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Published: Saturday, 8/22/2009

Ditch the mob leader

AS DEBATE over the future of the

South Toledo Y veers from civil discourse to ugly spectacle, it has become clear that the only way the dispute can be solved without lasting damage to a great local institution is through the resignation or dismissal of Robert Alexander as president of the YMCA and JCC of Greater Toledo.

Mr. Alexander invited this conclusion on Friday when he led an angry cadre of some 40 persons, most of them Y employees, in shouting down state Sen. Teresa Fedor at her own news conference, called to discuss alternatives to the closing of the south branch.

Closing of the branch is no longer the main issue, it's Mr. Alexander's seemingly unbalanced, dictatorial behavior, as evidenced by his hectoring of Senator Fedor and South Toledoans who simply want their Y to stay open.

Indeed, if the YMCA's languid board of trustees does not demonstrate some backbone and take swift action to get rid of Mr. Alexander, it's hard to see how the organization can ever expect to regain the public trust.

Moreover, the mob-style tactics only accentuate the need for answers to the questions of nepotism and operational transparency raised by an organization that is supported by millions of public and charitable dollars - questions that have been raised by the policies and actions of Mr. Alexander himself.

Even before Friday's unseemly spectacle, the Y's decision to stay the south branch's Aug. 29 closing for an additional 90 days while an additional 500 memberships were solicited appeared to be little more than a diversionary tactic intended to take the heat off the organization's leadership.

The Y branch is losing $100,000 per year. Why, then, was Mr. Alexander insisting that $240,000 to $300,000 per year must be raised in new revenue to keep the facility open? And why, if he really wanted the campaign to save the Y to succeed, did he not drop plans to move the branch's extremely popular gymnastics and swimming programs to Perrysburg and Oregon?

Some have suggested that the Y's leader set the bar so high to practically guarantee failure and displace the onus of that failure from himself onto area residents. Perhaps he also hoped that in three months passions would have cooled and he would be able, as he told CedarCreek Church members after a Wednesday news conference, "to revert back to our original plan" to give the Y building to CedarCreek.

Or maybe the Y's leaders believe that throwing the neighborhood a bone - even one that can't be chewed - would soothe the anger of Toledoans to whom it just doesn't look right that four of Mr. Alexander's family members are on the payroll - their collective salaries and benefits total more than $600,000 per year - and that the quasi-charitable organization refuses to disclose details about credit-card use and travel spending by its top executives.

The people who support the YMCA through their memberships or their donations are afraid that the Y's coffers are being looted, then paid for by closing one of its most popular branches. They also fear that the Y, under Mr. Alexander's leadership, is abandoning its charitable mission in favor of a business model that requires branches be profit centers.

Nothing less than a full and open accounting of how the Y is spending their money will alleviate those fears, and, after Mr. Alexander's erratic performance yesterday, we believe that nothing less than his ouster will begin to repair the damage that's already been done.



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