I was already attending the luncheon with a heavy heart. On Thursday, June 25 http://www.Mercohispano.com received the link of the article to be published by La Prensa in its June 27, 2009 edition, sent to us, as well as many others, by Luis Gómez, http://www.laprensa1.com/Stories/2009/062609/Esperanza.htm.
After reading the article, and as a reporter, I decided to call Esperanza to congratulate Barbara Esperón for a job well done, and to make arrangements for a follow up article for our Web site.
The conversation with the receptionist went along these lines:
Mercohispano: Good afternoon, may I speak to Barbara Esperón?
Receptionist: She is not here right now.
Mercohispano: Is she coming back later today?
Receptionist: No, she is on vacation.
Mercohispano: Is she coming back next week?
I thought that it was odd for Barbara Esperón to take her vacation on the most important day for the agency – the day they handed out scholarships to the students. Also, the “maybe” answered by the receptionist sounded strange.
Suddenly, I had a flashback of the horrible memories of those unforeseen and absurd dismissals though the years of Latino(a) CEOs from Hispanic Agencies in Cleveland.
I recalled the moment when María Galindo learned of her dismissal as CEO of the Hispanic Cultural Center at an event organized by the same organization. She had taken a leave of absence to give birth to one of her daughters.
Her board did not have the courtesy or the guts to call her before the event to let her know of their decision. And, María Galindo had been doing an excellent job as CEO of the Hispanic Cultural Center.
I also recalled the case of another Latina CEO who was escorted out of the building were she worked, apparently, with no explanation regarding the decision of the “board” as to her dismissal.
It was the opinion of many that Emily Delgado was doing a great job as CEO of the Spanish American Committee. The community never learned the real reason for Mrs. Delgado’s dismissal. It ended up in legal maneuvers behind the scenes and with threat of lawsuits if any of the parties told their truth to the public.
In Francisco Alfonzo’s case as CEO of El Barrio, pretty much the same pattern followed. The president of the board at the time, Mark Sánchez, without the approval of all of the members of the board, decided with his executive committee to fire Francisco by calling him to a meeting on a Friday afternoon at 3:00 p.m.; using perhaps the strategy of politicians that tell their lies on Friday evening with the hopes that people will forget by Monday morning.
Francisco was warned of the situation and cancelled the Friday evening meeting, but was fired by Mark Sánchez on Monday morning, apparently without any reasonable cause.
As in the case of Barbara Esperón, the dismissal of Francisco Alfonzo was immediately after a positive article was written in the press praising the CEO’s leadership qualities. Once more, the community does not find out the reason for the dismissal. To many people, Francisco Alfonzo was doing a good job as CEO of El Barrio. Again, the situation ended up in legal maneuvers behind the scenes and with threat of suits if any of the parties tell their truth to the public.
All of the above mentioned CEOs of Hispanic Agencies in Cleveland are honorable individuals. They come from well-known families, with roots in Cleveland. These are people who deserve respect; people who we know personally. These are individuals whose respective boards denied them the chance to be heard. They were denied the opportunity to tell their sides of the story or to defend themselves against the accusations or allegations brought by their respective boards. They were denied the chance to clear their names before their own communities. Some of them were escorted out of their places of work like common criminals. In spite of all this, nothing transpired. In this community no one speaks out, nobody stand up for anybody.
Unfortunately, some boards of Hispanic Agencies in Cleveland adopt a pattern of behavior, which does not represent the core values of our Hispanic culture. We should not continue to treat our own people, or anyone for that matter, as these CEOs were treated. Our agencies should not be run like Corporate America – where human dignity is at the lowest priority on the scale of values. Our Hispanic Agencies have forgotten to use the power of dialogue to come up with solutions to common problems.
Agencies cannot survive without the support of the community. If we were not here, if there were no Hispanics/Latinos in Cleveland, these agencies would not be able to secure the necessary resources to fulfill their mission. Communities, in general, and the Hispanic/Latino community, in particular, have a tangible investment in these agencies.
The good as well as the bad decisions by their CEOs or Board of Directors have a direct impact on the communities they are trying to help. People support these agencies through donations of money and time, by buying tickets to events, by donating articles to be auctioned, by donating their time to create networking that in turn benefits these agencies, by volunteering, by mentoring, by securing donations from others, etc. It is a real investment that can be measured in dollars and cents. The Hispanic agencies that benefit from all of the above have an obligation to be accountable to the community.
I believe that it would be unpleasant for the 52 students who received their scholarship last Friday from Esperanza to find out later that Barbara Esperón was fired by the Board of Directors in the same manner as the previously mentioned CEOs. What kind of message are we sending to our youth?
In honor of the truth and for the sake of clarity, the Board of Directors of Esperanza owes the community a serious and comprehensive explanation for the dismissal of Barbara Esperón.