KPCS changes leadership amid allegations


Rodika Tollefson, KP News

Uncertainty may be the best way to describe the turn of events at the Key Peninsula Community Services in September, following the departure of Executive Director Luke Snyder after only a few months on the job.

According to the KPCS board of directors, Snyder was “terminated” after his 90-day probation period because he “didn’t perform to our requirements.” KPCS’ procedure is to hire the director for 90 days, after which a review board looks at the performance, said Bud Ulsh, KPCS president, at a September board meeting. “We found out after the review he wasn’t the right person for the job; his performance lacked in many areas.”

Snyder, however, tells a different version. He says he quit the day before the board tried to fire him. “To save face, it was better to make it look like they fired me,” he said.

Snyder said he had made the decision to leave a few weeks prior to that, and has even contacted county officials to alert them about problems at the center. “I asked (the board) for an audit for five months,” because grant applications required certified audits, Snyder said. “It wasn’t getting done…I officially quit Wednesday night (Sept. 7), when they OK’d an audit and then put a hold on it.” According to KPCS, Snyder was officially terminated on Sept. 7.

Since Snyder’s departure, various allegations have been circling the community, ranging from financial problems like missing funds to attempts on the part of the board to conspire to hide problems. Asked about the allegations in an interview, Ulsh said, “I know he’s trying to get even and spread rumors about the center. A lot of it isn’t true at all.”

One of the things the board disputes was brought up by Snyder while he was still in the position. In an August article in the Peninsula Gateway, Snyder was quoted as saying the center might close its doors if  “there are no more (cash) donations in the near future, in two month’s time.”

One longtime board member told the KP News the board was surprised to see the article, and even had to explain to Peninsula Light Co., which uses KPCS for a program helping low-income residents to pay for electricity, that the center was not in jeopardy and it was fit to continue administering the program.

“The rumors going around, the one especially that we are going to close doors in a month—this is not only hurting the center, but the whole peninsula,” Ulsh said at the board meeting, which was attended by several community members. “At one time, our finances got very critical…but now things are looking up.”

One of the sources of income the center was counting on, however, may be on hold. Pierce County Councilman Terry Lee had just earmarked $12,500 toward the center’s operating expenses from the surplus budget when he, too, was contacted by Snyder. “I have held onto the money until I understand what the future of KPCS is,” Lee said. “I’m going to try and understand what the concerns are… I’ve been told (by Snyder) they are being audited and there are no existing records of past activity. I am curious, as I’m sure the community will be, what the audit shows.”

The county’s Aging and Long-Term Care division, which was also contacted by Snyder, however, is not doing an audit currently. The agency, which supports the center with more than $35,000 for various programs, performs audits once a year. The last “monitoring visit,” in February, did not have any major findings. Sally Nixon, manager of the agency, said staff made an unannounced visit to the facility after receiving the allegations, spending an entire day there on a Friday, when senior meals are held. Senior meals are one of the programs funded by the grant.

“We are working with the board,” Nixon said. “We are pleased it’s such an active board and they’re doing what’s appropriate to head the center in the right direction.”

Nixon said the visit highlighted some problems that are correctable, including the need for an outside accountant and the implementation of tighter management practices—but said no formal report will be issued. The agency has also not required an outside audit.

“At this time, we have not determined there has been any wrongdoing or anything of this nature,” Nixon said. The agency has offered KPCS technical assistance in correcting some of the problems and will follow up, she said.

Another project put on hold indefinitely is the Community that Cares Center, spearheaded by Dennis Taylor of Safe Streets. As part of that project, Taylor was looking into funding for the center’s remodeling, so that a program supporting drug addicts in recovery could be headquartered at KPCS.

“I am fully aware of the rumors and allegations and until those things can be sorted out, it’s not appropriate for Safe Streets to run a program at that facility,” Taylor said. “Given the status of the agency and the allegations, we’re not pursuing the project at this point. I have enough concerns about the history of the board that we cannot have further contact until the allegations are addressed.”

The civic center executive committee has also been approached by Snyder, who is back at his job with the Northwest Medical Teams, about their interest in serving as the host site for the organization’s dental van, which has been coming to KPCS regularly for more than a year. The civic center board, however, is not taking any action on the proposal, said President Phil Bauer. A representative of the Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church in Gig Harbor, which sponsors the van, was not aware of any discussions about moving the site, but said Northwest Medical Teams has the authority to make that recommendation to the church as necessary. A Northwest Medical Teams coordinator did not return KP News calls.

Snyder told the KP News he will continue to look out for the local seniors and make sure they have enough activities. “It’s my community,” he said. “As time goes by, I plan to do what I can to help the seniors ... I hope people look at what’s going on and (realize) there is a center that needs help.”

Snyder said the center needs more young people—most board members and volunteers are seniors themselves. “It’s my goal to get the community to realize it’s their center. The board represents them. If the community doesn’t agree with something, they can make the statement.”

KPCS said the board is reorganizing, and office manager Linda Hubbard will serve as the executive director on a temporary basis, until the board is ready to discuss the hiring of a new director.

Lee met with the board on Sept. 22, and told the KP News after the meeting that he is committed to supporting the senior program and food bank services in the community, but for now is not clear whether that means at KPCS or through a different avenue. The funding he secured remains on hold.

“It’s more about the service to me, than who is doing it,” he said. “I have to make sure it’s the best use of the taxpayers’ dollars.”