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Posted February 8, 2012 | comments 9 Comments

Agency on Aging staff takes pay cut

Managers' salaries reduced 10 to 20 percent, others' checks by 5 percent

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- The Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging's struggle to survive deepened Tuesday with the disclosure of sharp pay cuts being taken by agency managers and rank and file staff.

Jonathan Price, director of operations, said at a board meeting that managers are taking a pay cut of between 10 percent and 20 percent, and office staff pay will be reduced by 5 percent. Part-time WellTran bus drivers also will take 5-percent cuts.

Price said all the cuts are mandatory. Board Chairman John Hudson said he hoped the cuts would prove temporary and pay levels would be restored after the agency has weathered its latest cash flow crisis.

Hudson and Cindy Palmer, the agency's interim president, also issued pleas for an outpouring of public contributions. Palmer announced the initiation of a fund drive that will try to obtain 40 contributions of $1,000 each over 40 days.

"We've got to figure out a way to get the public a little more behind us," Hudson said, adding that he had spoken with public officials in Winchester and the five counties served by the agency who worry about the effects of losing the services SAAA provides to thousands of seniors in the Northern Shenandoah Valley. The agency's service area covers Page, Warren, Shenandoah, Clarke and Frederick counties and Winchester.

"They do not want to see us go away," Hudson said. "They see horror stories if we do."

Palmer also announced that Tim Catherman, who manages finances for the Virginia Department for the Aging, and two agency colleagues are scheduled to meet with SAAA staff on Feb. 17 to give technical assistance on several financial issues, including how funding is requested and spent.

James Rothrock, the interim commissioner for the Department for the Aging, described the meeting as a routine intervention similar to those conducted with other local agencies around the state. Rothrock said the meeting did not signal a new investigation into SAAA's finances like one the Department for the Aging performed in late August.

"We're not asserting they're doing anything wrong," Rothrock said, "but just wondering if some technologies, or reporting or communications would assure they're getting the maximum impact out of the funds allotted to them."

Price said the pay cuts are a temporary response to a negative cash flow that threatens to leave the agency with an $80,000 deficit in March and months to come.

Price said the cuts, which will save an estimated $2,500 in payroll every two weeks, will close the cash flow gap but did not say by how much. He refused to rule out layoffs or program cuts in the future.

At a personnel committee meeting after the board meeting, committee Chairman Tony Roper also warned that other cost cutting measures remain an option if the agency's finances don't improve soon.

"We're exploring every possibility," Roper said. "We're making every effort to reduce the costs of running the agency to keep the doors open."

The agency's Web site also posted a message warning of dire consequences if the $80,000 deficit predicted for March is not reduced.

"If we do not close this funding gap, SAAA will be forced to make even deeper cuts that will eliminate programs and reduce services," the Web site message says.

The agency's current crisis stems from legal and accounting bills related to a lawsuit and an audit of several financial issues, including the possibility of crimes committed in the management of the agency's finances.

The agency remains mired in a lawsuit with Helen Cockrell, its former executive director, who was dismissed in early September. The agency has accused her of fraud and embezzlement during her tenure. Cockrell is suing the agency for $20,000 in accrued annual leave and sick leave she contends is still owed her.

The agency is suing her for $70,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, plus attorney's fees and costs. A trial is scheduled for May 22.

Lance Barron, an agency finance specialist, told the board at the meeting that the budget for attorney and accounting fees had been increased by 50 percent from $100,000 to $150,000 for the fiscal year.

"Is that enough?" Roper asked Barron.

"That's the hope at this point," Barron replied. "But I don't know for sure."

9 Comments | Leave a comment

    How can this mentality be expected to command trust from the public?You just do not take the most momies from the lesser pay checks,and much less from those who are making the most.If this is how this board rolls I understand how they let this situation happen.If you reversed this thinking you could certainly save a good deal more of these much needed funds.It is really just basic math.There are six center managers.Two of these are interim,they are actually Front Royal office employees,one the Omsbudsman,the other I am not sure what title she has been given.So,only four will have large salary cuts,the other two 5%.Why does this not sound like the way to save the most.The thousand in forty looks good on paper.A few years ago there was an idea to get one dollar from a million people people.This minimal amount did not happen.Can forty thousand dollars be generated in this manner? I hope so,but think not.I do not think this is the best way to "get the public behind us"People that do not know this agency's pay scale may think these cuts are a great plan.Remember please,the salary of the former CEO.Make this board reveal the salaries of the employees that were immediately beneath her.Then if you believe the pay cuts are fair,help this agency all you can.If you think they are wrong,make them help themselves more than they seem to be.The seniors deserve to be treated better,If their services are cut the blame can go directly to the board that chose not to monitor the direction of the administration.They still do not seem to be making decisions best for the seniors,only what is best for the remaining employees in the front office.Not a great way to instill trust.Also if they had a"fiance specialist" how on earth did this happen? Or is this just another title transfer.

      Maybe, you should actually read the article. Nothing was to taken from any of the Center Directors ...Period. Except the ones you mention, that are working at centers from the main office. They will have reductions, just as if they were at the main office. The large percentage is being taken from the Directors and managers at HQ.

