Letter: South County Collaborative followed a responsible course

For the past 20 years, the South County Collaborative has
dedicated itself to increasing the quality and quantity of human
services available to the most vulnerable individuals and families
of our South County community.
Dear Editor,

For the past 20 years, the South County Collaborative has dedicated itself to increasing the quality and quantity of human services available to the most vulnerable individuals and families of our South County community. The Collaborative, through its 70-plus members representing local nonprofits, schools, health providers, and public agencies, has placed a particular emphasis on ensuring that services are accessible, efficient and effective.

It is the Collaborative’s deep and unequivocal commitment to the community that is at the root of our disappointment and outrage over the recent situation regarding the overpayment of funds to DZ Consulting and Francisco Dominguez. The board of directors of the Collaborative has taken the situation with DZ Consulting very seriously from the moment that we uncovered it.

At the discovery of financial irregularities related to the contract with DZ Consulting during this process, the board immediately launched an investigation, which remains ongoing, that includes a thorough review of financial records and grant performance deliverables related to DZ Consulting.

Phone calls were pro-actively placed to the grant’s funder to inform them of the situation. Legal counsel was retained and extensive discussions took place among board members to determine the course of action to be taken that would best serve the community, meet the Board’s legal, fiduciary responsibility and make the Collaborative “whole.” Toward that end and in alignment with a recommendation from our attorney, a recommendation that was supported by two additional attorneys we consulted, a Promissory Note was signed with DZ Consulting that stipulated a payback schedule. The note did not bind the Collaborative to any particular course of future action, or lack thereof. The first payment has been received and the investigation launched by the Collaborative is continuing.

When the current board, including the new board chair Lynn Magruder, assumed their positions in September and October of 2010, one of the duties they undertook was a review of the organization’s finances, practices and procedures. New practices and procedures were expediently put in place for those that the board found unsatisfactory. Untold hours have been spent investigating all aspects of it and grappling with the implications for various courses of action, carefully considering the ramifications for each. In particular Lynn Magruder, our board chair, has dedicated countless evening and weekend hours to the situation, taking the responsibilities of this volunteer position very seriously.

The board has not shied away from accountability. Rather, we are working diligently and methodically to do the right thing in response to a very agonizing and complex situation. This includes being judicious in our public comments so that we do not hamper any future actions that may be required. Further, we will actively cooperate with any investigations by proper legal authorities.

We sincerely regret the resignation of John Blaettler from his volunteer position on the Collaborative’s board, particularly since his resignation took place in the midst of the board’s active discussion of the matter and prior to a vote on our attorney’s recommended course of action. We are thankful for all the time John dedicated to make our services, and organization, stronger.

It was with great surprise and deep disappointment that the South County Collaborative was informed Tuesday via email that the Gilroy Foundation was withdrawing their grant, funded by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which supports the Collaborative’s Strategic Director.

We feel this decision is very unfortunate and believe the Gilroy Foundation Board would have benefited from a fuller understanding of the situation, an understanding that would have resulted from a conversation with the Collaborative Board. The Foundation grant is separate from the issue currently under investigation. It is important to note that no grant funds, public or private, were involved in the overbilling, according to the preliminary investigation conducted by John Blaettler, then treasurer for the Collaborative. New procedures and controls are now in place that ensure the highest level of financial accountability.

We are now, as we have always been, a community-based collaborative solely dedicated to identifying and filling the gaps in human services in South County. South County is a healthier place thanks, in part, to the Collaborative’s work and efforts over the past 20 years. These efforts will continue as our commitment to the community remains absolute.

On behalf of the South County Collaborative Board of Directors,

Lynn Magruder, chair; Lillian Castillo, vice-chair;

Sr. Rachela Silvestri, treasurer; Hugo Mora-Torres,

secretary; Dolores Alvarado; David Cox, ex officio;

Erin O’Brien, ex officio; Rocio Reyes; Marilyn Roaf;

Lani Yoshimura