spunky and ex saaa employee...you are dead on!
    Thank you.Another article in the Win.Star states that Saaa asked for additional funding in Clarke County.The article said that the additional funding is not because they are in financial trouble,it is to be used to get people needing services off the waiting list.I would guess they are on a waiting list,due to the financial trouble.Someone needs to write a better script for these people.If they are seeking trust they need to tell the truth.Ms.Palmer cooked at one of the centers.Well good for her.Most job descriptions specify,"and whatever is needed or necessary".SAAA needs to remember what the county of Clarke has already done for this agency and their seniors.Greed cost them their credibility, only truth and honesty can restore this,and apparently it is not happening.Paying only 20 percent for their insurance,the one truth we know for sure.Ridiculious and unwarranted in a non profit.Pay cut? How much and who?Put the figures out for the public to see.Taxes help pay you,and we need to know who gets what!

    I am thinking that there are many unreasonable approaches that we can choose, and they will do harm to hundreds of Seniors in 5-counties and Winchester. SAAA has been in the past a rock solid service organization that had only one agenda. To provide assistance, food, transportation and probably many other valuable services to this community. We should not seek to destroy an organization just because there existed Bad Management at the top. I think we should all pull together to help SAAA get back to what it was established to do. As for salaries and titles, I am guessing that no one is following the lead of the EX-Executives who may well have been involved in criminal activity. Is it then reasonable that everyone remaining, directors and all, are doing a great effort to correct the damages caused by others, and re-establish SAAA as a caring services organization???  I believe that they are doing exactly that.  We need to work with them—not against them.

    Observer,They are not doing enough until they are willing to sacrifice much more than they are doing.Sacrifices should not just come from the seniors.Rock solid,I do not think so.This "BAD MANAGEMENT" had to be going on longer than a few months,or things would not be this bad.Bad management still continues.No one is trying to tear down this agency.Just the truth would be nice.If you are just an observer,or perhaps an employee of the agency,you should be able to see that things are just not what they seem.Talk to some of the ex employees.You may have very interesting conversations.It seems that the more things change,the more they stay the same.And the same just ain't good enough anymore Changes are needed to make this a better agency,for the seniors that deserve better than they are receiving.

    I do not think anyone who has commented here, nor anyone out in the general public for that matter, is seeking to destroy the SAAA. I for one want to see SAAA get back to what it was established to do.

    However, trust has been broken. The taxpayers,the private contributors to SAAA, and the senior citizens whom SAAA serves have all been taken advantage of, as have the many honest hardworking rank and file SAAA employees who have nothing to do with the current crisis. Money given in good faith has apparently been diverted for other's personal gain. There are currently civil lawsuits pending against former employees of SAAA, and criminal charges are a real possibility. The legal system will resolve the legal issues in it's own sweet time, slow though it may be.

    In the meantime, the agency struggles to keep the services going to the seniors. The recent articles in the local newpapers indicate that services may be cut and staff may be reduced, at least temporarily until more funding from the state ,local and federal governments become available in the next fiscal year.

    As I mentioned in a previous post, I do not think it is unreasonable for the upper management employees, including the 7 Directors listed on the SAAA website, to share in the belt tightening. If there is any way a temporary, across the board voluntary pay cut can reduce the need for layoffs or cuts in services, why would the 7 Directors NOT agree to be included? Even if the temporary pay cut would only slightly minimize the need for other layoffs or cuts in services, wouldn't the upper mangement's participation in the paycuts be a sincere gesture of goodwill toward the lower level employees, AND to the local seniors in general?

    As former employee, what I am afraid will happen is that the last hired, lower paid employees ( some of whom are senior citizens, themselves, by the way) will bear the brunt of the layoffs.

    One more thing: I hope the Board of Directors are looking closely at the oversight procedures in place that allowed this financial crisis to occur. I know all the investigations continue, but it certainly appears the Board of Directors had the wool pulled over their eyes for many months before the financial irregularities were discovered. Hundreds of thousands of unpaid bills? How could that be allowed to happen?

