• Affirmations Interim Executive Director Lilliana Reyes and Board of Directors President Mike Flores fielding questions and concerns at last week’s board meeting. (BTL photo: Jason A. Michael)

Affirmations Board Elects 6 New Members, 3 Step Down

Jason A. Michael
By | 2018-05-22T14:08:36-04:00 May 22nd, 2018|Michigan, News|

Reyes Continues to Rack Up Support in Public Comment

The Affirmations board of directors voted in six new board members and saw three step down at its monthly meeting on May 16. Incoming board members are Nancy Cummings, Cheryl Czach, Hannah Hartley, Timothy Lantzy, Gregory Rice and Anthony Sherman. Those stepping down include Frank Aiello, Jodi Allen and Eric Martin.
The board also voted in the new executive committee. Interim President Mike Flores will now take the position on a permanent basis while Paula Kirsch serves as vice president, Phil Nardone as secretary and John Stanaszek and Dani Woods as members at large. There is currently no treasurer and Flores volunteered to continue to act in that role as he has for some time.
“I want to congratulate all the new Affirmations board of directors and the newly-elected executive committee,” Flores said just after the vote. “I look forward to all of us working together as a cohesive team to make the board stronger in 2018. I would also like to thank the current board and community for their trust in me. I know the board president serves at the will and at the pleasure of the board and the community. I pledge to everyone that I will continue to work hard for Affirmations and try my best to live up to the fiduciary responsibilities of this chair.”
During the public comment portion of the meeting several stood to voice their discontent with the organization. Former longtime board member George Westerman came with a list of questions but was told by Flores that the correct forum for them would be at one of their community chats.
Westerman did outline some of his concerns before taking his seat.
“The most currently available [IRS form] 990 shows three years of declining income for the organization and also the last year of 990 showing the organization operating in the red by hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said. “I’m also interested to hear about the board’s engagement. I did hear that there were only three board members here Friday night [at the last community chat]. That’s disconcerting. My understanding is that the meeting was set up for board members to hear from the community.”
Deb Palmer said she was offended by Affirmations previous executive director Susan Erspamer while working as a volunteer photographer during Affirmations events.
“Never did she say, ‘Thank you,’” said Palmer. “Never did she even acknowledge me when I’m giving my time, my knowledge and my pictures to you guys.”
Chris Turek said that after coming to the center off and on since the mid-’90s she, too, was turned off.
“The last few years I’ve kind of felt like the organization and the community center has lost its way,” she said. “I stopped coming other than on a rare occasion. The last three years it’s really, really felt that this is no longer the place it used to be.”

Support for Reyes Continues to Grow

Turek, though, said she was encouraged by what she has seen recently.
“I know Liliana has not been in her position long but I really love the things that she is doing,” she said. “The change in that very, very short period of time has been outstanding. I know the board has lots of decisions to make. I know that you guys are debating do you want to do a search or if you want to hire a firm if you want to do this or that. My thought process is this: If we spend $10,000, $20,000 or $30,000 on a search the best we’re going to get is equal to what we have. That makes no sense … we have a tremendous person in our [interim] executive director and I really think that spending a ton of money is foolish for us right now.”
Attendees Michelle Fox-Phillips and Briana Kingsley made similar comments.
“I have to echo what was just said,” Fox-Phillips said immediately after Turek’s remarks. “To go through the search process is ridiculous. You’ve got a woman who I’ve seen come up through the youth group in the old building. She knows this place. She loves this place.”
Kingsley agreed.
“One thing I know about Miss Reyes here is that she’s a very good advocate for her community,” said Kingsley. “I have a lot of respect for her and I also agree that the expense of an executive search should go toward her salary.”
Flores did not directly acknowledge the comments nor state any position on Reyes.
“Our duty is to make sure that we evaluate all the options fairly and responsibly to make sure that we elect the best person for this role,” he said. “As previously noted, the past two choices may not have the best bet or the best fit. However, I think that we can take lessons learned and be able to move forward.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.