Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 9:26 PM on Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Homer seniors elect three new board members

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

More than 80 members attended Homer Senior Citizens Inc.'s annual membership meeting May 19, eager to ask questions, express views and finally at the end of the evening, elect three new board members.

Elected were Marjanne Schneider, Jackie Dentz and Merlin Cordes. They replace Brentley Keene, who served most recently as board president, Steve Franklin and Nadine Pence.

Schneider's friendship with a resident in Friendship Terrace, HSCI's assisted living facility, was the reason she agreed to run for the board. "Maybe I can be of some help, have some insights many people have not been able to acquire because they don't spend the time there," she said.

Dentz, the owner of Frosty Bear Ice Cream Parlor and Crabbie's, is a former member of South Peninsula Hospital's service area board.

"I'm 68 and, like you, I'm still upright and putting one foot in front of the other. ... I totally believe that this is probably our last home if we're lucky to get this far," said Dentz of what the future may hold for her and husband, Willie.

Cordes has lived in Homer for more than 21 years, working as a substitute teacher, commercial fisherman, referee for sporting events and as a real estate agent.

"I'm mighty thankful to the people that work in these places. It takes a tremendous amount of effort some days because of their constantly being around people that need so much care," said Cordes. "I understand the help these people need and am willing to put in my time if that's what you choose."

In a board meeting immediately following the membership meeting, Ernest Suoja was elected president; Gert Seekins was re-elected as vice president; Brenda Steenblock, treasurer; and Kay Sebade, secretary.

Member George Meeker took exception to the lack of consideration given to items he requested be added to the agenda.

"I just asked for a place for members of this organization to give their comments," Meeker said.

Keene assured Meeker that Keene and Fred Lau, acting HSCI executive director, would entertain questions when they gave their reports.

Meeker wasn't the only person curious about the absence of agenda space for member comments, however.

"You can go to annual meetings of the largest corporations in this country and they have a spot on the agenda for people to speak," one member said. "Why is there no place on the agenda here for members of the senior center to speak? I think that needs to be addressed. Otherwise why are we having this meeting?" When it came to Keene's report, questions from Meeker focused on two board meetings called in March, whether or not Keene had been in town at the time the meetings were called and the dismissal of Sue Samet who, until March 23, served as HSCI's executive director. The board's reasons for terminating Samet's contract have not been publicly revealed.

"I don't know Samet ... but I believe the situation could have been worked out by the board with a little mediation. Do you agree?" said Meeker.

Making it clear his answer was just his opinion, Keene said, "If I had been here, with the information I had, I would not have voted to terminate her contract."

In his report, Lau addressed Samet's dismissal "in terms of what I found when I came here, the process it went through and my interpretation of what occurred." His report outlined how the board of directors had contacted him March 22 to ask if he would serve as interim executive director. Lau served 12 years as the HSCI's executive director and has filled in several times on an interim basis.

"At the time, all I knew was that it was very probable that the present executive director would not be there after March 23, 2011," Lau stated in his report. "Since this was a personnel action, the nature of which is confidential and only the board of directors has authority to hire or terminate the executive director, I did not ask for, nor did I expect to receive, an y information regarding the reasons for the termination."

Lau said that since being hired as HSCI's interim executive director, his review of memos, e-mails and notes from as early as January 2011 "give a clear indication the executive director knew her job was in jeopardy."

Turning to nominations for board vacancies, Keene said the only stipulation was that an individual be willing to serve, and that residents of Friendship Terrace and Swartzell Terrace, a four-unit independent living facility, are barred by HSCI policy from serving on the board.

According to Lau, a tenant-board member policy dated Oct. 19, 2010, stating that only "tenants of Kachemak Bay Senior Housing, Pioneer Vistas Senior Housing and Bartlett Terrace Senior Housing are eligible to serve on the board of directors of Homer Senior Citizen's Inc. and/or committee," was initiated while Samet was executive director. Lau said the policy came about after notification from Alaska Housing Finance Corporation that residents in housing funded by the federal Homer Investment Partnership Act, or HOME, program and acting as board members posed a conflict of interest.

However, in response to a July 28, 2010, letter by Lau to AHFC asking if Friendship Terrace resident and then board member Nadine Pence had a conflict of interest, AHFC said HSCI's board policies requiring members to abstain from matters "perceived as having any monetary implication with regard to tenancy" covered the conflict of interest provision. AHFC said there was no need for an exemption for Pence to the HOME conflict of interest provisions.

"There's nothing from us that says they can't run for the board," Mark Romick, director of planning and program development for AHFC, said in reference to the issue of Friendship Terrace and Swartzell Terrace residents running for the HSCI board.

Annual membership meetings of Homer Senior Citizens Inc. are held the third Thursday of May. The board meets on a monthly basis.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.