The Philomath Community Services board of directors voted in five new members on Sunday but postponed the election of officers until January, when the new members officially will join the board and have the opportunity to vote.
The decision was a dramatic reversal for longtime President Jeff Lamb, who has been dogged by criticism from some program managers and volunteers at the umbrella social service organization.
Lamb said last week he hoped to be re-elected under a new board structure that would allow him to hand the reins to a president-elect by the middle of next year. But that proposal never came to a vote at Sunday’s meeting, prompting Vice President Don Gist, a longtime board member and Lamb supporter, to quit.
Gist said he had intended to stay on until after the first of the year to help maintain continuity, but he resigned when the transition plan was rejected and the officer elections were delayed.
“They simply wanted to get the elections postponed so Jeff could not be re-elected,” Gist said. “There will be five new board members who will make the decisions.”
Several other board members have stepped down this year over the controversy that has plagued the organization. Following Gist’s resignation, the board is down to six members, including two who joined within the past few months. When the five newest directors are sworn in, the new arrivals will outnumber the old guard.
Marti Staprans Barlow, who joined the board about two years ago and has emerged as a spokeswoman for the organization, said the decision to delay officer elections was made on the advice of a consultant hired by PCS this fall to help resolve its internal disputes.
“We wanted to include the new board members in the officer selection process,” Barlow said.
Scott Ramsey, who joined the board this fall, backed that position. He said it would be inappropriate to make major structural changes with so many board members coming in. He also said that re-electing Lamb, now in his sixth year as president, only would prolong the controversy that is hurting the organization.
“This is just the end of Jeff’s term,” Ramsey said. “The negative publicity is just making it harder to get donations, and right now is when they’re needed the most.”
Lamb said he was blindsided by Sunday’s vote, which he compared to a hostile corporate takeover. He said he had worked out a deal last month with Barlow and the consultant, Cheryl R. Good.
“We were supposed to stick to the script ... but that wasn’t to be,” he said. “I was willing to go (next year), but they won’t let me go. They wanted me to resign right now.”
Good called that a misunderstanding. She said she had discussed that option with Barlow and Lamb at a meeting in November but no firm decision was reached. She also said the transition plan had changed since then and that as recently as Saturday she had emailed Lamb with the recommendation that officer elections be postponed until January.
Philomath Community Services houses five separate nonprofits under one roof. The member agencies — Philomath Gleaners, Philomath Food Bank, June’s Kids Kloset, Lupe’s Community Garden and Holiday Cheer — provide food, clothing and other assistance to hundreds of needy area families.
The simmering conflict within PCS boiled into public view on Oct. 4, when several program managers held a public meeting at Philomath City Hall to air their grievances. They accused Lamb of being verbally abusive to some volunteers, complained that the board had ignored their concerns and claimed to have been excluded from meetings.
Lamb has denied the allegations and Gist has defended him, with both insisting the board has tried to address the program managers’ concerns.
Contact reporter Bennett Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-758-9529.