Four resign from senior center board

Four Costa Mesa Senior Center board members resigned Friday after describing the challenge of guiding the center through its recent financial crisis and pending city takeover.

Members Jim Fisler, Sue Healey, Stella Adkins and Barbara Echan said their voices had been stifled by a board majority they described as uncooperative and unwilling to work as a team. During a special board meeting, they each read excerpts from their resignation letters, which were addressed to city staff and board President Judy Lindsay.

"There are rampant rumors, dissent and additional problems keep occurring," Fisler wrote in his resignation letter. "Internal interpersonal disputes have overtaken the organization, including conduct I would consider aberrant."

With only four of the 11 board members present, the group failed to achieve the quorum required to make organizational decisions. The board members present used the time to listen to the public and offer their resignations.

Board members Joan Weeks, Ron Frankiewicz, Paul Flanagan, Arlene Flanagan, Reza Mahdavi, Dena Curtiss and Lindsay did not attend the meeting.

Adkins had contemplated quitting over the past several weeks but said she made the final decision when she realized a majority of the board wasn't planning to attend the meeting.

"I would have stayed if they had showed up," she said. "This just tells me we were never a team."

In June, the board voted to begin the process of dissolving the nonprofit corporation that operates the ailing center. Members formed an ad hoc committee tasked with coming up with a timeline for dismantling the board.

A week before, the City Council had voted to terminate Costa Mesa's existing agreement with the senior center, effectively starting a 90-day takeover process.

City staffers have been present at the West 19th Street facility since June 11 to help run the financially troubled center.

The city's financial audit, which was published in December, projected that the center's general fund would run dry by June and brought the board's problems into public view, Adkins said.

"I think the audit brought all of the issues to a head," she said.

Adkins said she had hoped to bring a fresh perspective to the board when she joined three years ago but found it difficult to make changes.

"Our board was just so divided we couldn't get anything done," she said.

Senior center bylaws state that the board must have at least 11 members. The resignations leave seven.

It is unclear whether the City Council will appoint new members to the board before the city takes over completely in September.

In the meantime, the board will probably call a special meeting to change the bylaws, which would allow it to operate in the event the city doesn't appoint new members, Adkins said.

Lindsay could not be reached for comment.

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