After some weeks of controversy and board meetings, the executive director of Inyo-Mono Advocates for Community Action, Lynn Bethel, is gone.
Asked if Ms. Bethel were fired, IMACA Board President Bill West said, “The Board decided to make a change. Lynn Bethel is no longer an IMACA employee.” West said the board, almost unanimously voted for “this change” in a special meeting Wednesday evening.
West said he met with Bethel Thursday morning. He said, “It was very amicable. We parted company.” West said the IMACA Board chose Human Resources Manager Jill Paydon to serve as an interim executive director while they renew their search.
When Bethel, who is from Massachusetts, took on the executive director job in September, agency officials were upbeat about the change. But former director Daniel Steinhagen’s firing of a popular employee right before Bethel took over clouded her entrance. Steinhagen terminated Community Services Director Jane McDonald who had started and built a strong garden program in IMACA, teaching the low-income how to grow their own food. More than a dozen community gardens grew out of McDonald’s efforts as did a a host of admirers for the young woman’s work.
Many community members who had donated land, time, planning and work to the several garden programs went public with their dismay. Ms. Bethel declined to respond to them. At an IMACA Board meeting, Bethel blamed Sierra Wave Media for reporting the citizens’ concerns. She called it “negative and misrepresentative news reporting.”
Informed sources said that in recent days IMACA board members solicited opinions about Ms. Bethel’s performance. It is unknown exactly what motivated the IMACA Board to vote for Ms. Bethel’s departure.
Board President West said that former Director Daniel Steinhagen’s contract is in place for continued consulting. Asked about Steinhagen’s effectiveness since he now lives in Oregon, West said Steinhagen was the director for twenty years and had agreed to maintain a relationship with IMACA during Ms. Bethel’s transition. West said Steinhagen’s contract ends this month.
As for a new director, West said the Board will look. He said they had earlier had false starts with more than one person selected as director. West said, “There has to be a certain mindset to live here, and it’s less money than a big city.
IMACA officials will also try to repair broken relationships regarding garden projects. Board President West said he would “like to go back to our original intent – provide food for those in need.” In spite of personnel problems, West said IMACA moves ahead to fill food needs. He encouraged donations to the IMACA food bank which is currently low on goods.