Board of shuttered YWCA faces ex-employees

kjahner@newsobserver March 20, 2012 

— The board for the shuttered YWCA met Tuesday with employees who still await owed wages, but offered no clear plan for resolution.

Greater Triangle YWCA remains closed and in unspecified, substantial debt, and its employees have still not been paid for their last two weeks of work.

Behind closed doors at Martin Street Baptist Church, the board finally addressed many of the former employees’ concerns stemming from being notified only 24 hours prior to the shutting of the doors of the 110-year-old Hargett Street YWCA branch Feb. 29. After the meeting, both sides expressed appreciation for Tuesday night’s dialogue and optimism for the future.

“Trust is developed and formed when you communicate, and that’s what we had here tonight, our first real live communication with the board,” said Olivia Robinson, a former employee selected by the group to speak about the meeting. “We felt it was a little slow in coming from our perspective.”

Board Chair Maria Spaulding admitted the board had not yet developed a business plan and did not have the expertise to do so, but hopes to develop a plan through pro-bono outside help.

Spaulding admitted the facility’s 14 employees should have been notified of the situation much earlier, and a transition plan should have been in place to deal with the discontinuation of services.

“The logic was to try to stay as solvent as we possibly could and to look like it, so that those grant proposals that we were waiting for would come through,” Spaulding said. “We knew that as soon as we said we’ll close the doors that that would probably mean that those grants would go other places.”

Employees had been dealing with furloughs, layoffs and other cost cuts since October, but the YWCA couldn’t make up the shortfall. Spaulding said the debt is the board’s top priority. She declined to cite figures, adding “we continue to find invoices in different places.”

According to Robinson, the board members unanimously agreed to pay former employees, first and foremost. But there are also several other debts to service providers as well, and one already turned to the courts. On Feb. 24, Public relations firm Misner & Associates sued for breach of contract for $59,814 in services dating from April to December of 2011.

The YWCA offered services ranging from after-school programs to programs for the elderly. Many are designed for single, cash-strapped mothers as it pursues a mission to “eliminate racism and empower women.” It relied heavily on grants, which have been reduced substantially in recent years.

Jahner: 919-829-4822

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