Options faces reconstruction of reduced leadership

Published 12:27 pm Friday, July 25, 2008

By Staff
Challenged by desertion of leaders amid claims of rancor, distrust
Staff Writer
A Washington-based battered women’s shelter lost five key members of its leadership in July.
The president of the board of directors of Options to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, three other members of its board and the shelter manager resigned between July 13 and Thursday.
That brings the shelter’s board to five members, according to the board’s new president, Delma Blinson. The board had 11 members in mid-2006, according to federal tax forms.
When asked Thursday evening how long he had been board president, Blinson replied, “about two hours.”
Former board president Vivian Visco, who resigned July 13, wrote in her letter of resignation that she could no longer work “under these conditions.”
She declined Thursday to elaborate on her reasons for leaving.
The board members’ letters of resignation were provided to the Washington Daily News by the North Carolina Department of Administration.
Judy Arthur, the shelter manager who resigned Thursday, said the shelter’s administration tried “to pull employees apart.”
On Thursday, Options Executive Director Lee anne Hanson-Niver said the turnover was “absolutely not” affecting clients at the shelter.
Cornell McGill, who resigned from the board Monday, wrote: “I am saddened to come upon the conclusion that the ways of the Board’s past will prevent it from going forth with its mission and rendering the needed services to (its) constituency.”
On Thursday, McGill declined to elaborate on his reasons for resigning.
Blinson and Hanson-Niver said there had been “distracting” issues at the shelter recently but declined to comment on them, citing privacy concerns with personnel matters.
Washington police were called to the shelter at about noon on July 12 because of a “civil-related issue between employees,” Washington Police Chief Mick Reed said in a telephone interview July 17. Officers managed to resolve the situation and left without needing to file a report, Reed said.
Shirley Hanberry, a former board member, called for a changing of the guard in her letter of resignation dated July 13.
Blinson said getting a new set of board members is one of the shelter’s goals.
Blinson is a reporter for the Beaufort Observer. Hanson-Niver’s husband, Jay Niver, is editor of the Beaufort Observer.
The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners is currently considering a request from Options for $150,000 to open a shelter for homeless women and children.
The operation receives more than $600,000 annually in federal and state grants in addition to money made from its second-hand shop, Annie’s Attic.
In October, the charity’s funding was cut because the N.C. Council for Women/Domestic Violence Commission found the operation was not complying with funding guidelines.
The funds were restored in January.