Tuesday, Sep 18, 2018
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Ousted CEO offered up to $50,000 to step down

Board votes that Powell leave no later than June 30


James Powell.

The Blade/Lori King
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The ousted leader of a Toledo anti-poverty agency was offered up to $50,000 in a consulting contract to step down, an offer he apparently declined before being compelled to retire by the agency’s board.

James Powell, chief executive officer of the Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo, must step down no later than June 30, the board voted Monday.

Documents obtained by The Blade show he was offered various incentives to get him to retire, such as a consulting contract of $5,000 a month not to exceed $50,000. He was also offered a “transitional” job, a month’s severance pay, and a consulting services contract to end June 30 at the equivalent of his original regular pay.

The documents show that Mr. Powell countered with an offer seeking “an additional amount of $40,000 to $50,000.”

He did not return a call Tuesday for comment.

Some board members said they thought it fair to offer Mr. Powell a generous severance package in light of his service. He has been the agency’s leader since 2009 and was deputy director from 2001 until 2008.

The agency has been at the center of controversies for several years, including who should lead it, high turnover in the Head Start director’s job, potential loss of a major Head Start grant, questions about the spending of stimulus funds, and a lawsuit by The Blade over a failure to follow the open-meetings law.

“I thought that we had put a fair offer on the table, but additional issues complicated closure,” board member Sylvester Gould said. “At this point in time, I’m not willing to negotiate any severance package.”

Thirteen board members voted for Mr. Powell stepping down; four voted against it, and one member abstained. “No matter what anybody says, he has worked tirelessly for EOPA for years,” said another board member, Richard Jackson. “He should not just be thrown out on his ear.”

Mr. Jackson said he did not believe the board’s actions should be characterized as a firing, but rather ensuring a retirement date.

Mr. Powell will be paid his accrued vacation time and retirement benefits, Mr. Gould said. The most recent available tax records, from 2011, show Mr. Powell was paid a salary of $112,839, plus $18,787 in other compensation.

Vince Davis, the board’s first chairman, said the agency likely will form a search panel or hire an outside executive search agency to find a new leader.

The planning association runs a number of social-service programs, but the bulk of its $17.2 million budget comes from its local management of Head Start, a program with an unclear future within the agency. Officials are waiting to hear from the federal government if the planning association will continue to administer the program for children from low-income households.

Mr. Davis said he does not want issues over the agency’s leadership to overshadow its work. “The most important thing with EOPA is that it continue to benefit poor people in the Toledo community,” he said.

Contact Kate Giammarise at: kgiammarise@theblade.com or 419-724-6091, or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.

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