Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 9:47 PM on Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Seniors ask for changes

Annual meeting set for 7 p.m. May 19

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer

Some members of Homer Senior Citizens Inc. have asked that several agenda items be added to the organization's annual meeting next week.

Homer Senior Citizens, the organization that owns and operates the Homer Senior Center, assisted living and independent living housing and an adult day facility, holds its annual meeting at 7 p.m. May 19 in the senior center dining room.

Main agenda items include nominations and voting on three of nine board member seats and reports on Homer Senior Citizens financial status.

Seats held by board members Brentley Keene, Steve Franklin and former director Nadine Pence are up for election. Keene, the current president, said he has not yet decided to run for re-election. Pence resigned in April.

Board member terms are for three years. Nominations are made at the floor, and voting is held by write-in ballot of names placed in nomination. The top-three vote getters win the seats. To be eligible, a person must be a paid member of Homer Senior Citizens. Seniors age 55 or older can join.

Several members have asked for new agenda items to be included. The Homer Senior Citizens bylaws allow members to add items if sent in writing 10 days before the annual meeting. Stephen Theisen, a resident of Friendship Terrace, the assisted living apartments, said he and fellow member Tom Irons asked these items to go on the agenda:

• Expanding the 3-minute rule to allow members to take 6 minutes to make comments at meetings,

• Discuss issues regarding availability of all board minutes and other materials to members,

• Discuss the termination of former Homer Senior Citizens director Sue Samet and hold a nonbinding vote on if conditions existed for her to be fired,

• Hold a nonbinding vote on if Samet should be rehired, and

• Consider revising the bylaws.

At a late March board meeting held in executive session, the board voted unanimously to fire Samet. Keene was out of town at the March meetings. Samet said she was caught by surprise by the board's action and it did not give her a reason for why she was fired.

The board's regular meeting the next day drew a crowd of about 50 members, including 30 who spoke out in favor of Samet or for Gay Pendleton and Pat Doyle, who had resigned from their jobs in Friendship Center, the adult day services program. The meeting got contentious when some spoke against the board's action, with some booing and hissing.

Theisen also said he has been trying to get access to board records. He cited Alaska Statutes regarding nonprofit corporations that he said require records to be available to members.

Theisen also said he intends to run for the board, but was told by Fred Lau, the former Homer Senior Citizens director now acting as interim director, that as a resident of Friendship Terrace he could not run.

"We are the most vulnerable people with a seat at the table who are being blown off," Theisen said. "What I'm trying to do is protect these dear 80 and 90-year-olds sharing this facility with me."

Lau said under federal financing from the Housing and Urban Development HOME program through the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation that built Friendship Terrace and Swartzell Terrace, an independent living four-plex on Bartlett Street, residents there are prohibited from running from the board. The bylaws state that the board will follow all guidelines for funding sources, Lau said.

Theisen said he thinks Lau is wrong and has been in discussions with AHFC representatives to clarify the issue.

Federal guidelines allow a waiver for tenants of HOME funded units to allow them to serve on the board of the ownership entity, said Mark Romick, director of planning and program development for AHFC. HOME — the Home Investment Partnership Act — regulations do have conflict of interest provisions.

After HUD did an audit of HOME funded housing in Alaska and AHFC sent notices to projects, Lau wrote a letter in July 2010 to AHFC asking if there was a potential conflict of interest for former board member Pence, who had moved into a HOME funded unit. In October, Colette Slover, HOME program manager for AHFC, sent former Homer Senior Citizens director Samet a letter saying there was no perceived conflict of interest. AHFC noted that Homer Senior Citizens has a conflict of interest policy in its bylaws that requires board members residing in properties to abstain from voting on issues such as raising or lowering rent. No exemption to HOME conflict of interest provisions was necessary for Pence, Slover wrote.

"There's nothing from us that says they can't run for the board," Romick said of Friendship Terrace or Swartzell Terrace residents. "It just means they can't vote on matters that are or could be perceived as having any monetary implication with regard to tenancy."

Keene said he will meet next week with Lau to set a final agenda. That agenda will be posted at the center before next week's meeting.

"The last year or so a lot of things have happened. Some people are concerned about the direction we're headed," Keene said. "Hopefully we'll be able to allow some discussion to take place and the members will get an opportunity to question and find out what's going on."

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.