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Philomath Services will try mediation

Volunteers Rick McLocklin, left, and Dot Richardson stock refrigerators with milk at the Philomath Food Bank on Sept. 27. (Amanda Cowan | Corvallis Gazette-Times)

Social service agency seeks outside help to resolve concerns

The Philomath Community Services board of directors is bringing in a mediator and taking other steps to help address concerns raised by volunteers and program managers.

The nonprofit social service organization has been roiled by allegations that board President Jeff Lamb has been verbally abusive to volunteers — allegations that Lamb denies — and claims that the board has excluded program managers from meetings and failed to respond to their concerns.

Managers of the Philomath Food Bank, Philomath Gleaners, June’s Kids Kloset and Lupe Maginnis Community Garden organized a public meeting Oct. 4 to air their grievances and call for Lamb’s resignation. Forty-one people signed a petition demanding that the entire board step down.

Marti Staprans Barlow, one of three board members who attended that meeting, said the board has hired Cheryl R. Good of On the Path Freelance Services to evaluate the situation. Good will interview the program managers, key volunteers and board members and offer recommendations for resolving the issues.

Barlow said the board also is preparing for an audit to address questions about possible financial irregularities.

“We need an objective party that can make the recommendations,” Barlow said. “Our only goal now in this matter is to resolve everyone’s concerns, create a happy environment and get back to the business of helping our clients.”

June’s Kids Kloset, a clothing bank for low-income children and families, remained closed this week. Manager Carey Oien shut the office and resigned last week, saying she could not continue working at Philomath Community Services under the current board leadership.

While other programs continued to operate, some managers repeated their calls for Lamb’s resignation.

“We’re not real hopeful that the mediation process is going to get the results we think are needed,” said Sara Power, who co-manages the Philomath Food Bank with Dot Richardson.

Richardson agreed, saying Lamb should step aside for the good of the organization.

“I know Jeff has done things for the community, lots of things,” Richardson said. “But I know a lot of people are very cautious about him.”

Lamb, who has consistently denied claims of being abusive to Philomath Community Services volunteers, declined to comment for this story. He said the board planned to issue a statement early next week.

Don Gist, the board’s vice president, also declined to comment Friday.

Barlow insisted the directors were taking volunteers’ concerns seriously and would act quickly to address them.

“The board knows we’re going to have to make changes,” she said. “Dialog is open now. We’re hoping to regain the trust of volunteers like Dot and Sara.”

Contact reporter Bennett Hall at bennett.hall@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9529.

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Special Projects Editor

Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

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