Just who will take the reins of a multi-million dollar non-profit agency with headquarters in Durant has caused a split in the fifteen member board with three members resigning in protest.
The split happened when Carol Ammons, executive director at Big Five Community Services, announced she would be retiring after working for the agency for 22 years.
A majority of the board wanted to go outside the agency to replace Ammons, but several members felt senior employees who have devoted years of service should be considered if they are qualified. The board couldn’t get a vote up or down on a director from inside the agency, according to Carl Tackett, one of the resigning board members.
“We have senior staff who could step in today and do the job,” said Tackett. “Beth Parker, housing and community program director, has been with the agency for 30 years and knows every program front and back and the other applicant was qualified as well.”
Nathan Withers, a consultant from Sherman who had worked with public transportation, was hired in August as a consultant to assist the new transportation director for Big Five. He submitted a proposal for his consulting firm to hire Frances Pelley as interim director and himself as deputy director for a three-month period for a fee of approximately $56,000.
At a special meeting Thursday there were some concerns brought up by Gail Armstrong, the agency accountant, that the contract would exceed the amount allowed without a Request for Proposal (bid) unless it was an emergency. Mike McComber, board chairman from Ardmore, was given the authority to hire an interim director after the Oklahoma Department of Commerce rules on the legality of it being an emergency.
According to the agency organizational chart a position for a deputy director would have to be created. The agency deleted the deputy director position in the mid-80s to save on administrative costs. Ammons’ annual salary is about $79,000 and with benefits it would be an estimated $100,000. The proposal by Withers based on the three months would more than double the costs to the programs, but his firm would have to submit a bid.
Big Five operates the majority of its programs in Bryan, Love, Carter, Coal and Pontotoc counties, with more than 600 employees. All programs are designed to alleviate the causes of poverty which includes Head Start, housing, transportation and employment. Some of the programs are operated in other counties including the Workforce Investment Act, which replaced the Job Training Partnership Act.
The agency has an annual budget of $21 million, but that will be reduced to approximately $18 million as the stimulus funds they have received for the past three years will not be refunded. Big Five is one of only a few Community Action Agencies with a trust that owns property and all funds raised by the trust supports the agency’s programs and administration.