    Martha,
    I tried to shed some light on the truth still going on at the Agency but the great people at the NVDaily would not post it. Sometimes the truth is held up by other poeple. I would like to know what ever happened to the First Amendment when the local paper will not even print the the truth from being posted...........

    Observer,why do you think that I,and ex employee are not helping?I can only speak for myself,but I am helping.Surprised? You seem to be very close to the subject,an employee,perhaps? In any case,I believe the public has a right to know all the facts,and make an educated decision about where monies should be allocated. The seven directors are NOT the people making the most money.The money makers are the employees at the Front Royal office.And Fred,if you are who I think you are,I imagine you have a wealth of information you could share.Perhaps a visit or email to to the board chair would get better results.I believe he is an honest man,although too trusting about management at the agency.I am sure you could enlighten him quite a bit.AND.OBSERVER,NO ONE,hates this agency,just the actions that have,and are continuing to take place.Most people do not like dishonesty,unless they are involved.This agency at one time was a wonderul,beyond repoach,service to our seniors.No more,and will not be until it is revamped and put on the right path with actions and not words.And,lastly,to ex employee.You have already helped just by working there.People who have worked for Saaa,apparently have done so in order to help the seniors in the communities.I hope it was a good experience,maybe not.In any event,thank you for your service at Saaa,and for your honest comments.More of that is needed.

      Thank you, Martha, for your kind words. Without getting into too much detail, I worked at SAAA for several years. I left the agency voluntarily, in good standing. I am proud of my years of service at SAAA.

      My experience was that the vast majority of employees at SAAA were sincerely interested in providing quailty service to the local seniors. Many times, I saw SAAA employees go the extra mile to ensure local seniors got the services they needed.

      That's why this latest financial crisis concerns me so much. Somewhere, somehow, someone dropped the ball. Apparently, one or two unscrupulous staff members saw their chance and took advantage of lax oversight by those who should have been looking out for the best interests of both the agency and the local seniors. Those unscrupulous staff members at the top of the agency apparently "talked a good game" for quite awhile. Most con men do. But, eventually, the financial irregularities caught up with them. They are gone, but the mess remains.

      The Board of Directors and the remaining upper management of the SAAA have their work cut out for them now. It will be a long, tedious and painful journey back to financial stability. It may be even a longer journey for the agency to regain the trust of the lower level employees and the local senior citizens.

      That's why transparency, a willingness to admit mistakes, and a willingess to share in the painful cuts in services and staffing is necessary on the part of the Board of Directors and the remaining Upper Management if SAAA is to again become a an agency that the employees, volunteers and senior citizen clients can be proud of.

    Well said ex!!!Just want the truth,and for this to be straightened out,so this can never happen again.I am not sure this is possible with the present management.I just do not believe there is enough education for the right decisions to be made.Work shops and health dept.certificates do not an executive make.Not being mean,just truthful and realistic.Pray that this can be resolved.But only with the whole truth and not half truths.Board,make the necessary changes and go forward, with a clean slate that the public can live with.Not said with hate,only concern.

      Martha,
      More great news for the hard working people (the ones that actually do the work). They have just been advised that they will be receiving a 10-20% pay cut. I know some of you will state that they were getting their insurance paid, well most of them did not even have insurance through the agency and the agency was not spending a dime on them for insurance and now they are being cut 10-20% in pay. The problem I have with this is that the same people are in positions that are paid way to much and their positions have been cut, so why are they still there? The entire director staff and most of the board need to be replaced and one person needs to be put in-charge and restructure the entire office to put this place back on track. The "one person" shall have the proper education and training to handle such an operation and the board shall be the oversite for such an operation, this should of never happened if there was a board that did what a board should do, review the entire agency.

      Ya right. When ever you have to say" not said with hate" the whole truth is just the opposite. You only want truth, but not willing to speak it.

