Together We “DISOWN” It – Board of Directors fled non-profit before community could learn from scandal
–How can county government protect taxpayers moving forward?
“A nonprofit board of directors is a group of individuals who are elected to govern and oversee the organization’s operations. The board is responsible for setting the organization’s mission, strategy, and goals, and ensuring that the organization operates in compliance with legal and ethical standards.”Foundation Group
The Carroll County community was rocked last month by shocking allegations of sexual solicitation of a minor made against the former executive director of a popular nonprofit, Together We Own It(TWOI). An organization whose mission, according to their own website, “was to work with children and families to break the cycle of trauma by providing a stable and supportive environment, full of opportunity”.
TWOI was known in the community to be a place where parents could feel comfortable bringing their children, a place that was a safe haven for troubled youth. However, because Maryland state law considers a 17 year old child to be old enough to give sexual consent, harm that the victim claims was inflicted will not be addressed.
It also seems that the heartbreaking situation will not be addressed by the TWOI Board of Directors. Rather than working to understand the utter breakdown of safety procedures or working to find ways to prevent this from ever happening again, they fled. Within hours of the scandal breaking, most of the directors resigned from their positions, scrubbing their names from websites and social media. All in an effort to disassociate themselves from the catastrophe.
These individuals made up the governing body for TWOI. A body that was tasked to focus on providing accountability and oversight to the organization. Why didn’t they ensure there were proper policies and procedures in place to protect the most vulnerable of youth that they served?
Through interviews with the victim, the community has come to learn of allegations that staff were having overnight sleepovers with troubled children and offering them car rides. Things that teachers and staff of Carroll County Public Schools are not allowed to do because of the need to have professional boundaries. Boundaries which exist in order to protect both the teacher and the student.
Even more disturbing is, why didn’t Carroll County Public Schools or the County Department of Citizen Services verify that the necessary guardrails for safety were in place before they entered into contracts and gave TWOI tax dollars? Is the school system and the county government in the habit of handing out funds without doing due diligence on the organizations that they are funding? It seems that at the very least it should be required that the same precautions that exist for teachers also be expected of these organizations.
There does appear to be some hope coming from our new board of county commissioners. Commissioners Mike Guerin and Ken Kiler both advocated during the afternoon budget session on April 18th that any nonprofits wanting to do business with the county moving forward would have to give a detailed presentation outlining their mission, plans, objectives and impact on the community in order to receive tax dollars. Although hindsight is 20/20, had this been in place during the budget processes of previous boards, we might not find ourselves in this situation.