Saturday, July 29, 2017

[Amador County] Grand Jury Controversy

During the past three years, Nexus Youth & Family Services has made it a point to put services to our community ahead of the innuendos, and outright lies that have come our way, steadfastly maintaining professional integrity and continuously taking the “higher road.”  We have not discussed our opinions or our experiences as former employees of Amador Tuolumne Community Action Agency (ATCAA) with members of the general community out of respect for the staff who continue to work there, the services they continue to provide for our community, and to give them the opportunity to make many long-overdue changes to better their organization.   But, since we obviously have not been afforded the same respect in return, we now feel we need to set the record straight.
The recent Amador County Grand Jury report on the start-up of Nexus is filled with contradictions, assumptions, errors and false statements.  Although many former ATCAA employees and Nexus staff provided relevant information, statements and evidence to the Grand Jury, Grand Jury members chose to write a report that is not truthful. That is unfortunate and I have to question their intent, or perhaps ability to carry out the duties entrusted to them by our taxpayers.  
In the opinion of our attorney, the Grand Jury investigation was marred with misconduct by jurors, including having an employee of ATCAA on the Grand Jury during the first year of the investigation.  This juror/ATCAA employee discussed the investigation with members of the community in an effort to tarnish the professional reputation of Nexus employees - a clear violation of her oath as an impartial member of the Grand Jury.  
Although there are many false statements in the Grand Jury report which will be addressed at a later time, below is a short list of corrections which should be looked at closely by any who are interested: 
•In 2014, Nexus applied for 9 of Amador County’s Requests for Proposals to provide services (RFPs) and were awarded 5 contracts (55 percent success rate).  ATCAA applied for 6 of the RFPs and were awarded 4 contracts (66 percent success rate).
 •There were no gaps in services because of the formation of Nexus.
•The correct Nexus mission statement is on our website.
•The correct ATCAA mission statement and correct reason for forming ATCAA as a JPA is on their website.
It is scary to me that the Grand Jury cannot even get the most basic, easy to locate, public information correct in their report.  
In addition, there are a few more facts that I believe are important for people to know about Nexus and ATCAA. 
•Many former ATCAA employees testified to the Grand Jury that they left the agency because of intolerable working conditions such as unprofessional behavior by personnel department staff, the mismanagement of funding, and shocking HIPAA privacy violations.  Since 2014, over 15 people have voluntarily resigned from their positions at ATCAA. 
•In the past 10 years, ATCAA administration conducted multiple staff surveys and internal investigations in response to employee complaints and concerns.  These insincere attempts to “fix the problems” always ended the same way they began – with nothing changing or ever being resolved. Once we were actually told by survey facilitator there were so many negative comments, it was assumed we were “just having a bad day”, so they eliminated them! 
•The “resolved personnel matter” referred to in the Grand Jury report is a lawsuit against ATCAA filed by a former employee that is not over, but ongoing.  There are also pending discrimination complaints filed by former ATCAA employees that have yet to be resolved.
•Not one person became unemployed because of the formation of Nexus.  In fact, Nexus hired multiple former ATCAA employees who wanted to leave the agency.  When Nexus started, we employed 7 people.  Today, we employ 25 people.
•Although they had moved on to working at Nexus, former ATCAA staff continued to help ATCAA employees complete their year-end reports, in June of 2014, because they felt it was the right thing to do.  One Nexus staff member also trained ATCAA staff on her own time so they could learn how to use a complicated database required for reporting.
•The ATCAA IT department endorsed the use of Gmail, assisted staff with setting it up, and provided written instructions for staff who wanted to use it.  Many ATCAA employees utilized Gmail on a regular basis.   
The true character of those who left ATCAA to positions at Nexus is better described by the ATCAA Board Chair who stated in an email to all ATCAA staff that they “have been excellent and energetic employees, and their decision to leave is regrettable.”
Since the inception of Nexus, we have added new advocacy services for youth, enhanced services for parents and families, increased children’s counseling services, increased drug and alcohol prevention programs for youth, increased services for foster youth, and expanded Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) services for children who are in the court system due to abuse and neglect.  Our work is important and we do it very well.  Taxpayers should be proud of our services and pleased to know that funding awarded through fair competition is being spent wisely and achieving such positive outcomes for the people who live in our community.
We gladly welcome any visitor who wants to stop by 621 New York Ranch Road, Jackson, and see us or ask questions about our services.  Please check out our website at or call at (209) 257-1980.    
In conclusion, Nexus Youth & Family Services has proven to be a valuable non-profit agency with integrity, professionalism, and tireless efficiency.  We welcome competition, and stand on our success.  Meanwhile our work continues, and we hope that this distraction from what is truly important ceases.  We have confidence that the Board of Supervisors will provide any needed direction as we continue to serve our community.
So let’s get to it!
July 16, 2017
Ledger Dispatch
By Cathy Vanderford, Chair of the Nexus Youth & Family Services Board

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