Lots of talk, no action from Crossroads board

Published 6:12 pm Thursday, November 5, 2020

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Discussions became heated at the Crossroads Community Services Board (CSB) meeting Tuesday night, Oct. 27, as board members, employees and supervisors expressed a variety of concerns regarding CSB operations, including possible transparency issues among administration.

Since former case manager Thomas Woodall sent a letter to the board in September detailing allegations of abuse and neglect that allegedly led to the death of a group home resident on Amelia County, the board has had three meetings including hours of closed sessions but not resolution or explanation has been given.

Woodall, who has filed three separate cases with the Office of the State Inspector General regarding his concerns, also questioned the leadership of the board through CSB Executive Director Susan Baker.

Both current and former employees of Crossroads showed up at Tuesday’s meeting to voice their opinions during public comments. Some portrayed dismay over the cancellation of programs previously offered by CSB, such as the supported employment program.

On Tuesday night, Woodall turned his attention to board members, who he said were for the most part not doing their jobs and needed to further educate themselves on the responsibilities of Crossroads.

Crossroads Director of Emergency Services Ren Thorne came to Baker’s defense Tuesday night while criticizing board members, stating the board had been unprofessional and undermined Baker in a way that could negatively affect the morale of the organization.

Other current CSB employees stressed the importance of clients/patients getting the necessary services while under Crossroads care, citing that if employees are not well-taken care of that neglect can trickle down to clients.

After going over regular agenda items, the board made a motion to move into executive closed session to discuss personnel issues, but before non-board members exited the room, Buckingham Supervisor Member Thomas Jordan Miles III asked to make a statement.

Miles explained that as a new board member, he wished to gather some basic information before Tuesday night in order to be better prepared for the meeting. Miles said after consulting with CSB Board Chair Helen Simmons he requested from Baker the descriptions of job duties and responsibilities of Crossroads supervisors/directors, along with the employment contract of the executive director. Before the meeting, he also requested a copy of the meeting agenda and supporting documents, such as meeting minutes and the financial statement, so the board could be prepared prior to Tuesday evening.

Miles said he did not receive any of these items. While Baker said Tuesday night she could not respond to the matter due to a personnel issue, Miles responded that it was a transparency issue.

Simmons followed up Miles’ statements by expressing displeasure towards the comments of Thorne.

“When you look down on us, and I’ve been serving on boards many, many, many years, you’re looking down on you,” Simmons stated.

“If people can’t come to us and talk to us and feel comfortable coming to us and talking to us, then what’s going to happen?” she asked the room. “What’s going to happen to us? It’s like, we had a letter from Dr. Baker telling us not to talk to a person that got in contact with us. She can’t do that. You can’t tell us who we can talk to and who we can’t talk to, and it’s nobody’s business if we come around and talk to the employees.”

Simmons implied that other Crossroads employees had been told by administration that they could not come to board meetings. She added the board had sent out an email to staff to make sure they came Tuesday night and confirmed Baker had not distributed board packets.

“To me, that’s not following protocol. Not at all.” she said.

The closed session lasted more than three hours, but no action was taken following.

“Community Services Boards (CSBs), which are funded by our tax dollars via the federal, state and local levels, are a vital part of the communities which they serve in the role of providing quality mental health support, along with substance abuse prevention, and assistance to our friends and neighbors living with developmental and intellectual disabilities,” Miles wrote Sunday, Nov. 1.

“As the elected official who represents Buckingham County in my role as District Four/Maysville Supervisor on the Crossroads CSB, I, along with my fellow CSB board members, take my job very seriously in supervising the executive director and supporting our staff to ensure these essential services are delivered to our clients.

“It was not until minutes before the board meeting did we receive our agenda and supporting documents,” Miles later continued, “and after the board meeting I received a hard copy of the job descriptions and duties of supervisors and the contract of the executive director. I immediately submitted those documents to the CSB board chairman so the full board could have access to them.”

In a Nov. 1 statement, Woodall said while board members from Buckingham, Cumberland and Nottoway have indicated a willingness to take their responsibilities in representing their communities seriously by following up on the problems laid out by himself and others, other board members have not.

“My gut response is that the Crossroad Board is ignorant of their responsibilities and has volitionally chosen to remain ignorant by burying their head in the sand, and that Dr. Baker has gotten over on these folks and continues to do so,” Woodall stated.

“I suspect contributing to this is the board members don’t want to expose the fact that they have been complacent with all the failures of Crossroads and by asking questions would expose that they have not been keeping up with their responsibilities.”

He continued, “This is a people problem. I need the board to set aside their egos, learn what it is that they’re responsible for and do a good job. And if I am wrong, I’m a reasonable person. Talk to me, explain to me, change my mind.”

When asked if the obvious disharmony among officials Tuesday night could potentially impact patients, Baker said Friday, Oct. 3 that patient care has not diminished.

“Both the board and the administration of Crossroads are fully committed to the highest quality of clinical services while maintaining safe practices for the individuals we serve,” she said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for all public agencies to navigate, and issues are bound to arise from time to time. There are differences in the way we are currently providing services in the multiple service sectors within our agency. For emergency services, same day access, residential and day support staff, the services continue face-to-face everyday around the clock. These employees are doing a phenomenal job and experience the same fears and exhaustion that employees in hospitals and other high risk environments experience.

“At the same time, many of our providers are working diligently to provide necessary services via telehealth. Patient care has changed, not diminished. We are collectively working through our challenges, and I believe we will come out of this difficult time across the country as a stronger agency continuing to meet the needs of the individuals we serve in this vast seven county region.”