    Fred,you are so correct.You much know a good bit about this agency.Every thing you have said is just what I have been asking for.The TRUTH.We have yet to get that from this agency.
    Now!!! Observer,I believe you meant 'YEAH RIGHT"
    The rest I did not understand at all. When some one seems to dwell on hate so much,makes you wonder!!!! The truth is....we need an agency that works for the seniors,not the employees.We need an agency run by competent people,governed by a board that governs,not a board that accepted everything said,without any proof or verification. A retired military person did not guarantee honesty,good character or integrity.Now this is truth.If you translate this into hate you have a real problem with truth.If I felt hate I would say the heck with this agency,close it down and to "h" with the seniors.That "observer" could be translated as hate.Apparently that is hard for you to comprehend.Just let the public know where the monies are going to be spent.Not in salaries but in services.We all know that working people must be paid,but not at the rate of the administration in Front Royal.Just show the public (the truth) what their salaries really are.Let the public decide!!It should be public knowledge.Now observer,that is the truth.What is untrue? You should want to know these things also,unless perhaps you are close enough to the situation to know already.

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    Observer, I have some questions for you. Have you ever volunteered at one of our centers? Have you ever delivered a meal on wheels? Spoke to senior when you are the only person they will see that day and the hot meal you deliver that day, may be the only meal they eat all day? If you haven't then you don't know anything about the emotions that the STUPIDITY AND THEFT of those in our Agency have cost our seniors. It is not that we (ex, Martha, Fred and myself) don't care, it is because we care too much, that we want those that have made the mess and are continuing to make the mess, to be removed, so that the Agency can be cleaned up . There are seniors on waiting lists for meals on wheels, home bound help, and waiting to come into the centers. But they can't be helped because of NO MONEY. The money is being spent for the Auditors and attorney fees, thanks to a few who didn't care and to a board who did not do their job. That is why we are angry and upset. There are many good people in the Agency. People who do their jobs for the money they are paid for and more. There are volunteers who go over and above their duty. Running meals in all kinds of weather and not complaining. We are the ones who are angry by the mismanagement and the problems that we now face and will face in the future. They want us to ask for donations. How can you look someone in the face, knowing what you know and ask for $1000 donation, when you don't even know where the money is going????I can't and I won't right now.

    Linda,you are a girl after my own heart.You said it so well How can you ask for a donation of any size,when you have no idea how it will be used.You have said just what our seniors need you to say.Thank you and God Bless!! People who are wrong never want to hear the truth..Keep it up.Maybe it will make a difference,but do not count on it!

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    Observer, you haven't answered my questions. Thank-you Martha for the compliment. I have brought my Mom to the center since last year as a way for her to get out of the house and a way(I hoped) to stave off the ravages of Alzheimers. She has enjoyed the time there and I have enjoyed running meals on wheels, altho it has been hard losing so many of "my people" to death in this last year. I know they are old, but the smiles that we have shared and the joy that they have brought to my heart and I hope to theirs can not be replaced by money. I will miss these gentle souls. I just hope this service can continue.

    I think it's kind of like making a King Solomon like decision. Which half of the baby do you want? The SAAA board have HUGE decisions to make. I'm sure there is still some fluff there that still needs to go, but how do you figure out which is which? And then there are the the unsung heroes that work out away from the main office. The van drivers, the senior center directors, the people who cook the meals. Why aren't we hearing from them?

    JC. the people you have mentioned are the folks that makes this engine run.The very most important this agency employees.Why have we not heard from them?Fear!!!!This agency has run on fear and intimidation for a long time."You don't like what is going on here,we will find someone else to do your job". Look at the people that have left this agency!Fired,forced to quit,or just left in lieu of being fired.This has not always been a happy place to work.The former CEO ruled with an iron hand,unkind words,and again fear.The employees in Front Royal endured this and did nothing to correct this situation,and did her bidding in the field.Perhaps a call to a board member about the treatment of the employees would have avoided all of what is happening now.Perhaps not.The treatment of the field employees was no better than the office employees,perhaps,from what I have been told even worse.They apparently were not believed when a board member was approached.So much for speaking out.When people are afraid they tend to be very,very quiet.Do not rock the boat,and maybe it will not sink.Better grab the life rafts,things do not look so good,except for the"fluff". Who,is making how much,and what positions are not necessary?Answers are truly needed.Sooner than later.NOW,PLEASE!


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