Thursday, October 1, 2015

Is Baron Herdelin-Doherty trying to turn the San Diego YMCA into a spa/fitness resort for rich people?

Update: See second article below about recent investigation into top management at the San Diego YMCA.

It seems that the YMCA is trying to restrict membership to richer people:

Two Encinitas YMCA Board Members Forced Out Over Youth Membership Dispute

Two board members of the Ecke YMCA in Encinitas, including the daughter of branch founder Paul Ecke, have been ousted after they objected to a decision to eliminate discounted youth memberships at all of San Diego County's YMCAs.

Lizbeth Ecke, who also is the granddaughter of the Y's namesake, Magdalena Ecke, says she and fellow board member, Bob Ayers, were asked to “temporarily resign” from the Encinitas YMCA’s board of management earlier this year. Like Lizbeth, Ayers has deep family ties to the North County Y.

Board members Lizbeth Ecke and Bob Ayers say they were forced off the board at the Ecke YMCA after objecting to a decision to eliminate discounted youth memberships at all of San Diego County's 12 YMCAs.
They say the request to step down came after the two wrote a letter to the YMCA of San Diego County's corporate board of directors questioning a policy change they believed would cut off thousands of kids from recreation programs at the county’s 12 YMCAs.

“I was trying to ask questions,” said Ecke, whose family earned a fortune by making poinsettias famous as a Christmas plant. “If there isn’t somebody asking some hard questions, you can go down a path and it might not always be the right path.”

Ecke and Ayers challenged a 2013 decision to eliminate youth membership discounts. For about $80 to $100 a year, children 12 and under could get access to various YMCA programs, including swimming, gymnastics and martial arts.

But under the new rules, children in that age group can't join the YMCA without being part of a family membership, which costs about $1,000 annually. These youth membership discounts went away for the entire county last July except at the Ecke YMCA, which ends its program this month.
Ayers believes the change will drive away many of the 2,400 kids who have youth membership discounts at the Ecke YMCA.

“It will be a tremendous financial barrier for them,” he said. “Youth are a very fundamental part of the mission of the YMCA. It didn’t make sense that we would do anything that would affect youth at our YMCA.”
Beverly Woodworth
Former Ecke YMCA board members Bob Ayers and Lizbeth Ecke look at childhood photographs, April 23, 2015.
Parent Lauren King bought her 5-year-old daughter Sydney a youth membership two years ago for tumble and dance classes.
“A family membership is not ideal for us,” King said. “We can’t afford it.”
The YMCA offers financial assistance for those who are eligible, but King is indignant at the idea.
“It’s a little bit insulting to apply for financial assistance for a dance class,” she said. “If I can’t afford to take my daughter to dance class, then I’m going to go elsewhere. I’m not going to ask somebody for a donation for my cause.”
Ayers said the new policy also doesn’t make financial sense for the Ecke YMCA.
Many of the 2,400 children who have youth memberships at the Ecke YMCA also generate additional revenue for the organization by paying, or about $1.7 million annually, for various special programs, he said. On average, each spends $720 on programs a year, Ayers said.
If even just 30 percent of the kids who had youth membership discounts decide to leave, Ayers said, the Ecke YMCA stands to lose nearly $1 million a year.
Ayers said he’s asked the YMCA CEO for San Diego County, Baron Herdelin-Doherty, for information on how many children in youth memberships at other YMCAs converted to family memberships but has received no answers.

Baron Herdelin-Doherty, chief executive 
officer of the YMCA of San Diego County, 
talks about the Y's programs and memberships, 
December 2014.

In December, Herdelin-Doherty told KPBS that memberships were up in the county.
“Today, after four months of operation with the new strategy, participation is up 8 percent countywide,” he said. “If I wanted to put a number on that, that’s about 10,000 more people.”
But it’s not clear where new memberships are coming from.
Since 2013, two new YMCAs have opened, a YMCA official said. Herdelin-Doherty's office also said that between November 2012 and November 2013 — before the new policy took effect — nearly 12,000 families joined the YMCA countywide.
KPBS asked for a breakdown of family membership increases by branch, but the YMCA denied the request.
In addition to elimination of the youth membership discount, Ayers and Ecke expressed concerns in their letter to the YMCA's corporate board about what they called the “re-direction” of money from branches to the organization's headquarters, and the lack of “fiscally sound” financial analysis and projections.
Herdelin-Doherty declined to be interviewed by KPBS a second time, after Ecke and Ayers sent the letter to the YMCA's corporate board..


New story:

 Details Emerge In Investigation Of YMCA Of San Diego County Management
Aired 9/30/15 on KPBS News.

The YMCA of San Diego County is facing turmoil at the top. KPBS previously reported that the YMCA’s corporate board had hired a consultant to oversee an investigation into mismanagement allegations. Here are edited excerpts from an interview with KPBS Investigative reporter Amita Sharma.
Baron Herdelin-Doherty, chief executive officer of the YMCA of San Diego County, talks about the Y's programs and memberships, December 2014.
The YMCA of San Diego County is facing turmoil at the top. KPBS previously reported that the YMCA’s corporate board had hired a consultant to oversee an investigation into mismanagement allegations. KPBS investigative reporter Amita Sharma, who has been following this story, explains what's happening at the nonprofit.

Question: You’ve reported that one of the allegations against YMCA CEO and President Baron Herdelin-Doherty and some of his executives has been poor treatment of staff. What more have you learned?
Sources, who requested anonymity because they did not have permission to speak, say the investigator has questioned them about turnover among high-level staff. They say several long-time, well-regarded executive directors at YMCA branches and other senior managers have resigned or been forced to resign for reasons that remain unexplained. In some cases, the exits included confidentiality agreements and possible payouts, according to public documents. For example, Calista Davis, who was senior vice president and a chief human resources officer, left with a nearly $236,000 payment. Alfredo Velasco, who was the executive director at the Palomar YMCA, left with what appears to be a $136,000 payment.
We wanted to talk to Herdelin-Doherty about this and other aspects of the investigation. But a YMCA spokeswoman declined to speak until after the investigation was complete.

Question:The YMCA in San Diego County is a large organization with several thousand employees, so it can’t be unusual that employees leave or are ousted. What’s notable about the exits?
In 2010, the YMCA put out a five-year strategic plan. It included a goal to hire more minorities that reflected some of the more diverse communities in south San Diego and in the southern region of the county. But sources say several of the executive directors and other senior managers who have left have been bilingual minorities. And sources say many of them have been replaced by people who were Anglo and did not know a second language.
An internal document leaked to me also shows that the goal was to increase diversity between 2010 and 2015 from 22 percent to 30 percent. But in the past five years, diversity among upper managers has actually dropped from 22 percent to 20 percent or lower.

Question: What else is being investigated at the YMCA?
Contracts with vendors. According to documents, the YMCA has a policy that requires its branches to buy 85 percent of its cardio exercise equipment from Precor. Sources say the policy came about at the same time the YMCA’s regional vice president was in a relationship with a sales representative at Precor.

Secondly, there’s been a problem with some of the new software designed by a company called Daxko. This comes after an internal task force recommended a company other than Daxko. But a YMCA executive told the corporate board that staff had actually recommended -- you guessed it, Daxko...

That board is supposed to supervise Herdelin-Doherty. The investigation has put him under scrutiny. It’s not clear if the turnover of upper management is concerning to the board. Its members have refused to reply to interview requests. Sources accuse the board of complacency, of being asleep at the helm. They say board members have ignored complaints about Herdelin-Doherty’s leadership, indulged him, and may yet keep the findings of this investigation to themselves. At the same time, the anonymity of the people who spoke to the investigator is not being guaranteed.