TARPON SPRINGS — The board of a troubled nonprofit social service provider here has elected a new slate of members and ousted a president and treasurer that have been embroiled in controversy.
It's the latest development in a twisting story that began in December when the now-ousted president Annie Dabbs, and treasurer Ed Cole succeeded in firing David Archie, the executive director of Citizens Alliance for Progress.
The two leveled charges of impropriety at Archie, a former vice mayor of Tarpon Springs. But the county agency that helps fund the group reviewed the firing and found no evidence that Archie had done anything wrong.
Rather, Pinellas Core Management Services found that Dabbs, who is allied with Cole, coerced the board into supporting Archie's firing by falsely claiming the group would lose its funding if it failed to do so.
Dabbs and Cole were not in attendance Thursday night when the vote took place. Applause shook the room after the newly seated board voted unanimously to be rid of them.
"I hope they respect what the new board has done here tonight and gracefully bow out," newly elected president Maggie Miles, 43, said after the meeting. "That's what I expect."
The board took precautions. It voted to change the locks on the nonprofit's doors Friday morning and seize control of the group's bank account.
It also voted to find a lawyer who can negotiate Archie's return as executive director. Archie said he's open to the idea of coming back, but has some legal matters to settle first with the board's outgoing members.
"One of the most important things for me is that my name be cleared," Archie said after the meeting. "There are some slanderous things that have been said."
Cole, the ousted treasurer, didn't enter the meeting room but was on the grounds of the nonprofit, which is in the Union Academy area.
He declined to answer specific questions from a reporter and insisted the meeting was "illegal" because the full board, presumably meaning he and Dabbs, had not been present.
Earlier in the day, Cole wrote a letter to board members and staff stating that the upcoming meeting was illegal and that the governing board of directors had gotten an attorney. He advised recipients they should continue to take direction from the current board.
"Failure to comply may result in unfavorable actions in your employment status," Cole wrote. "Please do not view this as a threat."
Reached Friday, Cole struck a different tone. He said keys had been turned over to the new board and that he planned to cooperate in shifting over control of the group's bank account.
He said he had always acted with the best interest of the community in mind and hoped the group can heal its divisions.
"There should be and always should be an orderly, professional operation there," Cole said.
In a twist, Dabbs was also a member of Pinellas Core Management Services. In late January when the group released the results of its inquiry into Archie's firing, Dabbs resigned.
Friday, she said the actions she had taken were justified and that the full story was yet to be told.
Will Van Sant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4166.