Mar 26, 2017

Former executive director Liz Smith puts national organization on notice; or will hold press conference with reps from NAACP, ACLU and Rotary International

I am reprinting Liz Smith's letter to Jim Clark, CEO of Boys and Girls Club of America in full so that the public has all the information. I have yet not heard back from any of the localboard members I contacted yesterday, which include Phillip Nicklas, Chris Kerrigan and Chris Miller.

This is the post I did yesterday. This is where her being placed on administrative leave was announced first and this is where her letter is being printed in full, first.

It has yet to be covered by any other media.

Liz Smith's letter:

Jim Clark et al:
Let me introduce myself. My name is Elizabeth Ana Taufeulungaki Smith, better known as Liz Smith.

I had the honor of serving children and youth under the auspices of the Boys & Girls Club of the Redwoods from October of 1995 through March 25, 2017 and served for just over 8 years as the Club’s Executive Director.

I received numerous honors, accolades and incredible training opportunities during my tenure. Some of them include: participation in the Strom Thurmond Leadership Program at Clemson University in 2003, two versions of the Advanced Leadership Program in 2007 and 2011, named as a 2005 Robert W. Woodruff Fellows, a McCabe Fellow in 2007, one of 10 BGC representatives who participated in the Global Institute for Leadership Development in 2012, my former Club participated in the Advancing Philanthropy Program in August of 2015, I was named one of your top CEO’s in 2016 and accepted into the inaugural class of the Harvard Leadership Program. The Woodruff Fellowship helped pay for my Masters in Social Work. My goal was to have a free counseling department at the Boys & Girls Club of the Redwoods, inspired by both the Garden Grove and San Francisco Boys & Girls Club models. 

By the time I finished my Masters in 2007, top of my class with a 3.96 GPA, and I was ready to submit my required two-year post graduate Boys & Girls Club plan, the Woodruff Advisor had changed three times. 

