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More on CDF’s ‘Crazy A** B****’ Fiasco: Board Prez Knew of Shocking Letter Since NOV ’09

Ed. Note: In light of Monday’s revelation that Martina Guilfoil, executive director of the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund (CDF), had resigned after it was discovered that she had written a shocking, profanity-laced letter to a local business owner, we asked Board President Joshua Williams to respond to several questions. His answers are below unedited.

How & when did the Board first learn of Ms. Guilfoil’s letter to Ms. Jones?

The full Board learned of the letter on August 12, 2010.  I was aware of the letter on November 19, 2009 – but chose not to share it with the full board with an understanding from Martina that it was inexcusable and that the letter was to be destroyed, not shared internally or externally, and she agreed.  We were notified by Ms. Jones on August 23rd that it had been anonymously delivered to her business.

How would you characterize the Board’s overall response at that time?

The Board was unanimous in their agreement that it was unacceptable, inexcusable, unprofessional and extremely harmful and that an immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding the letter should be undertaken.  The Board felt that if there were other instances in which Ms. Guilfoil had acted in a manner that didn’t best serve or represent the Fund, we needed to have that information.

Is it the Board’s position that Ms. Guilfoil did not actually send the letter to Ms. Jones?

This our understanding.

If so, do you have any idea who did?

This is part of the investigation that is not yet completed.

Is the Board aware of any other misconduct by Ms. Guilfoil?

At this point we cannot comment on any other issues with Ms. Guilfoil, as she has resigned her post with our organization and to discuss those matters publicly would not serve the community or the Fund.  We can say that Ms. Guilfoil is not believed to have done any legal wrongdoing.

Can you confirm that two other RVCDF staff members are currently on unpaid leave?

Two staff members are on leave.

If so, does their leave have anything to do with Ms. Guilfoil’s letter?

At this point we cannot comment on the leave of our staff since that would violate their privacy.

We can however say that we are assessing the conduct and professionalism of the CDF work-place, including our entire staff and roll of the Board, at this time to ensure that we can move forward with a team of individuals who want to serve the community and have the best interests of the Fund at heart.

According to his RVCDF bio, Joshua Williams serves as Vice President of International Banking and Trade Solutions for Wells Fargo Bank and has been a member of the Board since 2003. He lives with his family in the Mt. Baker neighborhood. Photo/RVCDF

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14 comments on “More on CDF’s ‘Crazy A** B****’ Fiasco: Board Prez Knew of Shocking Letter Since NOV ’09

  1. Thanks, RVP, for this insightful interview with Joshua Williams.

    As pointed out by Peter M in the previous post on this topic, it appears the problems at the RVCDF extend beyond the Executive Director. I’m troubled that Mr. Williams did not deem this issue serious enough to share with the full board. I believe it was poor judgment on the part of Mr. Williams to keep this information from the board.

    Clearly, Ms. Guilfoil harbors feelings that are inappropriate for the Executive Director of a non-profit agency which is responsible for managing public funds intended to help and encourage small businesses. The letter should have been presented to the community-based Board at the first opportunity. Withholding Ms. Guilfoil’s letter, and failing to take swift corrective measures, permitted a cancer to grow within the RVCDF.

    It is especially troubling to learn that the salon was later approved for funding from Community Capital. Bias from RVCDF employees and/or Board members prevented the RVCDF from approving funding from OUR community development fund. Appalling!

    I encourage Josh Williams to do the right thing by tendering his resignation immediately. It’s time to clean house at the RVCDF.

  2. Thank you RVP for staying on this story happening in our own backyard — however, it seems to get worse by the hour.

    The CDF Board President admitted that he had full knowledge of this highly derogatory letter but failed to disclose it to the board back in Nov. is enough to call for his resignation .

    It’s time for the City’s Office of Economic Development to take action and regain control of the Rainier Valley CDF or just shut it down.

  3. I agree with ‘trudy206, that it’s time to regain control of the RVCDF. However, it is not up to the Office of Economic Development, nor do they have the authority to ‘shut it down’. This is OUR community development agency and OUR money. WE control it and WE direct the funds. The city has been trying to gain control over this fund for years. To the city I say, “Hands Off!” The community is fully capable of resolving this matter without surrendering yet more control of our community to those who inhabit City Hall.

    The solution is to nominate local business owners and community leaders to the RVCDF. Great care should be given to expose any conflict of interest of potential Board candidates, i.e. ties to the city or other non-proft agencies, etc..

    There are openings on the RVCDF Board, any nominations?

  4. So, after finding out about the letter, the board “was unanimous in their agreement that it was unacceptable, inexcusable, unprofessional and extremely harmful” but when Mr. Josh Williams found out about it, he chose to sweep it under the carpet with a “wink and a nod” probably to Ms, Guilfoil, what does this say about Mr. Williams’ judgement? Clearly this is not the behavior one would expect from a board chair of any organization, let alone one that is publicly funded.