    If the "mangers" mentioned are not the center directors I am happy and I stand corrected.Thank you!However I would still like to see salaries revealed.Let the public see where funds and or their donations are going.There are just too many things unexplained.If the employees that are being given 10 to 20% cut in pay,what amount are the cuts coming from.You seem to have privileged info.about the agency.Perhaps an employee? If so you of all people should want the best decisions made for them..Fund raising has been ongoing for a long time,some not handled very ethically.Therefore trust needs to be restored.Trust by the public could restore SAAA to a viable organization.If I question the agency,what makes you think other people do not have the same opinion.If the agency has a financial specialist how did this situation occur?Or is this just another title transfer?Observer,do you really think the best possible decisions are being made for our seniors?Be honest! Just like I am asking the agency to do..I think not and they have not been for a very long time.


    Observer, here you are again. I asked you some questions the other night that you failed to answer, about whether you had ever been a volunteer with the meals program. If not, you should and then you would realize, just exactly why some of us are so angry about this mess.
    I am like Martha, I want to see an accounting of where the money goes, once it is donated. If I give my $1000, may I ask that it specifically go to the meals program or to a certain center to keep it open? Or is it going to go into a general fund, to keep all centers open or to pay legal fees or to pay the salaries of those in Front Royal? I know everyone wants to get their pay every 2 weeks, but somehow, I don't think the people who work at the top in Front Royal would want to work for minimum wage or a little above like some of the cooks or drivers have to do in the centers. Try taking 5% of what they make and then ask them to decide what to give up(like heat,groceries,medicine, gas) until the attorneys get tired of bilking the Agency for all we are worth. I have been there and been on both sides as the "suer and the suee" Neither is fun and the only ones who win are the attorneys. Everyone else loses.Is $150,000 enough for attorneys, I doubt it...no matter what they tell you, there are always more expenses and more expenses... If the Agency gets out of this without paying $500,000 in attorney fees, we will be lucky....Now how many people did Cindy say she needed to ask for $1000?

      Linda, the answer to your questions is Yes I have and do. And, I have no problem understanding the anger... I share it. But, I have also taken the time to ask some questions directly, and received answers to most of my concerns about going on from here. My issue with Martha and others, is I do not believe they have even gone to SAAA and requested a meeting. They seem to assume that everyone working at Front Royal HQ are doing nothing and that they do not care. Just do some honest research and ask some questions. Then if you are still unsatisfied, maybe ask to meet with a board member. But, do not just throw stones. That is what I would call a caring action. Thanks

    Linda,you are so right!Everything you have said is so true.BUT..The people at the office and the board just don't get it !If we are wrong about the size of your salaries,show us.Make public your gross or take home pay.Let the people you are asking for donations if they believe a donation is warranted.If this agency has to close,they will not find a job with their present "perks".Education is demanded for people in "high positions".This leader is sorely lacking.Keep up the good work Linda,the seniors need you!

    Observer,You are wrong!I have contacted both a board member and VDA.Nothing !!!! All I am asking for is that the salaries of the now administration be revealed.If they are not as inflated as the former CEO why should that be a problem? I will be glad to support this agency in every way,if this is done truthfully.Why should these salaries be kept secret?Taxpayers are helping pay them.I realize that some of the employees have great credentials.College degrees.etc.BUT,some do not.The acting head of this agency should have the very best.Being employed there for a long time does not mean qualified,when for most of that period she was a secretary.Nothing at all wrong with secretaries.But is this one qualified to be interim CEO at this crucial time? I realize the last one had a great education and that did not turn out well.But I believe that was lack of caring and character.I believe Ms Palmer has character,and that she cares,but sometime in a crisis that just is not enough.And I believe we have a crisis of the worst kind.


    Observer, I am with the Luray group and every time we try to ask questions, we are stonewalled and are told, "we can't be told that yet, or it's private or I don't know, or some such nonsense". SAAA is a non-profit organization and should be open and above board with what is going on, and we should not have to find out what is going on, by reading it in the paper. We weren't told that we could not ask other seniors to join us at the center, until I said something to someone there about her sister joining us and then I was told we could not accept any new people. Now is that a way to run a business? I have been telling lots of seniors about our center, trying to build it up. Good thing they didn't show up! I am sick of not being told the truth about what is going on or not going on. I don't want to be made a fool of and again I am not going to donate my money, until I know exactly where it is going to go.
    Why did we have to have 3 sets of attorneys to represent 3 different people. That's just wasting money. The only people getting rich there are the attorneys. Saying that $150,000 for attorney fees is a laugh... that may be the bottom line,before they add on expenses and they all do that.
    Why hasn't the auditors announced what mistakes they have found. I have a friend who was a statistition for the Navy Yard, and she could find 2 cents in billions of dollars within a day and this company can't find $150,000 in a couple of months? Are they bilking the Agency? Or are they hiding something or just incompetent? These are questions that we would liked answered and no one either has the answers or wants to give us the answers.

    I know the agency needed attorneys for this problem.But it will only be worth the price,if we get a CONVICTION.People have also been turned away at the Stephen City site.This is not a good way to encourage support from the public.There should be a better solution.Good agency leaders would find one.Unqualified means inferior.In this case we are not getting what we pay for.Over paid under qualified.Changes are needed before we can go forward.Forward does not mean turning away seniors.One unnecessary salary at the office will pay for quite a few senior meals.Make it happen,board members,make it happen.

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