News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Senior center 'business' can't simply ignore concerns
Jun 15, 2012 - Frank Tanner, Riverton
It's wonderful that there are some people out there who are willing to write letters defending the status quo at the Riverton Senior Citizens Center. Some of these individuals may even have attended some of the meetings held by the Concerned Seniors, where they were free to express their opinions and offer their suggestions without fear of attack or intimidation.
I especially enjoyed the letter explaining how we were not "entitled to dictate to the center" because the board making up the corporation was a private entity incorporated under the laws of the State of Wyoming, and if we had originally approached the board in a "non-confrontational manner" things might have been worked out.
While there is no question that the "board of directors" of the Riverton Senior Citizen and Community Center is a private, legally incorporated organization, it differs a great deal from most corporations because:
1. Its major source of funding is from public funding, both state and federal
2. The site at which the "business" operates was bought and paid for with public funds.
3. A reserve fund from county taxes was established to help support the operation, and
4.Older participants do have a right to be involved as more than just users of the programs.
To us, the Concerned Seniors, this means the board must be held accountable by both the general public and program participants.
The only way we see this happening is if board members are elected by center participants, as are the boards at other senior centers in Fremont County. Perhaps some current board members are afraid to put their names on a general ballot.
Being accountable to nobody but other self-appointed board members may have worked at one time, but it simply isn't cutting it now, especially if the leadership won't listened to and act on legitimate complaints.
As to the charge that we approached the board in a confrontational manner, nothing could be further from the truth. When we entered the room for the first meeting, you could actually feel the hostility emanating from those who were already seated.
We were immediately informed by the acting chairperson (the president of the board did not conduct the meeting) that we would be allowed three minutes to present and explain our concerns and recommendations.
After this was done we were subjected to a 15- or 20-minute tirade by a board member about an unsigned letter he had received, and how if you didn't have the intestinal fortitude (guts) to sign such a letter you had no business sending it, and how no unsigned suggestions or comments would ever be dealt with by the board.
I still have no idea what this person was talking about. In any case, at the next board meeting all of our concerns and recommendations were rejected, with the exception of two, the posting of an agenda prior to board meetings and the posting of board minutes after their approval.
This rejection took place after the board met with selected staff members to receive their responses, and without meeting with us to discuss those concerns and recommendations. At no time since then has the board actually discussed all of these with members of this group and they have rejected all subsequent recommendations.
We have no doubt that most of the board members are sincere, dedicated people who would like to do a good job, but that has not prevented other members of the board from allowing supporters to call us Nazis, or threaten to have members arrested and removed from meetings, insulting members by name calling, and denying ample time to address the board.
Incidentally, there are actually two members of the group, not one, who are ex-board members (they finally wised up to the fact that the center and the board have problems) and most members of the group are or were longtime users of the center.