    Mr. Williams just made the case for his removal as board chair when in essense he confirms that he conspired with Ms. Guilfoil to “not to share it (the letter) with the full board with an understanding from Martina that it was inexcusable and that the letter was to be destroyed, not shared internally or externally”. I would further submit that that his own employer, Wells Fargo should also look into his conduct since in my view he has brought their name into disripute by condoning the actions of Ms Guilfoil and hiding them from the board until they became public.

    As has already been mentioned, the investigation into what happened or what led Ms Guilfoil to write such a letter needs to be conducted by an outside entity, Mr. Williams needs to be shown the door and the entire board needs to be suspended while the investigation is conducted. The board put their own judgement into question when they agreed that what Ms. Guilfoil did was unacceptable and inexcusable, but did not see anything wrong in Mr. Guilfoil’s hiding the letter and the incident from them for nine months. I would even suggest that any new funding to RVCDF be diverted to other entities that are willing to support small businesses in the Valley.

  5. AHA! As I suspected! While the editor “trolled” me for connecting dots, she also went to the source to substantiate what some suspected. Kudos. We know now that Joshua Williams failed to notify the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund (CDF) board members about the infamous letter last year. We know that the CDF board only became aware of the letter when Jessie Jones informed them of the damning correspondence. We now know that two employees are “on leave” and an investigation is taking place.

    Right now I would hate to be the two employees on the hot seat. As a reader suggested in the first report, one wonders if that board will be more focussed on damage control and punishing allegedly “bad employees” than addressing the leadership problems at the RVCDF.

    If I were a betting person, I’d wager that Martina Guilfoil will land on her feet with another executive job with a six-figure salary. The country is full of the underprivileged people whom Guilfoil has spent more than two decades serving. Maybe Oakland? If Williams falls on the sword and resigns, another RVCDF-like organization will snap him up. Arguably, any lack of judgment stemmed from a desire to protect the RVCDF from bad publicity.

    The two employees on leave won’t be as lucky if any evidence of wrongdoing is determined. If they are punished for leaking the letter, the penalty is likely to be more than verbal reprimands. And don’t count on any performance bonuses. The rank and file fall faster and harder than executives and presidents.

  6. Time for you to resign as well, Joshua. If there is one thing the community requires of the RVCDF, one thing it must not f*ck up, it is trust. I believe the RVCDF as an institution has integrity and has been crucial in supporting musiness on MLK through light rail construction and now a recession. But your actions (and certainly MG’s) have made that conviction a lot harder to hold. The RVCDF is more important than you. The honorable thing to do is for you to put in place a plan to get your organization back on the path to credibility and then step down.

  7. What are these fools thinking? Clean house or get out now. Institutional racism permeating from our own community development fund is a travesty.

  8. @ Garlic Gulch

    I’m glad something like this got out because it shines the light on the people who go around riding their rainbow coalition car pretending to be “down” with everything and everyone.

  9. Sounds like several of you should call the RVCDF and offer your own volunteer time in service of the Valley. They are looking for new board members. If Williams (or any other Board member) steps down, someone else (maybe YOU?) will need to help galvanize this organization forward. And even without someone stepping aside, they still need more help. Time to stop yelling from rafters and step onto the court instead. This organization needs our help not our rants.

  10. It sounds like nobody knew the letter was mailed until August 23rd, at which time they took action. If Mr. Williams was told the letter was never sent, I understand his response. How would they have known it was sent or that it was a problem?

    I’m not sure I understand the accusations of institutional racism, either. As soon as they knew the letter was sent, swift and harsh action was taken. August 23rd was less than two weeks ago.

    And the City should definitely not take control of a community based organization. It is, by design, meant to be run by the community. I am not ok with the administration, particularly this administration, running an organization for our community. We’d have upscale townhomes on every corner and dog parks on every block. We’d be the New Ballard.

  11. Institutional racism is the collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their color, culture, or ethnic origin.

    To be turned down for a loan is one thing, but to write a letter blasting the applicant (a black woman with a business on MLK that has been negatively impacted by light rail construction over the years) for being a “broke ass” and for “wasting their time” among other things is blatantly racist if nothing else.

  12. To Valley residents, small business owners and readers of the RVP: The RVCDF, in its last two years of operation, has provided a great service to the community by giving out more than $20 million in loans to businesses of all sizes in the Valley.

    Josh has personally met with Ms. Jones to offer his apologies and the apologies of the entire board. We ask for your patience and support as we move forward. We each believe strongly that the CDF can continue to be a valuable asset to the entire community. We want to quickly resolve this and get back to the business of assisting Rainier Valley businesses and entrepreneurs.

    This is a Board made up entirely volunteers. If you want to help us get back to business by volunteering your time and expertise, we’d love to have you. Please contact me at 206 601 6278.

  13. Seanna Jordan – I will contact you tonight. Just to have clear understanding – I am interested in serving the community FIRST and FOREMOST. Yes, RVCDF needs to move forward; but it cannot do so without clear, measurable and transparent steps to regain the public trust and supports.

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