Updated: Charlotte AIDS org transitions to new group

Transition to new org currently underway

An update to this story was published in the Feb. 7 print edition. Click here to read it.

Originally published: Jan. 29, 2009, 10:51 a.m.
Updated: Jan. 31, 2009, 11:18 a.m.

CHARLOTTE — The largest AIDS service organization in North Carolina’s largest metropolitan area, on the verge of closing, has changed leadership and will operate under a new name.

The Charlotte Observer reported Thursday morning that Metrolina AIDS Project (MAP) executive director Ann White had left her position with the group on Monday. Associate Director Robert Oltz declined to comment further on White’s departure but told Q-Notes she left “as of 5 p.m. on Monday.” On the same day, 32 MAP employees were told they would be laid off. Two days later, that decision was reversed as MAP leadership, with the assistance of federal consultant Dr. Jose Diaz, worked to continue the AIDS organization’s client services.

“We thought we might be closing,” Oltz told Q-Notes. “We’ve had discussions with other providers and we are working through a transitioning process so that we will continue to provide services.”

The Charlotte Observer reported that other local AIDS service organizations could take over some of MAP’s responsibilities. Oltz declined to comment further with Q-Notes; he said other organizations’ boards had not yet met to discuss the proposals.

Diaz, who MAP asked to stay for “technical assistance,” said federal funding for MAP had been put “on hold” and that they had spoken with local funders. He said operation will continue and that client services will not be interrupted. MAP is not under investigation but is undergoing a “routine review.”

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“We have met with all MAP’s funders,” Diaz told The Observer. “They’re going to continue to provide those funds. Our goal is to not interrupt service.”

Diaz said the $1.2 million in Ryan White CARE Act funding could be restored to MAP’s successor. Oltz said on Jan. 30, that the government had reinstated the Part D Grants that are a portion of the Ryan White funding.

The medical clinic MAP had announced would open in October 2008 never did. Oltz said MAP had “neglected to get approval for reimbursement by Medicare and Medicaid, health programs for the poor, elderly and disabled,” according to The Observer. Oltz confirmed that technical difficulties had prevented the organization from opening the clinic.

Further, Oltz told Q-Notes that the current financial situation was unrelated to concerns over past finances. “This is more related to an ongoing concern that donations have never really picked up,” he said.

Oltz also said that the current situation had “transpired over several weeks” and stemmed partly from organizational problems surrounding the opening of the medical clinic.

“The government had suspended our Part C and Part D [Ryan White] grants because they felt the clinic had not moved quickly enough to get open and see clients,” he said.

According to Oltz, other than ongoing payables, MAP has no extraordinary debt currently. The group’s annual 990 financial report might be released as early as next week.

Oltz assured clients that their aim is to keep their services relatively unchanged. “If someone walks into our offices on Monday and need help, we’ll be here,” he said.

The new non-profit entity that will succeed MAP will begin formation as early as next week. Oltz said a completely new board will be formed for the new organization.

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On Friday, a group of community organizations, including the county health department and city government, had convened in support of MAP, which has requested the county government advance them money on their contract so that they can continue operation through the transition.

New details regarding Thaw Fund monies
In February 2008, Q-Notes reported on rumored financial mismanagement at MAP, including missing and then reimbursed monies out of the Dennis Thaw Fund, to which the LGBT-oriented group Carolina Celebration contributed.

At the time, Q-Notes revealed that several thousand dollars from the Thaw Fund had been misappropriated by MAP’s board of directors. Carolina Celebration board member and founder Ed Pasquale told Q-Notes that the missing $4,000 had been reimbursed after it was used to pay for an educational conference.

But on Friday, Oltz revealed that the Thaw money had never been approved by MAP’s board, but solely by Dan King, a member of the board and an officer of Carolina Celebration.

“We’ve been skirting this issue for a year now,” Oltz said regarding the Thaw Fund. “I’m tired of dealing with it.”

In the same February 2008 article, Q-Notes reported that in late 2007, then-MAP Board President Robert Dogens had suggested discussing an “exit strategy” for the organization. In February, Dogens declined to comment and White and Oltz assured Q-Notes that the situation was improving and that debts were being paid down. On Friday, Dogens said that some of his comments might have “been taken out of context” and, as far as he knew, MAP “never went into debt beyond” normal expenditures and payables.

Oltz was adamant regarding his insistence that there had been no financial mismanagement at MAP.

CORRECTION: In this original Q-Notes story, we mistakenly cited Ann White as the source who told us about the reimbursement of Dennis Thaw Funds. That person was Carolina Celebration board member Ed Pasquale. Q-Notes apologizes for any inconvenience.

An update to this story was published in the Feb. 7 print edition. Click here to read it.

Readers and community members with concerns, questions or news tips are encouraged to contact Editor Matt Comer at 704-531-9988, ext. 201, or via email editor@q-notes.com.

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer is a staff writer for QNotes. He previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015.