I am often bemused and sometimes confused by the actions of UJC's "leaders" as anyone who has read these pages knows. When it comes to the fiduciary responsibility these "leaders" have to protect our communities' dues investment in UJC, bemusement and confusion morph into grave concern. Let me explain how an imperious attitude -- l'etat c'est moi -- can endanger the very trust on which we built United Jewish Communities.
In the Budget process for 2006 the Board Chair and CEO demanded a $1.5 million Budget increase over 2005. They could not or would not explain on what the budget increase would be spent; they just wanted it...period. (In fact, the Board Chair was heard to tell his few confidants that if "he" didn't get the increase, he would "just go back to Akron and play with his grand children" or something like that.) The Budget and Finance Committee agreed to recommend the increase subject to the condition that the Chair and CEO return to the Committee for approval of the $1.5 million expenditure. These "leaders" reluctantly agreed. I was the only "no" vote on writing this blank check -- something that would never occur in Chicago or Washington (the home federation of the UJC Budget and Finance Chair) or in any federation in which any of you have a leadership role -- this vote would contribute significantly to my eventual "Wexlerization."
And, then, what happened? Later in 2006 the "leaders" returned with a request to spend $845,000 (!!) on a "marketing and branding research project." Maybe the "leaders" came to your community with a plea for support as they came to Chicago -- promising leadership here that returning to the "UJA" brand would have their support. (I had the sense that they would promise anything anywhere.) The "research project" expenditure was approved; the chosen consultant (which appeared to be sole-sourced) made its pitch to the Executive Committee based on, among other things, that one of its principals was Jewish and their success in marketing the Air Force!! ("If we could successfully market the Air Force with which we had no previous experience, we can certainly market Jewish Federations." Uh-huh.) By the way, have you seen the research report? Been interviewed? But, never mind, the $845,000 expenditure of $1.5 million was approved and, no doubt, the research is "in progress" to be rolled out at a February 2009 Retreat...along with everything else.
Now comes the question: what ever happened to the remaining $655,000 of the $1,500,000 Budget and federations' dues increase? I may be wrong, but the expenditure of these funds was never brought back to the UJC Budget and Finance Committee for expenditure approval. Never brought to the Executive Committee for approval. It appears to have just been spent in open breach of UJC's own resolution. If I am correct, friends, it is beyond chutzpah, it is an indefensible act of irresponsibility that would never be tolerated in any properly administered not-for-profit. If I am wrong, I am certain someone will let me know when this $655,000 was specifically vetted, the program(s) on which it was spent and the date(s) of approval. If, as I suspect has been the case, UJC just spent the additional $655,000 (perhaps to prop up UJC executives' salaries) with no prior approval, UJC "leaders" did so just because they could -- because there is no external accountability. There is the attitude that "we can do what we want when we want and how we want." And that is the federation owners' fault. There was greater accountability on the part of the predecessor organizations -- even though UJA was not owned by the federations -- than these "leaders" exhibit. There seems to be no comprehension after four years of this leadership that this money is not theirs, it is the federations and our donors.
So, someone show us how this $655,000 was approved for expenditure and how it was spent. Someone? Anyone? No one?