The Youth Employment and recreational Services (YERS) program has a long and distinguished history in Coronado, California, a growing city of 1.2 million. In recent years, however, minority community members have pressed for increased services and facilities in parts of town with substantial minority populations. These requests have created dissension and growing controversy among YERS staff and members of the board of directors.
Margaret Rims was promoted to executive director of the Coronado YERS in 1993 after having been with the organization for twenty-five years. Margaret began her career in recreational development while attending Coronado University and has seen the YERS program grow from a one-person staff with limited programs in a single location to a staff of fifteen offering services at seven Coronado sites.
Over the years, Margaret Rims has been given credit for the growth of the recreation program. She has also been asked by the National Council of Youth Employment and Recreational Services to lead several regional and national workshops on recreation program development.
When Margaret Rims applied in 1993 for the position of executive director, several staff and board members were surprised because most assumed Margaret was happy in her recreational development role. Several members of the board voiced concern regarding Margaret’s overall administrative qualifications, but the prevailing sentiment supported her promotion.
Margaret Rims became executive director of the Coronado YERS in the climate of mounting pressure to increase services and facilities in the heavily populated minority areas of northeast Coronado. Several local groups also questioned minority representation on the YERS staff and board. Margaret felt these pressures were best ignored. She disagreed with several members of the board and staff who urged her to develop plans to increase minority involvement.
Margaret‘s strongest staff support came from her friend and personnel director, Jack Smith. Hack has been TERS personnel director for eighteen years. He has not been pleased with increasing personnel requirements established by the national executive council of YERS. Specifically, he has disagreed with detailing job descriptions and the institution of grievance procedures for employees. Jack believes employers should have more latitude than these policies and procedures affords. Some minority job applicants have charged that Jack was responsible for keeping them from being employed at YERS.
In early 1994, several influential minority community members met with Margaret Rims to discuss YERS program expansion. Margaret told the group she could not recommend the expansion they desired. At the meeting, William Hung, an Asian lawyer in Coronado, confronted Margaret with questions about jack Smith’s hiring practices. Margaret stoutly defended Jack.
The citizens group was not content with Margaret’s responses. William Hung contacted the YERS president, Dr. Atkins, and requested a formal meeting with the board of directors. The group, with Hung as the spokesperson, also expressed concern to national YERS officials. National YERS funds, along with membership dues, are the primary source of funding for the YERS programs.
The national director of YERS contacted Dr. Atkins to express his concern. He further stated his apprehension that any publicity of the issue might adversely affect the YERS fund drive scheduled to begin within the month.
Unknown to Margaret Rims, the board of directors met with William Hung and the group who originally confronted Margaret. Dr. Atkins and the board pledged support of program development in northeast Coronado and promised to look into the hiring practices directed by Jack Smith.
At the next formal meeting, the board informed Margaret of the need to include this promised expansion in 1995 planning. No specific actions were taken regarding either Jack Smith or current hiring practices. At the same meeting, the firm of Jones and Belew, certified public accountants for YERS, reported that revenues from membership were down 10 percent from the previous year and that facilities maintenance costs were increasing an unexpected 8 percent. Those board members who had originally questioned Margaret‘s capabilities become vocal in their criticism.
In the next few months, the division between the board and Margaret Rims became open and hostile. Dr. Atkins received reports that Margaret stated in a staff meeting that she had been in YERS before any of the board and would be there when they were all gone.
The rift flared into open with Margaret submitted the YERS program proposal for 1995 to the board of directors. No inclusion of the promised programming in northeast Coronado was made. Margaret walked out of the meeting in anger. She refused to return telephone calls from Dr. Atkins.
Dr. Atkins called an emergency meeting of the board of directors. Sentiment ran high and the board voted to terminate Margaret Rims. Two members objected claiming the action was in direct violation of national YERS policy, which called for warning or probation before termination of any employee. One member further expressed concern about community reaction to terminating a twenty-five-tear employee.
Community leaders openly criticized both Margaret Rims and the board. Margaret retained a lawyer and named Dr. Atkins and several member of the board in a defamation of character suit. She also claimed specific damages for loss of retirement benefits because of termination. During the initial months of 1995, membership revenues dropped by 12 percent and staff morale and productivity were extremely low. Jack Smith was believed by Dr. Atkins to be a focal point if internal disruption and a source of continuing information for Margaret Rims. Amid these problems the search for a new executive director began.
1. What are the ethical and value issues in this case?
2. Describe how the flow of information throughout YERS affected the problem.
3. How would you describe the communication climate?
4. What should Margaret Rims do? What should the board do?