Once I finished my project, which provided a study of the effectiveness of Boys & Girls Clubs in Indian Country, with my former Club’s Klamath Unit as the case study, there was no specific advisor to turn this into. In 2015, when the BGCA National Conference was hosted in San Francisco, I was invited to a mixer for Woodruff Alumni. Apparently these mixers have been happening at conferences for several years, but my records had been mysteriously misplaced. I found out about this or should I say whoever the last Woodruff Advisor was, discovered me when I asked if I had completed all of the purported requirements and if so, when I could expect a plaque.  This woman was understandably mortified, sent me the cheapest and cheesiest “You’re A Rising Star” plaque with my name and the wrong year of when I was a Woodruff. I was given bad hors d’oeuvres, cheap wine and approached by one of your staff with a PhD, telling me she would be happy to be my mentor, gave me her card and asked that I call her. I was then quickly introduced to the formidable Dr. Damon Williams. When I asked some BGCA folks how on earth we scored with this scholar, I was told that he was not that impressive, that he was more cocky than intelligent and affirmative action was what afforded him his PhD! More on that fucked up bias later!
I am not a rising star, I am a galaxy of greatness who is stuck in the Bermuda Triangle of greed, ineptitude, ignorance and arrogance that is the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the complete lack of support from a very white, privileged, ignorant and entitled board of directors.
Both of my parents completed their undergraduate degrees in History and as a good, rebellious child should, I blocked the desire to even like history. I do however have a strong understanding of the history of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The Federated Boys Club of Boston was created 46 years after the white, wealthy women of Hartford, Connecticut, acknowledged their privilege and position in their society, that there were poor and wayward boys who were roaming the streets, needed sustenance, direction, guidance and most importantly unconditional love and positive regard to help them achieve the lifestyle that they were born into. Local Clubs created BGCA and now there is a greedy, detached, farce of a national organization that is top heavy, resource rich, cocky and worst of all, happy to exploit the poor Black and Brown children local Clubs serve nationwide and now overseas, while purposely thwarting the promotion, support and expansion of intelligent female, Black and Brown CEO’s. I filled all of these roles, I am fluent in two languages (English and French), have three degrees, all of which I completed while working either three-part time jobs during my undergraduate or one full time job while doing my full time MSW Program and easily becoming top of my class. I am an Elder in the Presbyterian Church, a Rotary Board Member, on the College of the Redwood’s President’s Advisory Council for Equity and Inclusion, on the Advisory Board for the Humboldt State University Department of Sociology and Criminology, the President of the Eureka Branch of the NAACP (we have the largest geographic footprint in the country, from Lake County to the Oregon border to the North and Redding to the East), on the Eureka Police Chief’s Advisory Board and serve on the Human Rights Commission. My parents both have PhD’s, we have homes in Minneapolis, Eureka, CA, the Tonga Islands and land in Palm Springs. My mother is from the Tonga Islands, my father, the eldest of five, is from Warren, Ohio. What they have in common are: the belief that education is the greatest equalizer, Christian values that you should treat others as you want to be treated, that judgment only belongs in the hands of God, that we are all incarnated with God given gifts that we are to use to be a gift to the world (time, talent and treasure), that as educated people, your job is to help lift up those in your community who are the most marginalized and oppressed and that family is the nucleus of one’s life.  I should also mention that I was the first girl in my high school to be the Junior Prom, Senior Prom and Homecoming Queen, that I was a piano prodigy, starting to play by ear at age 4 and traveled to Stockholm, Uppsala, Firenze and Paris to play the piano, was named one of the Women of the Year for International Women’s Day in 2016 and 2017, was given the 2016 Humboldt County Peacemaker Prize (our version of the Nobel Peace Prize) and I was the delegate for my Rotary Club at the 2016 Rotary International Conference in Seoul, South Korea.
I was put in the impossible position in December of 2008, when I was told that our CEO, Jeff Jacobs, had given his two weeks notice, to serve the Wichita, Kansas Club, and that I was to serve as the Interim CEO. I had just applied, interviewed and was ready to accept to serve as the Associate CEO for my McCabe Mentor, Calvester Stanley. The Boys & Girls Club of the Redwoods’ board, which had not looked at financials for months, was just receiving the rude awakening that our Club was $459,000 in debt, that Jeff had taken out a $250,000 line of credit using a building we did not own as collateral, that we had 96 businesses we owed money to and that all 8 full-time staff, including me had taken 20% pay cuts in July of 2008, which was not communicated to the board. The book keeper, who Jeff had recruited from the accounting firm where we used to have our payroll done, was told that Jeff was the only person she was to answer to.  This book keeper was recruited because of her passivity and she completely fulfilled this role.  I would not be given a raise (he made $140,000, had full benefits, memberships paid for to Rotary, Elks, Redwoods Golf & Country Club, and the prestigious Ingomar Club)  but instead would need to take a $19,000 pay cut, as we were likely going to declare bankruptcy. I approached you for help and had the drunk and chauvinist, Alan Anspach, as my RSD at the time. I was offered no support, not even the opportunity for Alan to facilitate a board retreat. I then approached the two wealthiest foundations in our area, Humboldt Area Foundation and the Mel & Grace McLean Foundation, for help. Both of them told me that we should declare bankruptcy, as we were a “sinking ship.” Fortunately, I was able to convince them to provide technical assistance, paying two consultants directly for us to develop a 9 month strategic action plan that focused on board development, financial management, resource development, public relations and program/geographic prioritization. Long story short, the Boys & Girls Club of the Redwoods now has a budget of $1,000,000, have paid off all debt and converted the $250,000 line of credit to a loan at 0% interest. The Club went from serving 4,000 kids at its peak in 2008 via six stand alone Clubs, two teen weekend programs in two counties to constricting to three locations, going down to one county, reducing eight full-time staff to one and operating on a shoe string budget of $480,000. In 2015, my former Club served 4,055 youth in one county, via three stand alone Clubs, and three extension programs.
While participating in the Harvard Leadership Program, I became violently aware of the tension between BGCA and local Clubs. As the smallest Club representative in the room by budget size, I was ignorant to just how greedy and disconnected BGCA has become. Of the National Staff in the room, I was impressed by Chad Royal-Pascoe, Jonathan Karron, Jacqueline Fitzgerald and Dr. Damon Williams. Everybody else was just there for looks and in the case of the people of color you have promoted rapidly who don’t have the experience, education or awareness that you are using them to look like you give a shit about diversity, I was at least impressed with the hearts of Terrill McFarland and Kelly Reynolds. The only other woman in my Harvard cohort, who volunteered to “lead” us is the DOD for Major Metros. Mary was condescending of me, dumb, disorganized, lazy and went out of her way to discount my contributions. When we were surprised with the need to develop a group presentation that was five minutes long and focused on one out of the seven areas that BGCA and local Clubs felt necessary to address, I was unanimously asked to serve as one of the spokespeople. My co-spokesman, Jonathan Karron, and I were the ONLY ones who took Jacqueline up on the offer to use the conference room until it would close at 11pm, were the first ones in the room after breakfast. Mary, our “leader” stumbled in 25 minutes later and had the nerve to want to see Jonathan’s Power Point and try and make corrections. After letting her know that her strong opinions and position as our leader, she was welcome to take my place as spokesperson but if not, I was not going to entertain an arrogant, Monday morning Quarterback and Jonathan and I would adjourn to another room to practice our presentation. Jim, since you and your executive leadership group sat directly in front of us, you may recall that ours was the only group who kept within the time limit and didn’t require any questions. Mary was kind enough to talk with me in the bathroom afterwards, saying “at least you looked good.”
