[tabi] Re: What is the lighthouse of the big bend trying to hide

  • From: "Robert Miller" <robertmiller2201@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 5 Sep 2015 13:06:03 -0400

Hi Robin,

Sorry I didn't reply sooner but yesterday was my 27th anniversary and a nice
dinner and evening with my wife took precedents. Some of the questions you ask
have already been answered by Norene and Lynda so I'll atempt to address the
other ones and add to what they have said.

1 as far as embezzlement, I in no way indicated that this was happening at LBB,
my point is that such of a structure between the director and board makes it
possible which has been the case with many non profits. I am not a fan of non
profits for this reason. It also allows for violation of state laws when it
comes to service providers and vendors and in this area, I do feel that LBB has
coddled certain vendors. This may not sound like a big deal to many but it has
had an adverse affect on me personally. Many people brake the rules and under
the current structure it is fine as long as no one makes a issue of the
violation. Just look at all Mrs. Hildreth was able to get away with.
Personally I don't think she would have ever been selected as the director if
FASSB hadn't been behind her and her actions were detramintal to the
perceptions of the capabilities of blind people.

2 as far as my message being inflammatory that was not my intention at all.
However I chose that subject line to get peoples attention because I felt that
the lighthouse was trying to hide something and time was a critical factor. It
also disturbs me that the job announcement wasn't posted on any of the
blindness websites. this says to me that the board doesn't think that a blind
individual is capable of being qualified to hold the position of director. This
is so sad since they are the board of an agency that is suppose to support and
train blind people. More evidence of this is the fact that they changed the
name of the agency under the last two directors to a name that doesn't reflect
that they are an agency for the blind. Originally the lighthouse was called
Independence for the Blind. Then it was changed to FIRE and then to Lighthouse
of the Big Bend. If you were a newly blinded individual and searched the web
or looked in the phone bookyour chances of finding what you are looking for
would be much less. Personally I don't like the name lighthouse anything, it
makes me think of someone in distress and just adds to the already traumatic
time most newly blinded individuals are going through.

3 Services prior to FAASB. Years back most services were provided by the
clients DBS counselor or other staff members. The state also has a training
center in Daytona and if a client wasn't going to college, there were various
programs at the center that clients could take advantage of. They included
medical transcriptionist, radio dispatch call center training and the vending
program. The division of Blind services use to work with employers to insure
placement in employment when a client completed there training at the center.
Since the evolution of the FAASB lighthouses all of the above opertunities have
been abandonded and the employment of blind people has dropped drastically. A
couple years ago only two blind people were employed that had received training
through the FAASB member lighthouses state wide.

Blind clients who were deemed as college material were required to attend a
summer program at FSU. During this program the client was required to take 6
hours of classes and were tought money management, time management and mobility
around the campus. This program was very successful and rooted out the ones
that werent cut out for college life. The client wasn't told they couldn't
attend college, they were given a chance to prove there self.

One of the directors of the center in Daytona was a former client of DBS and
later became the director of DBS. His name was Carl McCoy. In fact during
this time many of the DBS counselors wer visually impaired and retired from the

If a client needed services that DBS or it's training center couldn't provide
the agency would contract with individuals or other agencies such as
Independence for the Blind. Many of the individuals they contracted with were
blind and had received training at the training centers computer training

Under this structure most of the the individuals providing training were state
employees and had better benifits and job security. It basically eliminated
all the political bull crap and bureaucracy and guarantied a state wide level
of services.

The individuals who provided training owned there own businesses and most of
them provided a high level of service. If a individual wasn't performing
properly then DBS could just choose not to use them anymore and wasn't bound to
some long term mombo jumbo contract. . I don't recall of ever hearing of any
clients that were exploited.

4 Now let's talk about services for the blind under FAASB member agencies. The
first question that needs to be answered is What is FAASB. FAASB is a non
profit member agency that charges a membership to join. Once a member, each
member is allowed to have a representative serve on it's board. Usually it is
the director of the member agency such as LBB. The main purpose of FAASB is to
negotiate contracts between it's members and DBS, basically a union of sortts
to get the highest price possible to provide training services and has been
very successful with the help of Mrs. Hildreth. As a member FAASB also
provides a lobbyist who assist them in obtaining there financial goals and
supposedly advocate for issues that would benifit the blind community. In
regards to the advocacy part they haven't succeeded with one single issue
although they may say different. After 4 years of pushing for a stronger
pedestrian safety law nothing happened until last year and that was because of
the efforts of The independant living council thanks to the efforts of Jesus
Garcia and Doug Hall. Any time the state of Florida contracts with a non
profit agency for vital services, there is supposed to be a reasonable
reducttion in cost to the state and a back up plan to restore the services by
the state if the non profits fail to perform there contracts. In both
requirements I give FAASB a grade of F and think the state should be held
accountable to enforce there requirements. Common sense tells you when you
have several agencies that have the expense of purchasing a building,
utilities, employees salaries, workmans comp, office equipment, car rintals,
furniture and equipment of the trade, there is no way you are saving money.
All this money comes out of rehab dollars and use to be spent on direct
services to the DBS client. A couple of years ago I called DBS and ask for a
copy of there backup plan and they acted like they didn't know what I was
talking about. Personally I believe this is why the state has allowed the
FAASB rane of terror to continue because they don't have a back up plan and
have no idea how to undo the mess they have created. Another good example of
the same type situation was when the state decided to privatize the state
prison system. The state found that the private companies only wanted the best
of the bad and weren't capable of handeling the bad boys and to the best of my
knowledge has abandon it's efforts. This made sense because the public's safety
could have been at stake. The only draw back the state will have in our
situation is that some stupid blind people will bitch and complain but won't
stand up for there rights so they can just ignore them and sooner or later they
will just go away.

