COLUMBIA — After facing nearly an hour of hostility from fellow members of the Boone County Family Resources board of directors Tuesday night, Steve Tatlow watched as all but he and one other member voted to begin a process to remove him from the board.
At issue are a series of calls Tatlow made to the Missouri attorney general’s office beginning about six weeks ago to ask about proper board practices and the roles and responsibilities of members. His complaints prompted an Oct. 11 letter to the board from Robert Carlson, assistant attorney general, who expressed concern about the legality of the board’s operations and raised the possibility of a formal investigation.
Board members said they’ve grown tired of Tatlow’s repeated attempts to bring up issues concerning bylaws and legal obligations, calling his “conduct prejudicial to the good order and efficient operation” of the agency.
Boone County Family Resources is a public entity that, according to a 2006 audit, provides services to roughly 1,200 people in the county who have developmental disabilities. The agency had a budget of $7.7 million for 2007; $2.2 million of that money came from a countywide property tax levy and about $3 million came from Medicaid. The board of directors is appointed by the Boone County Commission and is largely responsible for overseeing the agency’s operations.
Tuesday’s special meeting was called specifically to discuss Carlson’s letter. Among the complaints Carlson listed are some directors’ concerns that they were automatically appointed to the board of another entity without their knowledge, that they are not receiving all the information they request from Family Resources and that “requestors are pressured to not ask for additional information.”
The public meeting was abnormally contentious. Angry members raised their voices as they accused Tatlow of having an ax to grind. Some even insulted him.
“I think you’re full of crap,” board member Russ Williams said when Tatlow indicated he was only making reasonable requests for information. Williams also accused Tatlow of “sabotage of the board’s operations.”
“I’m personally offended by this letter because it says that we’re not doing our job,” board member Wanda Marvel said of the notice from the attorney general.
Later, she said, “I think you’re a liability. You’re not a team player.”
Board Chairman Bob Bailey also took Tatlow to task: “Why didn’t you call and ask the executive director? Why didn’t you keep it internal? ... If you don’t want to serve on this board, why don’t you just step down?”
In a response last week to the attorney general’s office, Family Resources Executive Director Les Wagner wrote that Tatlow’s remarks to the office are “unfounded” and “call into question (the board members’) diligence and integrity and are disruptive.”
One concern Tatlow raised is his and other board members’ appointments to the board of the nonprofit corporation Life and Work Connections Inc., formerly known as the Boone County Sheltered Workshop. The corporation, created in 1999, provides “on-the-job training wages to older youth as they transition from school to work,” according to Wagner’s response to the attorney general.
Wagner said members are notified by letter of their member status on the Life and Work Connections board as part of their Family Resources orientation packet. He said they’re also verbally notified.
Joan Chenault, coordinator of training and quality assurance for Family Resources, said the Life and Work Connections board has not met in “the past couple of years” and that no meeting minutes exist.
Bailey made similar comments at Tuesday’s meeting after Tatlow asked whether, as a member of the Life and Work Connections board, he should have been informed of meetings.
“There aren’t any,” Bailey said, because “there wasn’t any business to take care of.”
Bailey said no future meetings are scheduled.
The Family Resources board, in accordance with state law, plans to hold a hearing before voting on whether to remove Tatlow.
He isn’t the only member who’s had some problems with how the board operates, however. Alison Martin, who until Oct. 11 was secretary-treasurer of the board, resigned that position after neither Wagner nor Chenault could provide her with evidence that she was bonded, as required under state law. Martin said she felt her personal assets might be vulnerable without a surety bond.
Speaking in Tatlow’s defense after nearly half an hour of pointed questioning, Martin said she felt uncomfortable with the board.
“I feel very intimidated, and it really bothers me.”