Save Flo Water

About 35 to 40 members of the Flo Community Water Supply Cooperation (FCWSC) met Thursday, November 15th, at the Buffalo Masonic Lodge to learn more about the recent termination of the FCWSC Office Manager and to hear of a plan to remove the current directors of the board from their positions.

No FCWSC board members were present. The meeting was called by Barbara Johnson, a concerned FCWSC member and former FCWSC director who has worked with Lela Patterson, the recent Office Mangager on the financial aspects of the company for the last several years.

Lela Patterson, who served as the Office Manager at FCWSC for the past five and half years, spoke at length about being terminated from her job. ?My purpose in speaking out,? said Patterson, ?is two-fold. Number one, I want to try to clear my name. I have nothing to hide, and I will answer all questions. Number two, I want the members of Flo Water to understand what happened.?

According to Patterson, she was placed on suspension with pay around the end of September. At that time she was told by the board President, Mike Meade, that there were allegations of charges being made to the company?s credit card that were not authorized.

?I asked to see what charges were under question, but none were ever presented to me,? said Patterson. ?I have never been shown or even told anything more by any of the board members. I have been told that there is nothing to show me.?

?In newspaper reports from the meetings,? said Patterson, ?I read that Director Doris Pittman asked me for the credit card statements. That is a lie. I was not asked for them. Ms. Doris asked me if we had a credit card, and I said that we do, and it is paid each month by a bank draft.?

?I also read that there were questions about charges made to a Hobby Lobby. I made purchases at Hobby Lobby for gifts for the directors to present to them at their annual meeting. All purchases were approved by the board. I worked within the budget that was allowed.?

?And I read that the directors said I did not cooperate with the investigation of the forensic auditor that the board hired. That is another lie. I did cooperate! I was told not to come to the office, and I didn?t go to the office, but I talked on the phone with them daily. I was available by phone any and every minute they needed me.?

?I want to encourage you, the members, to ask the board to show you the proof. I am asking you to get involved. I am the fifth office manager that has been terminated like this. Please get involved.?

Barbara Johnson explained the process to take the action she feels is necessary to save Flo Water and keep it in the hands of the members. Johnson encouraged the members to sign the petition that has been started. ?We need to collect about 600 signatures to be able to call a special members meeting,? said Johnson. ?That is a little over a third of the current members.?

Johnson said that if and when a special meeting of the members is called, the members can then vote to remove the current board of directors from office. The majority of the members present for that meeting would have to vote in favor. There does not need to be 600 members present. It is only required that the meeting be posted in advance, and that all members are sent notice of the meeting.

Asked what the plan would be following the removal of the current board members, Johnson said that a temporary board would be put in place until April. In April, the annual elections will be held, and that will be the opportunity to elect a new board of directors. ?I am talking to some members now who I think will serve as temporary directors.?

?This is an emergency we need to face,? said Johnson. ?We need to protect the stability of the Flo Water company. Should we lose control of the company because of legal or financial problems, the Corporation and community water service will be outside of our control.?

Some of those present discussed attending the next FCSWC meeting as an agenda item to ask questions of the current directors. But it is unclear as to when the next FCSWC meeting will be held or in what location. A meeting had been tentatively scheduled for Nov 20th, but then moved to Nov 29th. No one could reach a person for current confirmation of the next meeting.

FCSWC has, for many years, held their monthly meetings in Buffalo at the Methodist Church. Since the suspension of Patterson though, the meetings have moved to Centerville. At the last board meeting, Meade offered as an explanation for moving the meetings to Centerville was to protect the office manager. ?This is someone?s reputation,? said Meade.

Some members said that moving the meetings out of town ?makes it look like they are trying to hide something?. And Patterson feels her reputation has been damaged by being fired from her job. The fact that she was never charged with anything, she has been left without being able to defend herself.

?No one will hire me since I was fired,? said Patterson. ?No board member has ever specifically shown me or even told me what I did wrong, so I can not answer or explain.?

Not one of the director of the current board wanted to invite Patterson to a meeting to answer any questions before they unanimously voted to terminate her. When asked repeatedly why the directors did not talk to Patterson, they declined to comment. Asked if they thought Patterson had benefited herself in any way, they said they did not think Patterson had benefited herself.

In the meantime, the board has retained the forensic auditor, Trisha Fritsche, whom they hired through their attorney, Patricia Coy, to work one or two days a week in the FCWSC office. Both Fritsche and Coy live in Clifton.

Johnson also said that regardless of the current board?s decision concerning Patterson, members need to understand what has happened and vote to remove the current directors from office. ?Please sign the petition when you are given the opportunity,? said Johnson. Any members wishing to sign can also call Johnson at 903.322.4882.