SAAA poised to hire leader

Posted: September 26, 2013

The Winchester Star

FRONT ROYAL — Members of the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging’s (SAAA) board of directors hope their search for a new leader will end soon.

Following an executive session at their meeting on Friday, board members voted 8-0 to extend an offer for the position. Final terms must be negotiated and a background check must be conducted before the candidate is hired.

Chairman Travis Clark said Friday that he expects the negotiation and vetting process to take about two weeks, and he confirmed Wednesday that those efforts are continuing. The candidate’s name was not released.

On July 17, the board voted to offer the job to a previous candidate. The following month, however, the agency’s offer was rejected.

The board planned to readvertise the position but abandoned those plans after multiple new candidates applied. Clark said the candidate selected by the board is one of those people.

He said the person is aware that the salary range is $70,000 to $100,000, as advertised.

“We’re trying to negotiate the final details of the offer,” Clark said.

The SAAA has been without a permanent leader since August 2011 when then-president and CEO Helen Cockrell was suspended following the discovery of 81 unmailed checks totaling nearly $265,000 in an agency safe. The organization did not have enough money to cover those checks.

Cockrell was terminated by the board the following month.

On Tuesday, she pleaded guilty to one felony count of embezzlement and entered Alford pleas — not admitting guilt but acknowledging that there was enough evidence to convict her — on two more embezzlement charges. A fourth count of embezzlement was not prosecuted.

Cindy Palmer, who held the No. 2 post at the SAAA when Cockrell was fired, has guided the agency on an interim basis since.

The nonprofit organization provides services to seniors in six Northern Shenandoah Valley jurisdictions, including Frederick and Clarke counties and Winchester.

Board members also voted 9-0 to renew a $100,000 line of credit with BB&T for 12 months.

Palmer told the board members that Cockrell convinced a previous board more than two years ago that the credit line was needed to help the SAAA cover payroll costs in months that had three pay dates. The credit amount started at $50,000 but was increased to $100,000.

“The money was drawn out,” Palmer said, “and it was not used where it was supposed to be used.”

The SAAA has been paying only the interest on the loan, which is about $500 monthly. Staff members say they’re optimistic that they can start repaying some principal soon.

Those efforts could be helped if the agency’s 10th annual Generations Walkathon fundraiser is a success. The event is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Oct. 5 at Shenandoah Valley Westminster-Canterbury.

Roberta Lauder, the SAAA’s director of resource development, said that as of Friday morning, $15,338 of the $50,000 goal had been received — primarily through sponsorships.

About $26,000 was raised at last year’s event, she said.

Jim Edwards encouraged his fellow board members to donate to the event “because it’s nice to tell others the board is 100 percent behind this.”

On 9-0 votes, the board members also elected Clark as chairman, Edwards as treasurer, Tom Throckmorton as vice-chairman and Suanne Thurman-Gersdorf as secretary. Their terms run through September 2014.

Attending the meeting at the SAAA headquarters were Chairman Travis Clark, Vice-Chairman Tom Throckmorton and board members Robina Rich Bouffault, Violet Carter, Jim Edwards, Ann Holsinger, Tom Reed and Teresa Strohmeyer. Board member Suanne Thurman-Gersdorf, left early. Board members Jim Brinkmeier, Wanda Shoemaker and Johnny Woodward were absent.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at