VIOLENCE INTERVENTION PROGRAM AT RISK
Wednesday, April 11th, 2007
The Community Supporters of the Violence Intervention Program (CSVIP) are calling a press conference to speak about the crisis situation confronting the Violence Intervention Program, Inc. (VIP) and the steps we are taking to try to save it.
Elected Officials, domestic violence survivors and advocates, and representatives from the CSVIP call upon YOU to exercise your leadership role in support of the battered women and staff of VIP by joining us at the press conference.
WHEN: Thursday, April 12, 2007, 10 a.m.
WHERE: Julia de Burgos Cultural Center, 1680 Lexington Av
Confirm your attandance email SaveVIP@aol.com or call 212.650.4938 or 212.423.9010
Community Supporters Unite to Save Domestic Violence Program
Recent Actions by Board Members Have Placed Organization in Jeopardy
The Community Supporters of the Violence Intervention Program (CSVIP), a group made up of domestic violence advocates and a wide array of community leaders, including elected officials, is demanding the resignation of the Board of Directors of the Violence Intervention Program, Inc. (“VIP”), the establishment of a new Board with the necessary qualifications and the reinstatement of Grace Perez as Executive Director.
The current board members are Vivian Selenikas, newly appointed Chair, Kenneth Diaz, Acting Chair, Sandra Quilico, Treasurer, Nancy Nazario, Secretary, Zarah Guzman, member, and Vivian Rivera, member. Calling the Board’s actions “irresponsible, arbitrary and capricious,” the CSVIP has issued an Open Letter and Petition to the Board (“The Petition”), seeking their resignation.
The reasons for this request include the following: their failure to respond to repeated requests made by community leaders to meet with them; their refusal to bring a neutral third party to facilitate whatever conflict that may have existed between them and the Executive Director; the unjustified discharge of VIP’s Executive Director; their failure to have a plan in place to ensure the management of the organization and the provision of services for VIP clients (battered women and their children); and their failure to fully explain their decision to not purchase a building that could have become a permanent home for VIP.
VIP is a very important organization that has been at the fore front of serving battered women and their children since 1984 when it opened its doors in East Harlem and became the first bilingual/bicultural (Spanish/English) domestic violence service provider in the state of New York, and one of a handful in the entire nation.
Over the years, VIP has developed and grown tremendously expanding its services beyond East Harlem to also serve women and children in the Bronx and Queens. Today, VIP provides crisis intervention, counseling, support groups, case management, and residential services to hundreds of women and children in
The Board Has Refused to Meet With Community Leaders to Resolve Situation
For months, VIP’s Board of Directors has refused to meet with or respond to the calls of various community leaders who have knocked at their doors trying to prevent the very crisis that they have now created. On Monday, March 26, Jenny Rivera, who was recently appointed by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo as Special Deputy Attorney General for Civil Rights, resigned her position as Chair of VIP’s Board. However, before she did this, she made sure that the Board fired Grace Perez, who has served as VIP’s Executive Director for the past 17 years, helping to make it the exemplary organization that it is today.
The Board made this arbitrary and capricious decision without adequate reason and without having an interim director or a plan of action in place. Furthermore, prior to the discharge, the Board refused any attempt on behalf of Ms. Perez or community leaders to resolve whatever management/governance differences may have existed between the Board and the Executive Director with a neutral third party.
What we find illogical and absurd is that the only reason that this Board cited for dismissing Grace is the actions that she took related to the purchase of a building in East Harlem that would serve as a permanent home for VIP.
We know that for more than a year, Grace Perez, with the help of Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito, and with the approval of this Board, was able to obtain a $500,000 grant from the NYC Council to renovate the building once it was purchased; a $140,000 down payment for the purchase of the building and $40,000 for closing fees; the pro bono services of an architect to draw up the floor plans; as well as the pro bono services of a real estate lawyer to represent VIP in the purchasing transactions. However, at the last hour, without consulting it with Grace Perez or Councilwoman Mark Viverito, the Board decided not to go through with the purchase.
The Board cited as the reason for this decision, the advice of an unnamed financial advisor, whom they claim determined that VIP was not in a financial position to move forward with the purchase. However, this conclusion is not supported by the review of VIP’s finances by the City Council and its approval for a $500,000 grant nor by the two banks which had provided letters of intent for a mortgage of up to $1.2 million.
Board Failed to Appoint Someone to Manage the Organization Before Firing ED
The discharge of Grace Perez, and the manner in which she was terminated, demonstrates the Board’s abuse of power and the fact that they seem to care very little about the lives of the women and children served by VIP. To this day, two week after her dismissal, there is still no one appointed to manage the organization.
While the Board carries out their supposed “national search” for a new Executive Director, who is in charge of VIP’s operation and management? They took the time to find a lawyer to advise them in connection with their decisions, but they did not take the time to find someone who could oversee the operations and management of the organization before they fired Ms. Perez.
Thanks to the dedication of VIP’s staff who have taken it upon themselves to carry on with their work, the women and children have been shielded from the unconscionable chaos and atmosphere of insecurity which the Board has created.
On the day that Ms. Perez was fired, 10 representatives from local organizations went to the offices of VIP, as a group, to demand an immediate meeting with Board. Zarah F. Guzman, the only Board member, who went to VIP that day to try to change the locks on the door, took the names of the 10 representatives and promised the Board would contact them for an emergency meeting. The representatives are still waiting to hear from the Board.
As a Board that heads such an important and necessary organization, they have placed this organization and the people it serves in serious jeopardy and numerous community members have signed the open letter and petition asking for their resignation and making room for a new board that has the knowledge, experience, and credibility necessary to lead and govern VIP.
Please eMail your Comments & support to The Community Supporters of the Violence Intervention Program (CSVIP), SaveVIP@AOL.Com.