This brings us to today. Although 2016 was the best year my Club had experienced, it was the worst for me personally and professionally. My then DOD, Steve Ratto, was apparently vying for a Vice-President position and you were gracious enough to have him doing two jobs. This translated into no attention that wasn’t BGCA motivated, the canceling of two board retreats, because you started controlling his schedule.  Members of my staff circumvented me and talked with Steve about how I did not delegate tasks and give them enough exposure to the board. Steve did not communicate this to me. When my board held over seven meetings without me to discuss me expressing my heartbreak over racism and sexism I had encountered and calling myself the “Head Nigger in Charge,” my former board president, Dale Warmuth, called for my firing. When this did not work, he anonymously called the Eureka Police Chief to do a welfare check on me, coming to my officer to confirm if I was suicidal. The board would host yet another board meeting without me in December and not have the courtesy to communicate what was discussed with regards to my job status. Communication took place between members of my board and Steve Ratto and attempts to contact me were centered around being late with signing up for NYOI and wanting to know the 4th quarter numbers for OAP.
The Club was later given Jon Evans as a DOD. Jon is a racist, entitled, dumb playboy who I am sure was successful at running his Club (or at least smart enough to hire people who made him look good), but has proven to be a shit show of a DOD. He NEVER followed up on any of my requests and quite frankly does not have the gravitas, intelligence, network and/or work ethic to provide anything for Club CEO’s who have achieved more than he has, serve a more diverse population of youth and if they happen to be a CEO of color.
 I received a letter from two BGCA volunteers, trying to negate the critiques asserted in Code Blue. This is one of the catalysts for declaring my public disgust with the Boys & Girls Club “movement,” from BGCA on down to now the Boys & Girls Club of the Redwoods.  Everything highlighted in Code Blue is true and to assert that the anonymous author is cowardly is convenient and simplistic. Consider this the open expansion of that letter, coming from a mixed race, educated, woman, who had a suicide plan on Christmas of 2016, was just put on an indefinite, paid administrative leave of absence and has nothing to lose!
The following are my critiques:
1)      Completely restructure BGCA so that it is enlivening what the Movement founders intended: a hub that provides education, connections between Clubs, connections with corporate supporters, national relationships with companies who can provide time, talent and/or treasure. You have over 400 staff, why are there now Club liasons (mostly women), who are now answering all of the questions that I would typically go to my DOD for? Why is it that the main thing I would go to my DOD for (a board retreat), now can’t happen because they supposedly no longer control their schedules? Either pay the Club liaisons what they are worth ($50,000 minimum in each region) or re-structure the DOD positions that they do what they did under Roxanne Spillet’s leadership, with the main function of not only supporting their respective Clubs, but particularly in supporting and coaching the CEO’s.
2)      Implement the CEO mentorship program that myself and 24 others spent four hours of the 2015 Pacific Leadership Conference being trained in. An average CEO lifespan of 2 years is unacceptable and can be directly attributed to you focusing on the needs of the board and not the CEO. Let’s be real, shall we? You’re focused on the board because they have the wherewithal to financially support BGCA!
3)      Match dollar for dollar, what the Pacific Youth Foundation invests in California Clubs to support their CEO’s and provide super resourcing, philanthropy needs. And match, dollar for dollar, all that the McCabe Foundation invested in prospective CEO’s. Invest these monies in CEO recruitment efforts, ongoing training, support and coaching.
4)      Demote Kevin McCarthy. He is the epitome of a swarthy politician, good looking, great smile, great tan and perfectly coifed hair. Conversely, he is an excellent showman who is easily controlled by you to ensure that initiatives he overseas, like Native Services, only play lip service to serving Native Youth, but don’t actually provide the tools, resources and support needed. Put him back where he belongs, with other politicians.
5)      Bring back Angela Ware to a national position. She is superbly brilliant, bold, thoughtful, passionate, charismatic and a great connector. I trust that the mysterious illness that BGCA is stating is her reason for moving back to a local Club level is a fallacy and instead, that you prevented her from doing the work that she was recruited to do because she was not staying in her House Negro role. I expect that you will offer her the position that you’ve created for Kevin, pay her 30% more than what you are paying him, provide back pay for the time that she has been away from BGCA to acknowledge the pain and suffering she certainly endured for perpetuating your lies.
6)      Fire Mary O’Connor. She is a racist, condescending, lazy, entitled and negligent person. She does not deserve the honor of supporting Major Metro Clubs. Frankly she doesn’t deserve to clean toilets at any of our locations.
7)      Honor Dr. Damon Williams. He is brilliant, charismatic, has invaluable connections with colleges and universities that we should be tapping into if the Academic Success Formula For Impact arm is really an outcome area you care about. Dr. Williams should remain in his position, paid 40% more than he currently is and allowed to be a spokesperson to talk about REAL issues of power and privilege that are preventing our Black and Brown boys from transitioning to institutions of higher learning instead of prisons.
8)      Create the BGCA Communities for Cultural and International Inclusion and Success. This will do what SOAPP, Latino Outreach, Global BGC, Native Services, LGBTQ and Delinquency Prevention could be doing if resources were directed the way that they should be. BGCA is happy to exploit how many Black and Brown youth, particularly females, are being served. The ironies are plentiful: you didn’t do a God damn thing to make this happen. Support, guidance, education, nurturing starts at the Club level. Clubs whose Youth of the Year candidates move forward do so on their own dime. NONE of my kids are chosen to move on because they are poor and White, a demographic that are not very sexy to your donors. The mythology that BGCA is providing the resources to prevent the school to prison pipeline for Black and Brown boys, empowering poor girls to keep their legs closed through the proselytizing of abstinence, that programs need to be “adapted” for Native American youth, that Latino families need to be “empowered” in order to be properly engaged and participatory in Clubs, to not actually have any programs that acknowledge the complexities around identity development for LGBTQ youth. To exploit the racial and ethnic diversity of the youth you serve, have two African American people in executive leadership who are too na├»ve to know that they are being used as Uncle Tom’s and that statistically, the racial and ethnic diversity among CEO’s is not only sparse, but that over 85% of the CEO’s of color within the movement are recruited from outside of the movement.
9)      Stop creating new curricula that you claim is revised, when in fact the information is the same, presented in a prettier package and with new corporate donor names on the cover. Discussing abstinence in SMART Girls instead of discussing sex in the context of healthy relationships is biased and outdated.
10)   Acknowledge that the special categorization of DOD’s for military clubs, Major Metro and Native Services are reflective of BGCA’s opportunistic values to capitalize on specialized federal and/or corporate dollars and not at all reflective of the populations we are serving who are in need of focused, unique attention.

