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I do not know Stuart Wachs.  I have criticized Stuart Wachs’ stewardship of the JCA based upon empirical analysis of the JCA’s IRS 990s and the IRS 990’s from the previous JCC he ran. I have criticized him for a lack of disclosure and truthfulness about the Solar panel scandal that has rendered the project both costly and useless, for not donating to the JTO, while urging the rest of the community to do so, and for having Joel Kramer, the Chairman of the JCA, call me up to see if I had a hidden agenda in writing about their malfeasance and ineptitude with the JCA’s assets.  Most notable in Joel’s call to me was his assertion that “the masses” could not know about the engineering report I published and that the “masses should not know” because the report was marked confidential. Evidence of managerial ineptitude is not a trade secret, as I pointed out to Joel and Stuart.  I found it notable that Joel, who is a CPA and was the Treasurer before he became the Chairman of the JCA, told me that my numbers are wrong and that the Solar panels would not cost nearly what the report indicated.  However, Stuart wrote to me in a letter (that I published in this blog) that the solar panels will actually cost the community nothing because he re-negotiated the deal, and that there is an “opportunity for savings”.  Joel Kramer has a pretty good reputation in his field, so I am guessing that he is telling me something closer to the truth.  Stuart, who has lied to me in what he has written to me, has exhausted my ability to find him credible. I am aware that giving the benefit of the doubt to Joel Kramer on this subject is akin to trying to decide who was the better sailor: the Captain of the Titanic or his First Mate?

A quick summary for the uninitiated.  In 2010, the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix and the VOSJCC were finally run into a ditch by an inept board of directors who had overseen the building of our own golden calf, which is what I euphemistically call the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus.  The Campus is routinely utilized by approximately 4% of the Jewish population of the Greater Phoenix area (this year the VOSJCC consumed 30% of the JCA’s funding allocations) and is comprised of a financially unsustainable collection of buildings that house the detritus of a failed Jewish high school, a poorly designed health club, a huge collection of costly and economically inefficient solar panels, the offices of the JCA, and several other Jewish agencies.  The JFED spent millions of dollars propping up the Campus that they built, and the propping up of the Campus contributed very heavily to the destruction of millions of dollars of donations to the JFED.  The inept leaders of the JFED who oversaw the creation of our golden calf got it into their heads that this was the apex of Jewish achievement for the Jewish Community, completely ignoring the fact that two previous JCC’s went out of business here.  They were somehow oblivious to this and undertook this new adventure with other people’s money which ended up in the same position.  So, after 6 years on the board, Bob Silver (who was the board Chair of the JFED in 2010) finally figured out the the Federation had a “structural deficit” as he called it, and decided that the only solution was to shut down both institutions, lay off half of the staff, merge them together under a new name (the Jewish Community Association), and start again.

Unfortunately, the board that oversaw this entire fiasco actually thought they were qualified, apparently based upon their previous lack of stewardship, to go out and hire a new leader for the Jewish Community.  This is how Stuart Wachs ended up darkening the Community’s door.  At this point in the story, it would be an excellent time to review an article that appeared today in ejewishphilanthropy.com entitled I Thought You Said You Wanted To Run Things Like A BusinessThe article is on point, and will take us to the next fiasco.

Stuart Wachs’s entire executive management team that he hired, since he arrived here, has been fired or has resigned, except for Alison Johnston.

1) Anthony Slayen – Vice President of Operations and Innovations – hired by Stu Wachs in August, 2012, fired or resigned in February 2013: 7 months

2) Kimberly Kur – Chief Development Officer – hired by Stuart Wachs in April 2013, fired or resigned in February 2014: 11 months

3) Jennifer Grossman – Vice President of Marketing – hired by Stuart Wachs in August 2012, fired or resigned  in April 2014: 21 months

Not Hired By Stuart:

4) Debbie Siebels – CFO – Seven years at JCC and JCA, abrupt resignation this week.

Executives hired by Stuart Wachs who are still in place as of the date of this article.

