Five members of the YMCA of North Rock County are demanding more transparency, saying several members have been suspended and three board members dismissed after asking questions about the Y’s finances, the structure of its board of directors and its bylaws.
In a letter written by a group calling itself “Concerned Y Members,” the members say they’re concerned over an apparent “lack of transparency” of the nonprofit YMCA’s leadership and what they call the “wrongful dismissal” of three Y board members between 2017 and 2018.
The letter is undersigned by 52 people who are Y members or former members, and a few are former Y board members, said Janesville resident Paul Murphy, one of five in the Concerned Members group.
Murphy’s name is signed to an email that accompanied the letter. It was addressed Thursday to various YMCA board members.
Over the last year, the group claims, the Y has canceled, suspended or put under review “numerous” memberships for “questionable reasons” while offering “no sound explanation” for their suspensions.
“The YMCA is a vital component of the community and has a long tradition of receiving community support. We strongly believe this support is being tested due to repeated actions and inactions by YMCA leadership that run contrary to the mission and values of the organization,” the letter states.
In an interview Thursday, Murphy, a longtime Y member, told The Gazette his membership was put under “review” Dec. 3.
Murphy said he later received an email from YMCA CEO Tom Den Boer telling Murphy that while his membership was being reviewed, Murphy was not allowed to enter the Y in downtown Janesville or in Milton. If he did, the Y and authorities could consider it “trespassing,” Murphy said.
Den Boer is in charge of reviewing Y members who are under suspension, Murphy said. He said Den Boer offered to meet, but Murphy said the Y denied Murphy’s request for documentation that showed why he was suspended.
Murphy said his membership suspension went in place a day after Murphy asked the Y’s board for information on the Y’s financial filings, the Y’s current bylaws, how people could get considered for board membership and the date of a Y meeting when members would vote to seat new members on the Y’s board.
Murphy said neither he nor any member of the Y he has talked to could ever find any posting or notification at the Y of the last member meeting to elect new board members.
Murphy said he asked for the information twice prior to Dec. 3, and prior to his suspension, he said, he never received documents he had asked for.
“I have no idea why I was suspended,” Murphy said. “It’s ironic, though, that around 4 p.m. of Dec. 2, I made my second request to the board on how you’d get on the board for seats whose terms are up.”
Den Boer and the Y’s incoming board President Jeff Jensen, did not immediately respond Thursday to an inquiry by The Gazette.
Others, the Thursday letter implies, had requested in early 2018 that the Y provide financial documents including tax filings for its operations and its charitable foundation. As a legally registered nonprofit organization, the Y is required to make available financial tax documents along with its bylaws, board meeting documents and meeting minutes, according to the letter.
Murphy said to his knowledge the Y has not given anyone in his group access to the Y’s financial filings or other documents.
The letter also claims a group of YMCA members, including former board members, met with the Y’s board in January 2018 to discuss “financial and organizational concerns” and “public image.”
The letter says the Y’s board “took no action” on the meeting, even after those in the meeting gave Den Boer a memo about “concerns of financial transparency, accountability, use of authority and public image.”
The letter said it took the board’s then-president, Jason Engledow, six months to respond to the concerns. When he responded, he simply asked for a list of names of people who attended the meeting but did not provide a phone number where he could be reached.
The letter claims, the Y “wrongfully dismissed” one board member in March 2017 and another in early 2018. Engledow told the board members they were dismissed, according to the letter. In July 2018, Engledow “unilaterally dismissed” a third board member, according to the letter.
Murphy said he and others in his group believe the dismissals were done without a board vote, a move he said goes against a set of YMCA bylaws he said he had received only after he was suspended from the Y.
The letter asks the Y for a laundry list of information, including names and addresses of current Y members, audited financial statements, bylaws and amendments to them, minutes from board meetings, documents that discuss or detail the past “termination” of three board members and other documents.
He said his group also wants to meet with Y board members to discuss its concerns.
The letter also says the group has turned its concerns over to the state resource director for the YMCA of the USA. The letter asks for the Y’s board to consider “review of its internal operations and governance immediately to better organize its fiduciary responsibilities,” which the group suggests could be done through an “outside consultant” to “ensure board members aren’t intimidated.”