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PAL Board director & chairman fired; Weiner to new board: Make good on promises before you get any more bailout tax dollars

PAL's top leaders to be replaced after audit
NCCo Council approves $200,000 for two centers
Nov. 9, 2011  Written by ADAM TAYLOR  The News Journal

The executive director and chairman of the board of the Police Athletic League of Delaware no longer hold those positions and their replacements will be installed at a special meeting next week, PAL officials said Tuesday.

The departures of Executive Director Jim Riggs and board Chairman Vince D'Anna came sometime after a News Journal story Saturday detailed a blistering report of the agency by the New Castle County auditor, and before Tuesday night's vote by County Council to give two financially troubled PAL centers more than $200,000 over a two-year period beginning in July.

The measure, to assist the centers in Hockessin and Garfield Park, passed Tuesday by a 10-3 vote.

"We couldn't have survived without the new money," said PAL board member David Grimaldi.

The PAL board also plans to vote to implement virtually all of the recommendations designed to improve the PAL board's operations in Auditor Bob Wasserbach's report.

Grimaldi, a PAL board member for the last three months, said Wasserbach's final report was accurate and that the board has been working to implement the recommendations in a draft version of the report issued earlier in the year.

Grimaldi, who was recruited to the board by board member and former County Executive Tom Gordon, was critical of how the board has been operating in the past few years.

"It was a good report," Grimaldi said. "We've already fixed some of the problems listed in it and plan to begin to fix the rest at our meeting next week."

The new financial agreement was discussed at length Tuesday at an afternoon committee meeting and at the evening council meeting. Emotions ran high at both sessions.

Grimaldi said he was particularly troubled that Wasserbach was prevented from getting all the financial documents he needed to perform a complete financial review.

"That will never happen again," Grimaldi said.

Board member Mike Connelly, a retired state trooper, is now interim executive director until next Tuesday's meeting, when replacements for Riggs and D'Anna will be installed. Gordon, the board's vice chairman, will run the meeting.

The board will vote to pass policies on document retention, whistle-blower protection, nepotism, conflicts of interest and financial control.

The board will also vote on becoming a member of the Delaware Association of Nonprofit Agencies, creating a procedure to better handle cash that comes in during dances held at the centers, making financial contributions to PAL by board members mandatory, making regular board meetings mandatory, auditing the center's energy use and creating guidelines for measuring the new executive director's performance once a year.

Connelly said the board has underperformed in recent years.

"The county has been our primary funder and that really shouldn't be," Connelly said. "We need to do more to raise funds."

Connelly said many board members were inactive and board meetings were not held regularly. As many as six new board members could be installed at Tuesday's meeting, he said.

"We have to follow our bylaws, and we did not do that," Connelly said. "We're doing great things with the kids, but it's the adults who have been a bit dysfunctional."

Grimaldi said he wants to look into the effectiveness of the board's third-party fundraiser, who Wasserbach said took 62 cents of every dollar he raised. Grimaldi said the $54,456 for the agency's three or four full-time employees is exorbitant and will be reduced.

"That's more than I pay for my 17 employees at my business," he said.

Council members Bob Weiner, Lisa Diller and Tom Kovach voted against giving the PAL Centers money. Weiner wants to see the new board make good on the promises it made Tuesday before giving more taxpayer money to the centers. Kovach wanted to see measurable performance standards in the new agreement.

County officials had many of the same concerns about the PAL board six years ago that Wasserbach listed in his report last week, yet virtually no changes were ever made.

"I'm very uncomfortable moving forward with this," Diller said. "We need more information in terms of where PAL is going."

Diller asked for the vote to be tabled, but the resolution's co-sponsor Jea Street refused, saying PAL needs the money right away.

At Tuesday night's meeting, Street stood up and screamed at Wasserbach when the auditor tried to whisper something in the councilman's ear.

"I don't want to hear it, man," Street said. "Don't whisper in my ear. You weren't whispering in my ear last week."

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