5) Alison Johnston – Chief Operating Officer of the Jewish Community Center, hired June of 2013.  This is a curious hire by Stuart because Ms. Johnston was previously at Ballet Arizona, and during her year there as executive director, their revenue decreased from 5.5 million dollars to 3.4 million dollars, a decrease of 38%, and their operating surplus decreased from 2.8 million dollars to $856,000, a decrease of 69%.  Another curiosity is that Ms. Johnston has listed on her CV on LinkedIn that she was the COO of Petsmart Charities Inc. for years spanning 2010 – 2012.  However, there is no mention of her in their IRS 990’s, which by law must list their officers and board directors, and Chief Operating Officer is an important position.  I just don’t think it was her position.  In fact, she was a Senior Director of Operations, which is a different position than the Chief Operations Officer of a $40,000,000 charity.  But she is not the only person to pad their resume, so in the interest of full disclosure, I admit I lied on my LinkedIn CV too and have claimed that I was a tofurkey fabricator at Akbar and Jeff’s Tofu Hut from 1981 – 1985.  I actually was employed as a marketing representative at IBM selling copiers, and I just thought it was less embarrassing to say I was fabricating tofurkey.  I am sorry.  But I do wonder what qualifies Ms. Johnston to run the VOSJCC.

6) Ofer Alphabet – Chief Information & Campus Operations Officer at Jewish Community Association – I have no idea what a Chief Campus Operations Officer does, but he has been there for a month and Stuart knew him from Minneapolis.

If Stuart is such is an accomplished manager and our great hope for the Jewish Community of Phoenix, how is it that every senior officer of the JCC that he hired has quit or been forced to resign? Turnover of that magnitude from his hand picked subordinates is a widely acknowledged sign of terrible management.  I suppose that we will soon learn why Ms. Siebels resigned, and we may have to look no further than the 2013 IRS 990, which is for some reason, not yet available.

I have excerpted the following information from an article by Ralph Heibutzki from a company called Demand Media.

Company Lacks Good Management

An employee’s relationship with his supervisor is often the most decisive factor in assuring his loyalty, according to “Forbes” magazine’s January 2012 article, “Why Your Employees Are Leaving.” Good managers who connect with employees are more likely to retain them, even if they’re making top money. Bad managers don’t communicate regularly with their team members, or express appreciation for their work, which makes them more likely to quit.

Employee Workloads Are Too High

Turnover can serve as a wake-up call to revisit workloads that trigger significant burnout and stress, according to a 2006 survey by the National Council of Crime and Delinquency. The council interviewed 297 former child welfare and juvenile justice workers, to determine why they quit their jobs. Sixty-five percent of the participants identified large caseloads as a factor in their resignation, while an additional 35 percent would have stayed on the job if their workloads had been more manageable.

Jobs Don’t Match Expectations

Thirty-five percent of 19,700 U.S. employees surveyed by the Saratoga Institute quit during the first six months because they don’t like something about the job, management consultant Leigh Branham states in his February 2005 article, “The Seven Hidden Reasons Employees Leave.” This situation results when managers soft sell a job’s less appealing aspects, asserts Branham, writing for the Center for Association Leadership. Once workers discover the truth, however, they’re out the door, which further aggravates a company’s turnover issues.

Opportunities Are Nonexistent

Opportunities for career advancement and growth play a key part in determining how long employees stay with a company. Eighty-five percent of the employees in the Saratoga Institute survey identified career growth as a key reward, but only 49 percent saw companies taking measures to promote it. Managers compound the problems by failing to praise employees who exceed expectations, Branham says. Staff members who feel devalued or unrecognized, in turn, are more likely to find an employer who acknowledges them.

Work Environment Is Stressful

A continual exodus of talent can indicate a stressful, unstable work environment of ever-changing job titles, workloads and supervisors. One reality of this situation is that some people lose their jobs, which doesn’t inspire the survivors to put down roots, according to “Forbes” magazine. This situation also makes itself felt through departmental turf wars that pit employees against each other. Faced with these situations, employees will opt to go elsewhere than stay in an unhealthy atmosphere.

If we want the best results from the JCA, then we must have the best people running that organization.  Unfortunately, Stuart is unable to create a culture of excellence and exceptional performance, and his hand picked executives have either left of their own volition or been terminated.  Stuart either has an inability to hire the right people, an inability to get along with people he hires, or he hires people who are incompetent and he has to fire them.  Stuart wrote to me and told me that it will take 3 – 5 years to turn around the organization he inherited, which might mean another 20 executives rotated through the management suite of the JCA.  In the meantime, the losses will pile up, the Campus will be propped up at the expense of the elderly and infirm, Jewish day school education, and helping kids get to Israel to spend quality time there.  Stuart will continue to collect his enormous salary, and we will be much further on along the road of destruction.  Keep that in mind when you are asked to donate to the JCA.