Friday, March 18, 2011

Blinded by Ivy

The hiring of Annie Burton-Byrd (AKA Annie Louise Burton or Annie Burton) to be the executive director of the Domestic Violence Center has raised serious questions about the organizations board of directors. The board, which is currently led by Bernie Bradley, had already been through two executive directors in the past twelve months before hiring Ms Burton. That rate of turnover suggests that there is something fundamentally wrong with the either the boards hiring process or their overall leadership abilities...or both.

In all fairness, there could be valid reasons why the first two executive directors didn’t work out. Unforeseen circumstances may have contributed to their short tenures. That being said, after losing two executive directors in such a short period of time, the board could reasonably be expected to make doubly sure that they got it right the third time.

That apparently didn’t happen. If they had done an even half way job of vetting Ms Burton it’s doubtful that she would have been offered the job. According to this story by Lindsey McPherson in the Columbia Flier, Ms. Burton “misused federal grant funds in a previous position.”

“I understand Ms. Burton-Byrd asserts the allegations are untrue and has provided the County’s Public Information Officer with an email from her attorney stating that he ‘understands’ the U.S. Attorney investigated and closed the matter without taking any action,” Ulman wrote in his letter to the auditor. “But according to the Office of the Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service, Ms. Burton-Byrd is debarred by the federal government and therefore cannot receive federal contracts or grants.”

She also has a trail of lawsuits and judgments from her former real estate company, The Signature Groups. That information is easily attainable to anyone with a computer.

More troubling however, is if the board actually knew about these issues but choose to ignore them for some reason. Could it be that the board felt that the fact that Ms Buton is a Harvard graduate somehow outweighed these other concerns?

As they say, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the problems at the Domestic Violence Center run deeper than their troubled executive director and that a wholesale change in the board of leadership is also in order. For the sake of this important community organization, the sooner this occurs, the better for HoCo.
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