NEW ORLEANS — The Dryades YMCA board of directors had to scramble in March when the CEO and CFO both quit suddenly amid reports of falsified employee background checks at the charter school there.
The board named member Samuel Odom, PhD, the “point of contact” in charge of finding an interim CEO and responding to inquiries from WWL-TV and The Lens, both of which were reporting on the background check scandal at the school, James Singleton Charter School.
Last week, the YMCA announced Odom had left the board to take the position as interim CEO. But now, the New Orleans Public School district says that violates the state ethics code.
In a letter dated Monday, June 14, the school district’s chief portfolio officer, Thomas Lambert, told the chair of the Dryades YMCA board, Barbara Lacen-Keller, that Odom’s appointment violated a state law prohibiting members of public boards from working for the same agency for two years after leaving the board.
Lambert’s letter, first reported Tuesday by The Lens, said the YMCA “shall remove Dr. Odom from this position and appoint an individual who has not served on the board in the previous two years.”
The school district can’t directly remove Odom from the position, but it can punish the YMCA by revoking its charter for James Singleton Charter School if it doesn’t take action to comply. Asked by WWL-TV if the board has a response, Lacen-Keller said, “We’re working on that now, and we don’t have a response yet.”
Later Tuesday, Lacen-Keller sent a letter back to the school district denying any violation of the ethics code. The letter says Odom is volunteering as the interim CEO and not being paid, and therefore he is not prohibited from holding the position.
"This could have been clarified with a telephone call prior to (Lambert) sending a Notice of Noncompliance," Lacen-Keller says in the letter.
The YMCA is in disarray following audits by the school district found problems with the background checks of school employees and longtime CFO Catrina Reed, as well as financial concerns with credit cards and other transactions involving former CEO Doug Evans and his family.
Reed was arrested earlier this month and charged with 12 counts of injuring public records and a count of theft for allegedly falsifying the background checks. Her own background check on file with the Dryades YMCA since 2005 falsely indicated she had no rap sheet when in fact she had been arrested multiple times in the 1990s for financial crimes and was convicted in 1996 of robbing a bank where she worked.