EDITORIAL: CADA needs new leadership

Citizens Against Domestic Abuse (CADA) has a long history of helping women and children in Island County, but now it needs some help itself.

Starting with the firing of its long-time executive director, Valerie Stafford, the present CADA board has been enmeshed in controversy, and there is no end in sight. Efforts to find a qualified successor to Stafford have been unsuccessful, and the plan to hire an interim director appears to be an effort to paper over the problem, rather than find a long-term solution.

Present board members have said for several months that programs have not suffered, but that is no longer the case. Last week, Island County Superior Judge Vickie Churchill complained that a $30,000 grant for child visitations in custody cases was in jeopardy because CADA didn’t correctly handle the situation. Lynn Wilcox, CADA vice-president, interprets the matter differently, but who are you going to believe? We’ll side with the judge.

The CADA board also looked foolish in filling three vacancies with new members, only to withdraw two of those appointments. Wilcox suggests it was to protect new people from getting embroiled in the controversy. However, at least one of the appointees suspects it was because they questioned the rationale for firing Stafford.

Wilcox and other board members still refuse to explain why they dismissed Stafford, who was highly respected by her peers and agencies with which she closely worked. This particular personnel decision was handled abominably. Stafford gave long years of dedicated and productive service to CADA, and didn’t deserve to be treated this way. As a result, the CADA board is justifiably worried about a possible lawsuit from their former executive director.

This isn’t just a case of squabbling among volunteers with some inconsequential non-profit. CADA provides critical services to women and children in the community, and it has no dependable funding base. To operate effectively it needs a leader adept at acquiring and administering grant money, most of which comes from the taxpayers. Right now, CADA has no such leader and no real prospects of finding one under the present board.

CADA needs a new board of directors. Wilcox can still show some effective leadership by orchestrating a smooth transition. Former CADA board members and other community leaders should step forward and offer to serve until normalcy is restored. Then the present board should appoint them and step aside.

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