2010 Mary Harb Sheets, Ph.D.
Having noticed some irregular financial dealings in late 2009, 2010 opened with SDPA in the most serious financial straits in the history of our Association. We faced issues of significant debt, delinquent tax filings, loss of our corporate status, a police case related to suspected financial mismanagement, significantly reduced membership levels, all SDPA records in disarray, and many unhappy and mistrustful members. Yet, as Charles Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
Our Board’s first duty was to speak openly with members about the state of SDPA and to be honest about what we believed led to this precarious situation which threatened the life of our organization. We knew that our primary goal was to regain our members' trust through transparency and service. In that regard, our Board committed to members that we would be as open as legally possible about what we were learning as we delved into what had happened and our steps toward recovery including sharing the progress of the police case. As President, I pledged to be available to any member who wished to speak with me about any aspect of SDPA. Additionally we shared on a weekly basis anything else that arose while we tried to create a functioning office, pay off debts, reestablish records, and find new providers for SDPA needs such as newsletter printing.
We worked directly with the police identifying financial transactions that were made during the several previous years which were charged to SDPA and yet were not legitimate SDPA expenses. SDPA credit card charges for dental and spa services were examples of information provided to the San Diego Police.
Additionally, we discovered checks had been written and signed, but the presumed signers of those checks signed affidavits that stated the signatures were not theirs.
We entered an austerity phase in the life of SDPA with the introduction of our version of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” which requested member donations of gently used office equipment and furniture to replace equipment that had disappeared and other furniture and office equipment that were no longer functional. We were grateful for our members’ support of this program. Our Board members willingly contributed time and energy to office tasks that had previously been subbed out in order to reduce the costs to run the Association. For example, when newsletters or other mailings were to be sent, Board members worked with Keny to seal and sort the items by zip code so that they were post office ready and we could then receive our non-profit postage discount.
Although the idea for a gala for SDPA members was proposed by Felise Levine in 2009 before these realities surfaced, we decided to go ahead with this event. We hoped it would be seen by members as the beginning of a new era for SDPA. It also marked the 50th anniversary of our Association. With standing room only and amazing member participation in all aspects of this event, we not only received a financial boost but also an emotional rebirth.
Our Treasurer, Vic Frazao worked diligently to negotiate with SDPA’s creditors. He focused on getting payoff balances reduced and reasonable payment plans set up that we could afford. Additionally, he was successful in reestablishing goodwill with many of these service providers. An accomplishment I felt particularly proud of was a small but significant part of our financial rebuilding activities. I was able to convince the IRS to forgive a large penalty and interest bill assessed due to the late tax filings during previous years.
The 2010 Board members were enthusiastic and committed many hours to save our Association and to restore our vitality. But our recovery would not have been successful without the active and generous support of our SDPA members.
At the end of 2010, we were proud to announce to members that all debts had been paid, we had modest financial reserves as 2011 began, and membership was at an all time high. A year that began with truly “the worst of times” for SDPA saw our Association come together to experience “the best of times.” We ended on a high note: financially sound and the sense of connection that SDPA has always been about reestablished.