PRESENT: Celeste Branham, Luke Shorty, Will Sedlack, Julia Van Steenberghe, Diane Lebson, Maryalice Crofton
The members convened at 3:34 p.m. using the virtual meeting technology.
I. Urgent and timely matters.
A. Status of OIG investigation resolution. The response was submitted on January 17 and immediately acknowledged. The request for a meeting met a positive response and that took place on February 2. The Director and Deputy Director of AmeriCorps along with a member of the General Counsel staff plus the manager for this case were on the call. They listened to Maryalice reiterate some key points and expressed appreciation for the thoroughness of the response. There was no indication of what action they will take but the final decision will be made soon.
Executive Committee members agreed on three actions: 1) to share the OIG findings and Commission response with Axiom Education and Training Center; 2) to propose to the full board that this case be referred to Maine’s Attorney General to determine if there is any criminal issue to address; and 3) to consult with the AAG for advice on the notice to AETC and protocol for referring the issue to that office.
B. Status update with General Govt Service Center. Letter from Commissioner Figueroa. A draft response to the Commissioner’s letter had been circulated prior to the meeting. The decision had been made to reply directly to the Commissioner rather than to the chairs of the Government Oversight Committee. The fact that little progress has been made on processing the office operating expenses and match account activity, keeps the issue a critical one. In the 24 hours prior to this meeting, a member of the Commissioner’s staff reached out to say she’d been appointed to address the problems of service center paying expenses and not depositing or crediting revenues. She asked for examples during the call and Maryalice forwarded documentation during their conversation. Then earlier today, the person reached out for a conversation and did provide a timeline for resolution which will allow Commission staff to file federal financial reports by the extended deadline. The person also made 3 commitments: DAFS will not object to the Commission getting QuickBooks through OIT so long as the data in that software is not used for federal reporting; the invoices and grant payments extending back to September will be processed and ready for payment by Monday; and another accountant will be assigned to our accounts. (The last cannot be done we learned later in the day, because of the short staffing.) Maryalice did point out that DOE has the exact same issues but magnified by the scale of funds involved and asked if this person would be willing to talk to the DOE CFO. She agreed. Based on these developments, Exec Committee members decided to table the letter for two weeks.
C. Status of process for hiring PIO. Two applicants have accepted interviews and those will take place tomorrow. Diane is part of the interview team with Marcus Mrowka from the Dept of Education.
D. Impact of new state employee union contract on budget. Maryalice reported that she recalculated personnel costs and the increase is $6,511 for this calendar year. There is another change on January 1, 2025 that will likely impact the budget for a year. The salary scale has had 8 steps for many, many years. Once a person hits the top of the scale there are no additional step increases. This will change with the addition of a new ninth step. One person on staff will be eligible. Maryalice noted that, until the service center brings all Commission accounts up to date, it isn't possible to revise the 2024 budgets for the federal or match accounts.
E. Status of supplemental budget requests through Dept of Ed budget AND supplemental budget plan for implementing new office. The official supplemental budget has not been delivered but departments and key offices are aware of the status of requests. The Commission made these requests through the DOE budget: 1) increase in funds to bring the Office Admin to full-time; 2) moving on-going Appropriations from All Other to Personnel under Climate Corps to fund the Climate Corps Coordinator past the positions 12/31/24 expiration; 3) increase in funds that would allow the Program Officer for Volunteer Sector training and technical assistance to be filled; and 4) some funding for climate-related Service Fellows. All the requests were denied as were requests made by DOE. We really do need to pin our hopes on the bills tabled and held over in Appropriations. Exec Committee members supported a proposal to have Luke write to the Climate Council and GOPIF leadership about the impact of #2 above.
With regard to the new office that will be the Commission’s future fiscal agent, it will be authorized but not funded in the supplemental, according to sources. Funding to set up the office will be in the next biennial budget which means the Commission move will not be until July 2025 or later. Celeste reminded all that, by fall 2025, both senior staff at the Commission will have retired so the Transition is of great concern.
II. General updates and planning
A. Briefing full board on strengths report. Members agreed the results of the work session on January 19 should be on the Feb 16 agenda for discussion with the full board.
B. New Commissioner orientation schedule. Pam will lead. It was suggested that Bill should be asked to assist so all the officers build relationships with the new members. Maryalice will follow up with Pam about schedule – it will be a Monday and not before the Commission meeting. That pre-business meeting hour is when Communications meets.
C. Transition Task Force phase 2 -- leadership and assistance. Luke explained to the Exec members that he has taken stock of all the urgent, ongoing issues and decided an external consultant is needed to assist with the Transition Task Force. He spoke with Kaira Esgate and she is willing to amend the scope of work under the current ASC contract so the Transition needs are addressed. Members agreed that trying to lead from within the group would be difficult at the moment.
D. Plan/progress on recommending labor seat candidate so board complies with law. There isn’t a specific person but, thanks to Janet May, there is progress.
E. Consideration of schedule for spring business meetings. Current schedule says Feb 16 OR March 15, April 19, May 17, June 21. Three things have emerged that call for reconsidering the published schedule. After discussing options, it was decided to adjust the schedule and meet in February AND March, skip April (which is school vacation week), and then resume normal schedule for May and June. Luke will make the announcement next week. Also, the June 21 meeting will again be followed by the recognition luncheon for National Service staff. The timing seemed to work very well last year.
F. Performance Review of Executive Director. Luke asked for one more person to work with him on this. Celeste volunteered. He has the form and instructions used for state positions.
G. Guest at February meeting. Celeste confirmed that Arial Ricci, Executive Director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous, and Tribal Populations, will meet with the Commission next week.
III. Task Force Updates. Due to the length of today’s discussions, Luke asked Task Force chairs to email reports and requests for agenda time to Maryalice. Diane gave a brief update on the joint Foundation/Commission committee that is planning the awards event. They are moving swiftly.
IV. Volunteer Maine Commission Meeting and Agenda review. Items noted above plus routine items will make up the agenda.
There being no other pressing discussions, the members dispersed at 4:47 pm.