A new board for CEASE Inc. has been formed in the wake of the nonprofit closing its doors two weeks ago after state officials found several fiscal irregularities and stopped federal funding.
The new board of directors announced in a press release that 12 new members were selected to the board and the former board members have resigned. Former Executive Director Donna Kelly was also terminated, the release states.
Barbara Horton, new board chairwoman, said Friday that the organization plans to look at all its assets and liabilities and rebrand itself.
“We’re going to reorganize, settle our debts and rename,” she said.
She said the new board is very excited about the future of the organization going forward and thinks it will be able to hit a June 30 deadline to receive federal funding.
“We’re excited, we have a great team, and we have amazing committee members who will hit the ground running,” Horton said.
Betsy Stibler, new board vice chairwoman and a local attorney, agreed it is time for a new brand for CEASE.
“The ultimate goal is to close down CEASE as it existed and rebirth a new organization,” said Betsy Stibler, a local attorney and vice chairman of the new board.
Stibler said it was important that CEASE be up and running in the community in some form.
“Nobody wanted CEASE to go away,” she said.
According to the press release, the new board met Wednesday at Walters State Community College and actions were taken.
The new board has already established committees and is working toward trying to meet a June 30 deadline to apply for the same federal funding from the Victims of Crime Act that the old organization lost.
CEASE came under scrutiny from the Tennessee Office of Criminal Justice Programs last summer after a routine check showed fiscal irregularities and left unanswered questions about business practices with the nonprofit, which assists domestic abuse victims.
The Office of Criminal Justice Programs oversaw the federal grant that provided more than $1 million in funding to CEASE.
The office sent CEASE a pair of monitoring reports in September and October, outlining a list of financial discrepancies, and told the nonprofit agency it had until Feb. 1 to correct the problems.
In early December, the agency laid off 18 employees and closed its shelter in Claiborne County. On Jan. 31, the agency laid off all remaining employees and shut the doors on its Hamblen County shelter.
SafeSpace, a Sevier County nonprofit, then stepped into provide outreach services to domestic abuse victims in Hamblen County. The agency received grant funding to help provide these services until June 30, which is the end of the fiscal year.
Van Wolfe, executive director of SafeSpace, said Friday that she has been in contact with the new board and will assist in any way she can.
“We are thrilled with what they are trying to do and will help any way we can,” she said.
Wolfe said she is very familiar with several of the new board members, which includes two former executive directors of CEASE.
“I’m thrilled with the composition of that board,” she said.
The new board members include:
• Barbara Horton, board chairwoman and director of Hamblen County Recovery Court
• Betsy Stibler, vice chair and attorney
• LA Orio, treasurer and vice president of Wells Fargo Bank
• Ethel Rhodes, secretary and former executive director of CEASE
• Don Baird, Hamblen County Community Service
• Jackie Fleming, former executive director of CEASE
• Maggy Greenway, assistant public defender
• Sue Justis, retired real estate agent
• Cathy Scott, former Department of Human Services case manager
• Amy Shrader, real estate agent
• Brantly Stewart, assistant public defender
• Sandy Thomason, retired real estate developer
Stibler said the composition of the board is strong, consisting of experts in several fields, such as finance and law. Also, there are several members who have vast amounts of experience dealing with grants.
Horton said the board is thankful SafeSpace stepped in to provide services after the original CEASE shut down. The new board will be under a tight deadline over the next four months to be able to apply for funding.
Horton said everything is under evaluation including all properties and assets. Board members said the current shelter will probably be liquidated in order to pay off outstanding debt.
Horton said the board members want the community involved and will insist on transparency.
LA Orio, new treasurer, also said the services provided by CEASE are essential to the community.
“Victims of domestic violence must have court advocacy, safety, counseling and housing assistance in our community,” she said.