Updated: August 19, 2011 at 12:00 am
A Colorado Springs nonprofit that advocates for people with developmental disabilities and provides guardianship to dozens of them has been rocked by the firing of its long-time executive director and an attempt by some of its members to oust the board so she can get her job back.
Teddi Roberts, a 25-year employee of The ARC of the Pikes Peak Region and its executive director for the last seven years, was fired a few weeks ago. An attorney for the agency declined to say why she was fired because it’s a personnel issue, but Roberts confirmed reports that it was due to a misrepresentation of her educational background.
She has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and psychology from Adams State College in Alamosa, but she said ARC documents indicated she had a master’s — a discrepancy she blames on a misunderstanding between herself and the school.
“There were two internal documents that said I have a master’s, and I only have a bachelor’s,” she said Friday. “I owned it; it was a complete misunderstanding and a mistake. I apologized.”
At one point, her Facebook account listed her as having a master’s, according to a document provided to The Gazette that captured the information from her page. That information has since been changed and does not list her degree.
Educational misrepresentation may be the official reason given for Roberts’ dismissal, but several former employees and board members have also alleged Roberts misused ARC credit cards and engaged in other types of financial misconduct, created a “hostile” working environment and retaliated against employees who challenged her — accusations she denies.
“All of those charges of financial misconduct were investigated by our board of director and auditors, and found to be unfounded,” she said.
The 4th Judicial District Attorney’s office also investigated, and “found insufficient evidence to file charges,” said spokeswoman Lee Richards.
But the Colorado Attorney General’s office may be conducting its own investigation.
Although the AG’s office would not confirm whether an investigation is under way, several e-mails sent to The Gazette indicate that one of its consumer fraud employees is following up on the complaints.
In the meantime, Christina Butero, ARC’s public relations and development director, is serving as interim director while the agency searches for a permanent replacement, said its attorney, Sybil Kisken.
A meeting next month could thwart that search if Roberts’ supporters have their way.
ARC is made up of members who, like stockholders of a corporation, vote on board members. An effort is under way to line up more members and obtain proxy votes from members who can’t attend the meeting to replace the board and elect new executive officers.
One of the leaders of the effort is former city attorney Jim Colvin, who twice served as ARC’s board president and has been a member since 1972. In an Aug. 16 e-mail to the board, he criticized the members for how the matter was handled and called Roberts’ firing an “injustice.” Considering how much she’s done for the organization, he said, a reprimand would have sufficed.
In a statement, Kisken said the board made its decision “after due consideration,” and added that it “takes its fiduciary duty very seriously, and is focused on the best interests of The Arc and the individuals that it serves.”
Roberts acknowledges she wants her job back, and has told her Facebook friends who ask how they can help to pay the $20 membership fee, attend the Sept. 7 meeting and vote to oust the board.
“I’ve put my heart and soul into that organization,” she said Friday. “I begged for an opportunity to make a wrong a right, and I wasn’t given the opportunity to do that.”
The ARC does not provide direct services to clients, aside from its guardianship of several dozen developmentally disabled adults. It is primarily an advocacy and educational organization.