Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Community center has closed meeting

By Karen Samples
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Citizens, employees and a reporter were barred from attending a board meeting of the troubled Northern Kentucky Community Center on Tuesday night.

        The center is a private, nonprofit agency whose meetings aren't covered under Kentucky's open-meetings law. Center Board Chairman Cliff Cooper didn't give a reason for excluding the public, other than to say the board would be discussing its response to the United Way.

        The United Way gives the center about $171,000 a year for various programs, including youth development. It has set a Thursday deadline to receive the center's 1998 and 1999 audits and a plan for correcting administrative problems. If those documents are not forthcoming, the center's funding will be in jeopardy, United Way officials said.

        The 1998 audit is complete and was sent to the United Way last week. Mr. Cooper declined to release a copy to a reporter, saying he wanted to hear the United Way's comments first.

        Before Tuesday's board meetings began, about six employees of the center stood in the hallway with Mr. Cooper, who declined to let them attend the meeting. They asked whether they would be getting paid this week.

        Mr. Cooper responded that he was trying to figure that out. Recently hospitalized, he had missed a board meeting at which members voted to strip Executive Director Rollins Davis of his financial duties. A committee of board members was to sort out the money problems, and board treasurer Darin Schmidt, a certified public accountant by profession, was to have sole authority for signing checks.

        But last Saturday, Mr. Schmidt resigned from the board. Another committee member, attorney Julie Hackworth, announced her resignation last week.

        The center, located in the old Lincoln-Grant School in the heart of Covington's African-American community, has run a budget deficit for several years and is in danger of closing. In March, the board took out a second mortgage to meet its monthly payroll.


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