Big Brother’s merger still stalemated

Jill Dennis, executive director of the Roswell-based agency, answers questions about financial matters involving the contract presented to the Curry/Roosevelt County agency Tuesday. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth.

By Ryan Lengerich

A two-hour meeting on Tuesday between the local Big Brothers and Big Sisters agency and the Roswell-based agency about a possible merger ended with only an agreement for further discussion.

Meanwhile, Rebecca Fain, director of agency development for the southwest region, said the recently closed Clovis-based agency, which serves Roosevelt and Curry County, is being operated temporarily from Santa Fe until an agreement is reached.

The state of limbo has stalled the application process for locals hoping to participate as Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pecos Valley in Roswell proposed an agreement to the Clovis agency’s representatives that would make Clovis a satellite operation. Roswell officials said it is the same agreement used between their agency and a satellite operation in Ruidoso.

Clovis officials raised concerns over the proposed merger.
“If your board is going to be regional it can’t look like Roswell,” said Erinn Burch of the Curry County United Way, which allocates money to the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program. “We saw ourselves as being as strong or stronger than Roswell.

“We have a problem being a stepchild.”

Clovis officials described problems that could arise with staffing and the number of Clovis representatives to be allowed on an advisory board.

“This community is here, it is a program that has worked,” Clovis advisory board President Roger Grooms said. “We have a viable program and all we want our community to have is a say so.”

About 20 Roswell and Clovis representatives attended the meeting at the United Way building in Clovis.

A similar merger was proposed in February but declined by Clovis officials. Fain said the merger is necessary based on the organization’s national restructuring plan.

Fain said state officials are working to centralize the areas from Tucumcari to Carlsbad and Hobbs to Riudoso into a regional organization based in Roswell.

The Clovis agency was closed March 1 and the four employees were laid off. Fain then moved the local files to the Santa Fe office, which has agreed to hold the files until an agreement is worked out between Clovis and Roswell, Fain said.

Clovis officials have agreed to have three Clovis-based employees under the proposed agreement, but are concerned their former staff will not be awarded the positions.

The Clovis agency’s former program director Yvette Gardner had been on staff six years.

“Yvette is the face our community associated with this program,” Burch said.

Roswell Agency Executive Director Jill Dennis said the Clovis staff would be re-interviewed for positions and the job would be open to outside applicants. Interviews would be handled by a board member from both Clovis and Roswell, with Dennis making the decision.

Dennis and Gardner’s relations have deteriorated during negotiations. Gardner said at the meeting she had no interest working for Dennis.

Clovis representatives called for more authority on the advisory board. The agreement would give Clovis one advisory board position, compared to Roswell’s 11.
Roswell officials said more Roswell representation is needed to reach a quorum at meetings, saying out-of-town members are less likely to attend meetings.

Fain said the BBBS office space will be held with the intentions of re-establishing an organizational presence in the city. Until then, Fain said, Clovis mentor/student matches will be held in Santa Fe.

The two sides agreed to an April 15 date for Clovis officials to re-submit the agreement with proposed changes.

“I think what came out of it is what we expected to come out of it,” Grooms said. “We’re going to negotiate and we’re going to put on the table what is best for this community and we hope they buy it.”