So robin, to answer your question, under FAASB we get less service for the buck
with no garantee of it's quality or what the client will endure during the
process. The employees and clients apparently have no recourse to file
grievances against the directors and are required to keep there mouth shut if
they want to keep there job or continue receiving services and most blind
people have a problem with that since there intire life has been dedicated to
helping there peers. The needs of blind people are so different and
diversified and to think that a agency serving the blind can be ran by a
director with absolutely no experience of there needs makes no sense to me.

Now lets spend a little time on fund rasing and grant writing as it affects
LBB. Based on a financial report from about 3 years ago LBB received about 2.2
million dollars from DBS contracts and about $42,000.00 from fund raising
mainly from Dining in the Dark. $42,000 is a drop in the bucket compared to
2.2 million. During this time LBB was sitting on over a million in reserves
and paid out as much in employee bonuses as they made in fund raising. The fact
that the board is so concerned with a grant riter and fund raising tells me
there heart isn't in the right place and neither was the directors. I once ask
Claud Seals the director of IB back in the 80's how much money they received
from DBS and he told me in a good year 600 to 750 thousand. For those
receiving services back then can you justify the increase based on the current
levvel of services. If I answer that question, I would say the services were
better back then. I was able to start my own business back then and got a loan
from IB to purchase my own computer so I could tear it apart and learn how to
build them.

I did find your attached article interesting and would have to say it makes
much better sense than how the LBB board operates. If I scored the board based
on it, they would get a F. After a quick read they lack in sections 2, 3, 8,
10 and 11.


From: ROBIN.MCDOUGALL@xxxxxxxxxxx
Sent: Friday, September 4, 2015 3:56 PM
To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [tabi] Re: What is the lighthouse of the big bend trying to hide

Hi Folks

I don't get a chance to be on e mail very often, just every few days. I've
just had the chance to read the e mails that have arrived in the past 24 hours
or so.

Norine, I respect your decision to remain in a role of supportive counseling to
blind people, particularly those at the Lighthouse. There is always a risk of
liability when serving on a Board, and your decision reduced that risk.

I understand fundraising is not the mission of the Lighthouse. However, the
State does not provide all of the funding necessary for the delivery of
services to the Blind, and fundraising is a key component to longevity in the
not for profit world. Another function a board provides is long term planning.
The article I attached cautions against taking a board arbitrating personnel
issues and recommends it serve only as a court of appeal in the rarest of
circumstances. If there are good policies and procedures and grievance
protocols, hiring, developing and releasing staff is left to the director.
Rarely, about one or two times a year, I do read about directors who embezzle
(mentioned by Robert in a query to me). I joined this thread because I
understood you to be debating the role of a board in governing an agency. I
don't believe there has been any accusation of embezzlement, so I am puzzled by
that question.

Robert made a statement that the services provided by the Lighthouse used to be
provided without the non profit agencies and were provided better is
interesting. If that's a scenario that can be documented, maybe that's a model
that could be adopted. How were services delivered at that time? Were they
still funded by the State? Were the funds available then more or less what is
available now? I asked that because I wonder what happened when there wasn't
enough money for the blind folks who needed services.What do you feel would be
a better model for delivering services? When I worked at the We Care Network,
we filled a gap where services were disorganized and rarely effectively
delivered to our clients. Without our agency, thousands of people would not
have received services at all.

At our agency, our director did not need to know about being ill or uninsured
to run a good organization. She needed to know how to provide administration,
represent our organization to the larger community, fund raise, work with
contracts, hire and fire people, maintain the physical plant, and negotiate
with vendors. It was important that she hire good staff. It sounds like you
are saying the Lighthouse here in Tallahassee is not staffed well and that the
people who work there are not qualified. Does that mean, the people who are
delivering the services to the blind community are not trained and qualified to
provide those services?

When I was at the We Care Network, we served visually impaired people who could
not access the medical care they needed. In private practice, I provide
counseling to a number of individuals who are visually impaired, although their
blindness is often only one of the issues with which they are dealing.

Lynda, you stated what the Lighthouse needs is a Director with good
administrative skills and a knowledge of blindness. To me, that is one of the
most sensible things I have read in this thread. I believe one of the earlier
emails indicates the position was advertised for only one week. Actually, it
was advertised for a full month, from July 24th through August 24th. That's a
very good thing; it means a wide variety of candidates have had a chance to

Robert asked if Barbara and I are friends. Yes, we are both friends and
colleagues. I did not and will not be applying for the job. I believe I
explained I am a psychotherapist in private practice. In fact, I agreed with
you that it makes sense for the position to be widely listed in some of the
forums you mentioned. In my earlier e mail, I suggested you might approach the
Board at the Lighthouse about re-advertising the position in case likely
candidates were overlooked.

I am not writing in defense of Barbara. I saw the subject line in this set of
e mails, and it caught my interest. The statement: "What is the Lighthouse of
the Big Bend trying to hide" is inflammatory, and I was curious about WHAT they
ARE trying to hide. But, when I read the string of e mails, I realized the
conversation seems to indicate a lack of understanding about the boundaries
1. a board and an agency
2. a board and the staff
3. the director and the staff and
4. the boundaries between any employee and the community at large.

I am writing in hopes that, with my experience, I can help the group better
understand the functions and boundaries of each of these components. I joined
the list serve yesterday because someone I know in the blind community was
talking about it in a private dialogue. That person was concerned about the
inflammatory nature of the comments what sort of impact that could have on
services to the blind community as a whole. Our state government continues to
cut funding for human services of all kinds, and education and health are
greatly affected. I hope you will consider how you can best support the
organization which delivers services to make it the very best one we can have,
strong and diverse and long lived, with or without state funding.

Thanks all, for listening. I hope the attached article is useful.


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