Volunteers and managers air complaints in heated public meeting
PHILOMATH — About 50 people packed the council chambers at Philomath City Hall Thursday night to discuss serious internal conflicts at Philomath Community Services, a nonprofit umbrella organization housing five social service agencies.
Forty-one of them signed a petition asking the entire PCS board to step down.
The emotional three-hour meeting was led by the managers of four of the organization’s five member agencies: June’s Kids Kloset, the Philomath Gleaners, the Philomath Food Bank and the Lupe Maginnis Community Garden.
They told the audience, many of them PCS volunteers, that they could not continue to perform their duties under the current board, which they claimed has ignored their concerns. They placed most of the blame on longtime board President Jeff Lamb, whom they accused of being dictatorial and verbally abusive.
June’s Kid Kloset manager Carey Oien said the situation has gotten so bad that she closed the doors of the agency and submitted her resignation.
“Both the food bank and the gleaners have very clear guidelines for the behavior of both the clients and the volunteers,” food bank co-manager Sara Power said. “We believe all the board members should be held to the same level of courtesy and respect.”
They also complained they had been excluded from meetings, that some board members were serving beyond their term limits and that the board had failed to address their complaints, which were summarized in a “letter of no confidence” and “statement of concern” delivered to the board last month.
Numerous audience members rose to praise the work of the program managers and volunteers who run the agencies, which serve hundreds of needy Philomath-area residents each month, and many of them called on the board to step down.
The meeting grew more heated after the arrival of board members Marti Staprans Barlow, Gabrielle Mahoney and Scott Ramsey, who had been attending a board meeting called for the same time at the Philomath Community Services building a block away. All three said they would review the concerns raised at the meeting and give them serious attention.
Anne Trammel, an elderly PCS volunteer, said she had gone to the other meeting and addressed the board.
“I asked them to look in their hearts,” she said. “I said I didn’t think anybody should be forced to resign, but if somebody thought they were getting in the way of the program they might consider it themselves.”
Barlow acknowledged there were issues but defended Lamb.
“I know he’s a controversial figure, but he’s a done a lot of good for the community,” she said. “What I want to come out of this is a humane solution to the problem where we all respect each other.”
But several people said the only acceptable solution was for Lamb to resign as president.
Barb Sanders challenged the three board members to take immediate action.
“There are a lot of awesome people in this room, and I would hate to see this meeting end with nothing done,” she said. “If you truly want to serve this community, you go back there to that board and make sure there are some changes made.”
Peggy Clark, a former board member who was voted off last month, presented the petition asking for the rest of the board to quit.
“I know that I’ve been portrayed as a troublemaker on the board because I stood up to Jeff, and I wasn’t very quiet about it,” she said. “The board members should have a duty to do something and not just say, ‘Oh, that’s just Jeff.’”
Longtime PCS donor Deborah S. Williams echoed that point, saying the board should have acted before the discontent of volunteers and program managers boiled over in a public meeting.
“You’re right,” Barlow said, “and we apologize on behalf of the board that we have allowed this to fester.”
Contact reporter Bennett Hall at email@example.com or 541-758-9529.