One thing is clear – when it comes to the Cape Henlopen Senior Center, all parties involved want what's best for the center in Rehoboth Beach.
The problem is there are different views when it comes to what's best.
For months an internal battle has been brewing between center members and its board of directors about the direction the center has taken.
Members say that since executive director Leslie Boehlert was hired in February 2013, the center has changed for the worse, and employee morale is at an all-time low.
Board directors counter that there's a period of adjustment during any transition and that a lack of communication accounts for much of the trouble.
The lines of communication between the two groups got a little clearer July 30 when center members called a special meeting and invited members of the board to attend – 13 of 16 did.
According to multiple accounts, the meeting began with a flurry of disruptions from members who didn't want to be constructively involved in the process; later it turned into a productive event.
“It was a very good meeting,” said Patrick Canan, board president.
Members had an opportunity to spell out their concerns, said Canan, and the board was there to listen.
The issue with Boehlert and the firing of bus driver/event coordinator Theresa Shaffer aside, members said they are concerned with the board's disregard for the center's by-laws.
There are not very many they follow by way of the by-laws, said center member Jeanne Sisk.
Topping the list of violations is the number of people on the board. The by-laws provide for nine to 11, but there are currently 16. The meetings are not recorded and the minutes aren't posted, said Sisk, adding that board members are supposed to be approved, but the last few appear to have been hand picked.
Center member Bobbie Hemmerick said members have ask for a moratorium on decision making until these issues can be resolved. There seems to be a small group of people who have grown power hungry, she said.
“The process has to be clean, open and, most importantly, governed by its own by-laws,” she said.
Rehoboth Beach Police Chief Keith Banks is a board member; he said he told the group that there may have been mistakes made in the past, but for the organization to move forward, everyone was going to have to work together.
“I hate to go into a meeting and have yelling, because nobody is listening,” said Banks, who isn't a member, but has been on the board for six years. “We need to work together. It's a great center.”
By the end of the meeting, some agreements had been reached. First, prior to the next officially scheduled board meeting Sept. 30, there will be a special board meeting in August where members of the center can officially address the board. Second, by the September meeting, the board will have reviewed the organization's policies and procedures, and then make recommendations. Third, the board will also review the budget and create a line item for every expense and expenditure.
“We're hoping that we've broken the gridlock,” said Canan. “Everybody loves the center. In my opinion, the meeting was a real breakthrough to get towards specifically addressing members issues.”