Senior Agency Gets Overhaul

Published 4:06 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2013

BURKEVILLE – Piedmont Senior Resources Area Agency on Aging, Inc. (PSR) is getting an overhaul. And, for now, the process is pretty messy.

The past year has been an eventful one and the changes show no signs of slowing down.

In the past year the agency received a negative review from the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), which provides 88 percent of its funding, questioning oversight provided by the board. In the past year, the agency's board of directors hired its first new executive director in over 30 years. And now, the board itself is actually being revamped.

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PSR is a nonprofit corporation that contracts with the State, managing federal, state and local funding to meet the unique needs of the elderly in the Piedmont Planning District, which includes the counties of Amelia, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Nottoway and Prince Edward Counties.

It's annual operating budget of over $1.8 million comes primarily from state funding and is meant to be used to provide supportive services and functions as an advocate for persons 60 years of age and older.

The board of directors oversees the agency and its funding, sometimes contracting work out to other organizations. For example, the majority of the agency's funds go to support the Daily Bread, which, among other things, provides one meal a day to over 180 homebound clients in the seven county area.

The board is composed of at least one appointee from each of the seven counties.

However, there have not been more than two members of the board “who have been validly appointed” since 2008, according to Harlan Horton, an attorney hired to represent the organization generally and, in particular, provide his legal interpretation on the board's membership.

For example, to the best of her knowledge, Cumberland County Administrator and Attorney Vivian Giles doesn't think a board member from Cumberland has been appointed since 2000.

Horton says that only Amelia County, to his knowledge, has kept up with their appointments.

But, all that is changing now. Newly-hired Executive Director Justine Young, known for her work with the VCU Massey Cancer Center and Piedmont Health District, has approached the counties requesting they appoint members.

When the issue came before the Cumberland Board of Supervisors during their May 14 meeting, two new members were unanimously appointed by the board: Karen Blackwell, director of Cumberland Social Service, and Carter Harrison.

But, these new appointments from the counties to the PSR board aren't happening without a bit of a struggle.

A regularly scheduled meeting in May was caught up with concerns of who was and was not a duly appointed member of the board, according to reports.

Another meeting, on May 30, was attended by Tim Catherman, director of aging operations at DARS, Horton, individuals newly appointed by the counties and previous board members. But, because the meeting was not called by a duly appointed member, it was not valid, says Horton.

Horton told The Herald that he has advised the board that, with the duly appointed members, they go through the process of reorganizing and reviewing their corporate governance structure, which would include reviewing its by-laws.

DARS Review

In fact, the clarity, or lack thereof, of the bylaws was one of more than five issues listed in the latest Program and Financial Compliance Review of PSR, which was completed by DARS for the period ending June 30, 2012.

A review is completed about every 18 months, according to Catherman.

The review by DARS for 2012 stated concern over “the oversight provided by the Board of Directors” and listed six business practices that “are not administratively or financially sound.”

There was a need for more board of director oversight, according to the review, which stated that over the course of four months in the first half of 2012, half or less of the appointed board members attended three meetings which were held.

Among other things, the review urged that attendance at meetings be increased and board member terms be staggered.

It also pointed out that the agency's Bylaws and Administrative and Personnel Policies were, at the time of the review, dated 1983 and had been amended many times, making them “unclear and ambiguous.” It encouraged PSR to comprehensively update those documents.

Concerns regarding the agency's use of compensatory time, annual leave and rate of pay of employees was also called into question by the review.

Particularly upsetting to Harrison, one of two newly appointed board members from Cumberland County, is this segment of the review:

“Piedmont Senior Resources normally provides a six percent annual salary or merit increase or one-time bonus, except for 2011. Since 2000, this has occurred 18 times.”

He pointed out that he was particularly upset over the review's findings since his church donated extensively to the agency during that period.

The report also found that it cost the agency $22,659.97 to pay for excess annual leave, because employees used compensatory time, instead of annual leave, during the calendar year 2011.

Additionally, some employees accumulated a large amount of compensatory time, according to the review. For example, one employee, it states, earned 243 hours or 30 days worth of compensatory time, over a ten-month period.

The report included other issues regarding organization of files and documents that could effect efficiencies as well. The report observed “questions remain concerning the timeliness and accuracy of…client data.”

This was despite the fact that a previous report had also raised concerns regarding the disorderliness of client files, which PSR had stated was being corrected.

Throughout the 2012 review, examples were given of previously reported issues that had not been adequately addressed.

In a response from PSR to the 2012 review, concerns were addressed and it was stated that corrective action was being taken.

For example, PSR's reply stated that the agency would develop a salary/compensation structure based on statewide, regional and current PSR data, which would be presented to the board.

The letter also stated that changes had been made to the Administrative and Personnel Policy manuals in regards to comp time and annual leave.


“What will happen is that – as with any restructuring of a board – the new board members, who are duly appointed and currently sitting as board members of this organization, will go through the process of reviewing what previous people, whether they were authorized or not, did and determining whether or not they will confirm it,” says Horton.

That includes confirming Young, who was hired by the previous board in January, as the executive director.

An emergency meeting was called June 3 to give Young the authority to “sign payroll checks and bills payable, hire nursing assistants, maintain all necessary insurance for the agency and purchase necessary items under $5,000” until the next meeting.

The five board members present, all recently appointed and representing Amelia, Charlotte and Cumberland Counties, unanimously approved that action and also voted to elect Chairman of the Amelia Board of Supervisors Frank D. Harris as chairman in the interim.

In essence, Harris said, the goal of that emergency meeting was to keep the day-to-day operations intact.

During their next meeting, scheduled for June 25 at 4 p.m., the board plans to formally elect officers, review appointments from the other jurisdiction and perhaps hear a brief orientation by Catherman.

“If we come out with officers and a duly constituted board, we're able to do business and get some things behind this,” says Harris, expressing his hopes for the board's next meeting.

Currently, PSR is still waiting for Buckingham, Lunenburg and Prince Edward Counties to appoint members to represent them on the board.

Until then, the current duly appointed board members will move forward with the task of restructuring and revamping Piedmont Senior Resources.

The board is in charge now and engaged, Horton says. As they restructure, he says, the board will review previous decisions, determining whether to “stick with what has happened in the past…or go in a different direction.”

Young is enthusiastic. She reported to The Herald on Monday that PSR is already seeing major growth. The amount of business for personal care for the elderly in their homes has already doubled, she said, and she has hired four new staff members to deal with the demand.

Young concluded, “We're having major growth already…We're not totally organized, don't have everything together, but it's already started and things are definitely moving in the right direction. I'm real excited.”