[Nameplate] Fair ~ 47°F  
High: 77°F ~ Low: 55°F
Friday, May 6, 2016

Editor's Letter to the Public

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dear public,

Boy, I guess she told me a thing or two.

I'm talking about Shanna Maguffee, Chief Operating Officer for the White River Area Agency on Aging (WRAAA).

Maguffee savaged me in a Letter to the Editor last week for an article I wrote about why WRAAA is replacing the non-profit Fulton County Council on Aging, and will take over local senior citizen centers and senior programs in July.

Maguffee was apparently mad that I spoke with Connie Godwin, the long-time coordinator of local senior programs, as well as Ed Haas, WRAAA's director.

According to Maguffee, my article was biased, "slanted to Godwin's comments and feelings," and I was negligent not to go through meeting minutes, audit reports, quarterly review notes and other documents relating to the Council on Aging's management of the senior program.

It is true, I did not do that. The reason is, I saw no need. Haas told me up front the change in management was not a criminal matter -- that "money was not misspent." According to Haas, the non-profit had to be replaced because its board rarely met, and it fell short when it came to raising money to run and expand programs for seniors. According to Haas, federal and state funds pay for only about 50 percent of funds needed to run senior citizen programs.

Anytime a community organization has to be reorganized, it is a delicate matter. When I wrote the story, I concentrated on letting Haas and Godwin tell their stories.

In the story, Haas said, since the board showed no interest in changing or improving, his agency would take over local senior programs while it looked for another organization to run the programs. Haas told me new managers would raise funds like crazy, energize the community to recruit a team of volunteers and senior programs would get better and even expand.

For her part, Godwin expressed surprise that, after nearly 30 years of providing senior programs in Fulton County, all she got was a curt, four sentence letter saying her agency would not get a new contract to operate local programs. A requested explanation was not given. Godwin said, while things had been tough financially in recent years, the Council on Aging had always come up with the additional money it needed to operate senior centers and distribute in-home meals. While other counties have cut senior citizen programs because of money troubles, she was proud to say Fulton County had avoided cuts in service.

The story ended on a conciliatory note, with Haas saying he was "not getting after anybody," but Fulton County's senior programs "just could be a lot better."

Godwin said maybe it is time for her and her non-profit to step aside for new blood to come in, and she "wished them (new management) luck."

Sorry Shanna, but I don't see a biased, slanted story.

In her Letter to the Editor, Maguffee showed me how it should have been written. She called Godwin "confused," a liar, or someone who was "in some cases completely dishonest." Maguffee went on to infer Godwin or her board had stashed money in an "undisclosed bank account," and intentionally collected money from WRAAA through "fraudulent billing."

Anyone who knows Connie Godwin will be offended by the unprovoked, slanderous attack. Godwin is a respected member of this community. She and her husband, Dale, and her brother-in-law, Dowl Godwin, stepped up, in February of 1983, to try to save the small, struggling senior center on the square. Their years of work led to the three modern centers we have today. The centers and a home meal delivery program have served thousands and thousands of people over the past 30 years.

A crook out to make money off seniors? That is not the Connie Godwin this community knows. If there was any evidence of that, Godwin and her board should have been investigated and charged long ago.

From my experience, I would say this community is going to be wary of some 'we're-taking-over' bureaucrats from Independence County. So, for WRAAA to begin its campaign to generate citizen support by attacking Godwin and her board was, unquestionably, a stupid move. A better idea would have been to START by thanking Connie, Dale and Dowl Godwin, and other senior center supporters, for their years of service and accomplishments, as the new managers begin work to make the future even better.

My plan is to continue to try to fairly report on senior citizen programs, fundraisers and financial problems, just as I have for two years now. I, like Godwin, wish WRAAA good luck when it takes over on July 1. We know there are many seniors in this county who desperately need the continued help and support senior programs provide.

But, it is difficult to see how the Area Agency on Aging is going to bring the community together to revitalize and expand local senior programs if it continues to use the arrogant and hateful attitude its leaders have displayed before even getting started.