Whats the Matter with the KC Area Central Office of AA?
There are serious problems with the Kansas City Area Central Office of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the AA groups in the greater Kansas City area deserve better. The groups deserve a Central Office that places their needs first and makes decisions based on what’s best for the groups they serve. The groups also deserve financial transparency and accountability from Central Office, and they should expect competency from the management to assure that orders are filled and obligations met.
In light of the fact that none of the above is occurring, one might ask, “What is the matter with the Kansas City Area Central Office?”
Last year, AA groups in greater Kansas City were concerned about the finances at Central Office, and people were worried that maybe there was some wrongdoing. Perhaps somebody was stealing money or drawing extra paychecks? In response to this concern, the groups demanded financial transparency and many began to withhold their contributions to Central Office, exercising the AA tradition of “power of the purse.”
Reluctantly, Central Office consented to the financial audit, presumably to restore the group’s confidence, and an auditor was found among the Fellowship. When the auditor gave his report, some Board members reacted defensively and even questioned his ability based on his length of sobriety. It was obvious that many on the Board were not welcoming the review.
As it turns out, the auditor found no wrongdoing based on the information provided. However, it’s important to note that the Central Office for whatever reason failed to provide all the bank statements requested by the auditor. They also refused to provide copies of 1099 and W2 forms as requested.
The auditor found irregularities in office expenses and personal reimbursements. One serious irregularity involved charges of $2,440.81 charged at gas stations to the Central Office credit card. The Central Office Director used the credit card to pay for her gas to get back and forth to work. There was quite a battle with her to bring this practice to an end with the Board ultimately relenting and allowing the Director to receive reimbursement for simply driving to work and back.
The absence of detailed expense reporting and the omission of full banking records make tracing these expenses impossible for the time period reviewed. Because of lack of clarity in expectations and reimbursement policy (and a dynamic environment over the past three fiscal years in relation to expectations and reimbursement policy), additional review and scrutiny of these expenses may be reasonably expected. (Kansas City Area Central Office Financial Review Report, p. 4)
It would be quite reasonable for an AA group in Metro Kansas City to question why the Central Office failed to provide all of the requested bank statements, W2s, 1099 forms, and records detailing reimbursable expenses. It is after all the right of the groups to see the bank statements and tax filings. In fact, the books at Central Office should be open for inspection to anyone. They are a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation operating in the State of Missouri and are required to comply with Federal and State laws regulating nonprofits.
Indifference to the Groups
The auditor recommended some very basic financial controls as a way for Central Office to win back the trust of the groups it is supposed to serve. Several of the Board members were reluctant to implement the controls. They didn’t believe that Central Office should be run like a business, and they fought the controls tooth and nail.
The Board meetings were dens of dysfunction. People were fighting and bickering and totally indifferent to the needs of the groups. If there were ever a time for placing principals above personalities, this is that moment but the acrimony among Board members and a complete disregard for minority opinion assured that personalities would dominate and principals would become nothing more than ideas subject to compromise.
Groups were angry and they let their anger be known. They withheld contributions and sent emails to explain why. One of the largest contributing groups wrote to express their displeasure and placed them on notice that all contributions would stop until the Central Office could assure them that they put their financial house in order. The majority of the people on the Board of Directors were unconcerned.
During one board meeting the then Office Manager let it be known that she disliked the person who took care of the IT needs of Central Office, and who also served as the Area Archivist. The Area rents space from Central office to store its archives and to provide a space for the archivist to work. As time went on, it became clear that the Office Manager would undermine the IT Manager at every opportunity.
Sadly, the Director of Central Office died from cancer. Soon after her death, the President of the Board of Directors called for an Emergency Meeting to discuss its next move. The majority of the Board responded that no Emergency meeting was necessary. This was in December so no Board meeting was held during the month the Director died.
Conveniently, the Central Office Manager, acting as Interim Director decided to fire the IT Manager and enter into a contract with a new IT vendor. The IT Manager was a dedicated employee of Central Office with decades of experience. The decision to fire her and enter into a contract with a new vendor was done without the Interim Director consulting with or obtaining approval from the Board of Directors. The bylaws of Central Office clearly state that the Director cannot enter into contracts without the approval of the Board of Directors.
