Costa Mesa Senior Center board will remain for at least one year

The nonprofit corporation that oversees the troubled Costa Mesa Senior Center will remain intact for at least one year, board members announced during a special meeting Friday.

The board will operate independently of City Hall and will not have any say in the operations of the center once the city takes over completely in September.

The City Council voted in June to terminate Costa Mesa's existing agreement with the senior center, effectively starting a 90-day takeover process.

On the heels of the council's decision, the Costa Mesa Senior Center board voted to form an ad hoc committee that would create a timeline for dissolving the corporation.

However, the board's attorney advised them later to keep the board intact for at least one or two years to pay outstanding bills and handle potential lawsuits that could arise against board members after the city assumes full control of the center, vice president Joan Weeks said.

"We're not dissolving the board, case closed," Weeks said.

The center's operational and financial problems came into public view after an independent audit, published in December, predicted a "fiscal crisis" for the center.

City staffers have been present at the facility since June 11 to help run the center.

Costa Mesa annually grants the senior center board $240,000 to run the West 19th Street facility.

In the past week, the city also gave the board $60,000 to cover the rest of its expenses, said executive director Aviva Goelman.

The board also discussed the possibility of closing the now public board meetings after the city takes control of the center.

Although it could remain intact for the next several years, once the board stops receiving public money, it will no longer be subject to the state's open meetings law, Weeks said.

"Since we're not the recipient of public funds, we're not subject to the Brown Act," she said.

The board will discuss the issue further at its next meeting on Aug. 19.

The meeting became heated during public comment when seniors began questioning the board's response to the city takeover and its involvement in the Albert Dixon Foundation, a memorial fund set up by a former senior center member in 2006 to support programs and other services at the center.

Although each member of the public is allowed three minutes to speak, several seniors' comments were interrupted by angry outbursts from board members.

John Goddard, of Costa Mesa, came to the meeting Friday to find out what was going on with the board and give his opinion of recent happenings.

After expressing criticism of the board's recent actions, the board moved on to the next speaker without letting him finish his three minutes.

Weeks sighed and said that Goddard should "shut up."

"I'm tired of you guys bitching at us," Weeks said to the seniors, adding that the board members provided service to the center on a volunteer basis and often donated money.

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