My expectations:
1)      An investment of $500,000 to my foundation. The Phoenix Rising Foundation will provide the financial, human, and training resources to uplift entire communities, by bringing like valued non-profits together under one roof to support the idea that the measure of a community is how it treats its most disenfranchised members. Non-profits will be selected based upon their reputation among the population(s) they serve, in how effectively and thoughtfully they enliven their mission; the intelligence, strategic vision, work ethic, integrity and passion of the Executive Director; a signed code of ethics and code of conduct statements by each non-profit’s board of directors and Executive Director; quarterly financial and program reports; a 100% unrestricted financial commitment by each non-profit’s board and Executive Director; annual dues based on budget size; 10 hours per month of service in the community garden; 10 hours per month of service in the kitchen; 20 hours per month of reading to K-3 grade students; 20 hours per month of driving assistance for community elders.
2)      A public statement by President Jim Clark on March 29, confessing the need to better serve the youth who need us most: African American, Latino, Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander, girls, youth identifying as LGBTQ, youth who are on probation. To better serve these youth, the Center for Cultural Equity & Success will be created. BGCA will invest $2,000,000 in this Center, with SOAPP, Latino Outreach, Clubs in Indian Country, LGBTQ initiative, Delinquency Prevention and Global BGC all falling under this umbrella. The Center for Cultural Equity and Success will support youth, their families and respective communities through specialized programs, activities, scholarships, workshops and traveling opportunities that will enhance their self-esteem, create/build wealth, provide a larger sense of community and give a unified voice to issues that affect the populations most marginalized and oppressed in our national and global communities. There will be a one month vetting process, with staff who are currently operating any one of these programs that fall under what will be the Center for Cultural Equity & Success, given the chance to interview first. The next round will be opened up to all local Club staff, with the last round given to non-Club/BGCA affiliated people who will be brought on as consultants only.
3)      Contract with Consultant, Kirk Dominick, of I2 Consulting, to reform the structure of BGCA. He is the rightful heir of the BGCA Presidency, however ego, corruption, greed, low self-esteem and manipulation forced him out.

