Latino organization closesafter staff resigns abruptly |

Latino organization closesafter staff resigns abruptly

John Colson

The Roaring Fork Valley’s primary Latino advocacy organization has closed its doors temporarily as the agency’s board of directors searches for a new director and a new staff.

A board member said Asistencia Para Latinos, located in Glenwood Springs, will reopen on Oct. 10, although she conceded that it might be with a minimal staff operating at less than peak efficiency.

Asistencia Para Latinos, which has been offering help for the valley’s Latino population since the early 1990s, shut down last week after the departure of its former executive director and three staff members.

The director, Silvia Barbera, left a couple of weeks ago after giving notice earlier this year that she would be moving to Florida.

But a board member confirmed Monday that the staff members – an Americorps volunteer receptionist, a case manager and a project coordinator – all left last week with almost no notice.

“It is true that they have [each] submitted a letter of resignation,” said board member Deborah Schoeberlein.

But she took issue with an anonymous observer’s assertion that the resignations were prompted by the board’s decision to form a “management committee” and essentially take over the daily operations until an interim director is named.

She said one employee left due to “health problems” and admitted she did not entirely understand why the other two left.

But she cautioned against any “negative” opinions about the board’s motives and intentions.

“The last thing our board wants to do is micro-manage,” she declared, maintaining that the committee was to be active only until a new, “interim” director could be found to run the office during the search for a permanent replacement for Barbera.

She added, “Why the staff who was there chose to take issue with that is confusing.”

Now, she conceded, “We are looking for staff at all levels.”

She said the board had been working on the replacement issue anyway and that “we have several very strong options” for the job of interim director. She said the board is hoping to hire a permanent director from the local population if possible, but that a regional or even national search may be necessary.

She also promised that “there will be staff coverage” to keep the office operating, at least minimally, starting on

Oct. 10.

“The board of directors is absolutely committed to the mission of the agency,” she said, adding that “we operate in the black and have done so for several years.”

Asistencia’s $200,000 annual budget is funded by a combination of public and private grants and donations, as well as a modest schedule of fees for service from its roughly 3,500 clients each year.

Among its activities is the organization of an annual Latino Festival, which Schoeberlein said last year drew some 6,000 people, Latinos and Anglos alike.

Stressing that the agency’s current troubles should not be viewed as life-threatening, she said, “We seek to grow and get better. Unfortunately, we’re in a current situation that provides some challenges, but certainly no insurmountable ones.”

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