Charlotte's United Way takes the first big step in its search for new leadership this week, announcing who will co-chair a committee assigned to find a replacement for controversial ex-CEO Gloria Pace King.
United Way of Central Carolinas Board Chairman Carlos Evans said the committee will select the final candidate, whom the board could vote on as early as February. A tentative timeline calls for the new CEO to start in March.
In the meantime, Evans said he expects the board to ask interim CEO Mac Everett to extend his original, four-month contract past December and into the new year. Everett, a retired Wachovia executive, was hired in August by the board at $20,000 a month to temporarily lead the agency after King was relieved of her duties. She was fired a few weeks later, amid public outcry over a board decision to give her a $1.2 million pay and benefits package in 2007.
“We obviously have to have a leader until we appoint a permanent director,” said Evans. “and Mac has agreed to serve a little longer. … It will be up to the search committee to come up with a timeline of exactly how long that will take.”
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Everett said the details of the extension have not been finalized, but that he will have other commitments in the spring.
The committee's co-chairs will pick a half-dozen additional committee members, who will assist in the national search for King's replacement. They will not begin recruiting candidates until after the board has completed a daylong strategic planning session in mid-December.
That session's goal is to rethink the troubled agency's mission in the wake of the King pay controversy, which is blamed in part for a $20 million drop in this year's annual fund drive. The region's faltering economy is also cited as a cause.
Evans said the board's discussions at that session will include a debate over whether the agency should continue operating its own charitable programs. The bulk of the United Way's energy goes into raising money for its 91 member charities, but it has four in-house programs, which received millions of dollars last year without facing the scrutiny given to outside charities the agency helps. One of those programs, a 211 call center for charity referrals, is being discontinued at the end of the year to cut costs.
“There are United Ways around the country that are heavily into programming and there are United Ways that are a lot more about fundraising, and I think we need more clarity (about) what we want to be,” Evans said. “My own feeling is that some level of (programming) is fine, but I believe the value of the programs needs to be tested every year to justify their continued funding.”
Public input on the issue is being gathered through a series of forums and surveys conducted by Everett, including meetings with donors and heads of the 91 member charities. The board is also awaiting the results of an independent study into what went wrong with King's pay and benefits, and how to prevent it from happening again. The report from that study – headed by Charlotte attorney Robert Sink – is expected to be out in December.
“With all this information, we expect to create a profile of the person we want to lead our United Way,” Evans said. “And it's that vision that the search committee will use to guide it.”