Board members were not allowed to even see the contract let alone approve it. It was pointed out by some on the Board that the Interim Director did not have a right to enter into the contract so it should, therefore, be made null and void with the previous IT Manager restored to her role. Those voices were voted down by the majority of the Board. One would think that the AA groups in Kansas City have a right to see what kind of contract was agreed to on their behalf.
In January, the Area Archivist took the archives display to Area Assembly as she does every three months. Upon returning to Central Office, she found herself locked out and unable to return the archives. It’s important to note that the Area rents this space and as a tenant has a right to access the space it rents. Unfortunately, the Interim Director was unconcerned and took it upon herself to lock out a paying tenant. This, of course, further diminished the reputation of Central Office among the groups it purportedly serves.
Under the management of the Interim Director, the Central Office ran out of Big Books and was unable to fill orders. In another instance, a District called to place an order and was refused, and had to get their order filled by the Springfield Central Office. They wrote to the Board of Directors to express their disappointment and advised the Board that the Central Office in Columbia would gladly welcome them to join their Intergroup and would be more than happy to sell them supplies.
In another glaring example of incompetence, the Interim Director having fired the IT Manager tried to upload the Central Office Newsletter to the website, but in so doing, she also uploaded the entire mailing list which included the names and addresses of subscribers. The IT Manager who was fired tried to help Central Office fix this problem. Unfortunately, the Interim Director allowed this breach of anonymity to stand far longer than necessary. Then she and other Board members had the nerve to blame the problem on the person she fired! One would think that the AA groups in the Greater Kansas City Area deserve a Director of Central Office who is accountable for her actions.
Selfish, Dishonest and Afraid
Having refused to participate in an emergency Board Meeting following the death of the previous Director, the Board was suddenly concerned that the Interim Director was overwhelmed with work. They insisted on an emergency meeting to discuss hiring a new Director.
Earlier in the month, the Board was in agreement that it would seek resumes and interview candidates. However, the Interim Director balked at the idea of receiving resumes, and other Board members complained that there was no time, and we had to have a new Director in place before the Sunflower Round-Up that is held at the end of February. So, the President of the Board consented to the Emergency Board Meeting, which was held on January 30, 2018.
It quickly became clear that this Emergency Board meeting was set up to make the Interim Director the full-time and permanent Director of Central Office. Those on the Board who opposed this move argued that we could still prepare for the Sunflower Roundup while seeking resumes. We thought it was in the best interest of the groups to hire the most capable person and to make a decision, it would be necessary to see resumes. Unfortunately, the majority ruled and the Interim Director became the permanent Director of Central Office.
When some Board members asked to see the newly elected Director’s resume, she became indignant. She insulted the President of the Board calling her “Missy”. Furthermore, in a clear conflict of interest, the new Director voted herself into a paid position while refusing to accept resumes from other potentially more qualified candidates. She claimed that it was important for the sake of unity. Some on the Board pointed out that if she was concerned about unity, then she would continue to work as Interim Director and welcome resumes from qualified candidates.
Unfortunately, the majority of the Board was afraid to deal with the task of interviewing candidates and instead of allowing others to apply for this salaried position, they installed a person with an inside track and who perhaps was not the most qualified person for the job. There was only one person considered for the position and that person had the advantage, unlike any other candidate to vote for herself. That hardly seems fair or appropriate.
The Board of Directors at the Kansas City Area Central Office failed to do its job and ultimately fell apart. The President of the Board resigned, as did two other Board members. When the meeting ended, it was commented that this may be beginning of the end of the Kansas City Central Office. Certainly, more groups will withhold contributions and withdraw from Intergroup, and it’s likely that the mismanagement and incompetence will continue.
The Central Office has shown itself incapable of carrying out its basic obligations to the groups it serves. Perhaps it needs to die so that something better can take its place. AA is resilient, and the AA community in greater Kansas City is smart and full of good people who understand and love AA. Hopefully, those people and those AA groups will win out in the end.