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PHCA future, South of the Border festival in jeopardy

By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa

June 17, 2013: A leadership struggle for control between long-time leaders and the board of the Perrysburg Heights Community Association (PHCA) has put the non-profit agency’s future in peril—and could also jeopardize this summer’s annual Ohio South of the Border Festival.

Anita Sánchez-Serda, one of PCHA’s founders, sent an email to festival vendors, service providers, and sponsors last week, warning them of her ouster from the board and resulting resignation as festival coordinator. She encouraged them to renegotiate contracts for the festival, which serves as a major fundraiser for the non-profit organization.

“I was voted off the board of trustees for the Perrysburg Heights Community Association at a closed meeting on May 28, 2013; sadly I am no longer with PHCA. I no longer have the authority to create, maintain, or confirm existing agreements and arrangements made during my tenure as 2013 festival coordinator,” she wrote. “There are many changes happening with PHCA.”

Ms. Sánchez-Serda was removed from the board despite an outpouring of support by the public at the May board of trustees meeting.

“Anita was removed from the board for something she had done. I am not at liberty to discuss that because it was in executive session,” said Steve Kramer, PHCA board vice president in a phone interview. “That was the vote of the majority of the board members.”

Ms. Sánchez-Serda’s daughter Stephanie also resigned as executive director and board president. The women maintain she was pressured to step down, but that assertion is disputed by at least one board member.

“No, no, no, no, no—she was not asked to resign at all,” said Kramer. “Stephanie was not asked at all to resign, at any time.”

PHCA’S board of trustees vice president stated rumors of the non-profit group’s demise began after the board voted to “stop paying salaries due to a financial problem.” According to the same official, the PHCA payroll was reinstated just a week later at the May 28 meeting, despite an inability to afford paid staff any longer and no financial plan in place.

One of the decisions expected a special board meeting on Tuesday, June 18, 7 p.m. will be a determination by the board as to whether the festival will continue as planned. The board’s vice president, who will run the meeting, has stated it will be open to the public. A large crowd is expected to attend the meeting, to be held at the PHCA-run community center, 12282 Jefferson St., Perrysburg.

“We have no intention of closing the (Perrysburg Heights Community) center,” emphasized Kramer. “We have no intention of canceling programs, no intention of canceling the festival. Rather, we want to keep the center open for a very long time, expand programs, expand the festival for it to eventually have free admission, and several other changes. So we have no intention of hurting the community or the community center.”

“I wish the organization success in carrying on the mission I helped co-found in 1991,” wrote Ms. Sánchez-Serda in the email to supporters. “I thank you for collaborating with me and working with me over my tenure in helping raise funds for programming at the Perrysburg Heights Community Center and giving youth the inspiration to believe in themselves and empowering the community; the past 23 years have been very rewarding.”

Kramer blamed “a bad situation” on Facebook rumors and people “misconstruing that we couldn’t pay salaries in the summer.”

“That’s where it stems from. I think some of this comes from hurt feelings; perhaps from Anita, perhaps from Stephanie—because they think we’re going to change it all around, close the center, cancel the festival—just change it around,” said Kramer. “Absolutely not—we want to maintain the good work people have done for a long time.”

The PHCA board vice president stated “it is up to the board” whether there will be a decision to seek a new executive director. He also expects at least one board member to resign. David Humbarger’s term is ending and he has indicated that he cannot continue to serve. Two other board members with expiring terms, Paul “Chico” Martínez and Mary Ibarra-Ruiz, hope to be reappointed at the meeting. There is the possibility of other changes to the makeup of the board, but no immediate replacements are expected to be named.

Kramer stated other board members could nominate potential replacements, as well as members of the community who decide to step forward as volunteers to serve on the board. But he also emphasized the board would do its “due diligence” to sort among possible candidates—even asking for résumés and other background material.

On a larger scale, PHCA’s leadership struggle is just the latest in a string of such episodes involving non-profit organizations that serve the Latino community. Adelante, Inc. and the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center boards and executive leadership have undergone structural changes in recent months as well.

“We don’t want to cause the death of the community center,” he said. “We don’t want to do any harm to the community whatsoever.”

Kramer stated his hope that any resulting changes would both strengthen and stabilize the board itself and the Perrysburg Heights Community Association as a whole. That is a sentiment also shared by Ms. Sánchez-Serda in an email to La Prensa.

“I think it is both power play and the evolution of a nonprofit,” she wrote of the current situation. “For the past ten years I would share at meetings that we need new leadership to allow for growth, for new ideas and perspectives. I just want to see the organization continue, if they change the direction it will require changing the charter and that is fine too, I hope there is a positive outcome.”

Copyright © 1989 to 2013 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 06/18/13 06:22:35 -0700.




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