These expectations are non-negotiable. I expect to hear from you and/or your attorney no later than March 28, 5pm PST via e-mail: (email address removed for blog) with payment arrangements. Should this not happen, you can expect to see me hosting a press conference at one of our major state capitals, accompanied by representatives from the NAACP, ACLU, Rotary International,   


  1. Wow. Overly-glorious resume (with actual meat of the issue as a footnote) aside, this letter reads like she's demanding a ransom. I get a distinct feeling that there were some divisive personality conflicts and it's apparent why she was shown the door. Along with the letter she wrote to Mr. Clearly/HAF it seems to me that she has some considerable disagreements with and disdain for everyone she works with (implied by her lengthy list of "qualifications"), so it's hard to take sides (actual grievances vs. just being a general pain in the ass to work with). But she made it rather clear that she intends to go nuclear if she doesn't get her way and paid for it. I have to wonder if she's working for the best interests of the B&G, or her own.

    1. TMOB, a predictable response. This is why I printed her letter in full. Unlike you and many others, Liz is using her name. I use my name. I find it amusing, especially locally those that cast motives on others, including me, never have the guts to use their name. You know why? Because their agenda, their bias, and/or their connections to those being exposed would be revealed. Your reading of her letter is your opinion. Others may share it; others will not. I usually print anonymous comments but whether it is you or anyone else, if the comment is libelous, rude, a personal attack or unrelated to the topic, I do moderate. A responsible site does that. BGCA can chose to respond or not. If they chose to stay silent, that is their choice. Let's see how they respond to some serious allegations. Let's also see if the so called liberal local media has the guts to investigate this story or or their standing up for diversity is all talk and let's see if they stand up to "powers" in this town.

  2. Anonymous you are an ignorant fool you have no idea what she's done for not just the member and staff but what she's done for the community I've known Liz Smith since I was in second grade I'm now 23years old she's done an amazing job and excelled in life and business and I have never herd her talk like that but you know what she has every right to if you ask me she censored herself too much
    I say way to go Liz use that 5th amendment you are my idol thanks for everything you've done for me and everyone

  3. Marcia WolhandlerApril 11, 2017 at 4:40 PM

    Ok, she is angry and maybe went a little overboard with the personal insults, but her anger is very justified. I don't care about her awards, but how she dealt with the financial situation of the organization was jaw dropping. Any nonprofit organization would snap her up in a heartbeat. To see a basically worthwhile organization lose such talent and dedication is heartbreaking. I don't know why in so many kinds of organizations the shit tends to float to the top, and dedicated smart people leave for more lucrative placements where they are recognized and rewarded. I'm certain Ms.Smith will go on to much success somewhere else,it is only the great loss of our local Boys and Girls Club.

  4. Wow. What a spite fest. No matter what Liz Smith had done or not done (and I'm far an outsider to know,) taking your biggest cannons and using them to shoot a giant hole in your own boat is scarily dysfunctional. To the boat if nothing else. The world abounds in unfairness and learning to live with it while maintaining your own integrity is paramount.

    Name calling, even if justified, never results in getting cooperation. Being a brutal dictator, even right, creates opposition. I always had a feeling of tension whenever Mz. Smith appeared but I thought it was because I caught her at a bad moment. But reading her letter, it think there were nothing but bad moments going on inside her. Too bad as I started contributing when I saw positive activity going on at their building, for which she was in large part responsible.

    As for using my name, it is too dangerous to a person's equanimity around such hostility to do that. Apparently on instantaneous agreement is acceptable.

    But I thank you for publishing her own words so I have a better understanding of what happened. It was distressing only to have innuendos and rumors floating around.

  5. I don't know the particulars of this situation, but I do know that BGCA has an awful culture that will unfortunately result in reactions and behaviors that may be far from the character that a person would normally display. The HR team doesn't keep confidential matters confidential, promotions are given to those who are popular over those who are skilled, and leaders without leadership skills are allowed to wreak havoc on entire departments. Incidents like this are never objectively investigated. Things get swept under the rug, and business as usual - which is normally figuring out how to keep dollars in operating budgets vs spending them on pesky youth programs - will continue.

    1. i see why you didnt use your real name!