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District board protests firing of its executive

UUA, Pacific Central District 'moving forward together' after disagreeing about firing of district executive.
By Jane Greer And Christopher L. Walton
2.28.11

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The Board of Directors of the Pacific Central District of the Unitarian Universalist Association protested the decision of the UUA administration to remove its district executive earlier this month, but is working with the UUA to continue to serve congregations in northern California, northern Nevada, and Hawaii.

The district board announced February 3 that the UUA had “unilaterally severed the employment agreement” with Cilla Raughley, district executive since 2003, adding that “the PCD Board neither initiated nor supported this action.”

The Rev. Dr. Terasa Cooley, the UUA’s director of Congregational Life, issued a letter the next day. “It is unfortunate that [Raughley’s] employment must come to an end,” Cooley wrote, “but we believe it is in the best interests of our congregations and Association.” Robert Molla, UUA director of Human Resources, said that detailed information about the case cannot be shared because of the privacy issues surrounding personnel matters. Raughley’s final day was February 11.

The PCD Board publicly protested the UUA’s decision. “In the years Cilla Raughley has served PCD, she has been instrumental in establishing it as one of the highest functioning districts in the UUA,” the board said in a statement sent to UU World February 10. “We assure you that there was no suggestion of malfeasance on Cilla’s part. The PCD Board thanks her for her service and regrets that the UUA decided to terminate her employment.” One member of the board, John Schick of the First UU Church of Stockton, Calif., resigned to protest the UUA’s decision.

In response to early inquiries about the firing, the board sent a letter that pointed to a vote of “no confidence” taken by the district chapter of the UU Ministers Association in the fall. The board said, however, “The current members of the PCD Board had never been told by any minister of any dissatisfaction with Cilla's performance. Members of the board were shocked to learn of the vote at this meeting.”

The leaders of the district chapter of the UU Ministers Association released a statement on February 18 that described a history of strained relationships between Raughley and “some congregations and some ministers, as well as with the UUMA chapter specifically.” The statement, issued by the chapter’s eight-member executive committee, said that the ministers’ group had “responded to these concerns, in part, by devoting numerous meetings, holding a day-long workshop, and creating a standing subcommittee to engage in mutual conversations with her to build on strengths and sort out difficulties.” At the chapter’s October 2010 meeting, “we expressed with a 40–0 vote (5 abstaining) our lack of trust and confidence in Cilla’s leadership as District Executive, and we requested new leadership for our district.”

UUA leaders and the district board met February 12 to seek rapprochement. In a joint statement February 17, the district board, Cooley, and the Rev. Harlan Limpert, UUA vice president for Ministries and Congregational Life, said they “agreed on many common values—a primary one being that we support the health and well-being of congregations” and would continue “to discuss congregational support and transitional issues.”

District President Ed Massey told UU World, “We are moving forward working together.” The Rev. Jeanelyse Doran Adams, the district’s director of Congregational Services, has been named the primary contact person for congregations seeking district services.

Raughley expressed her disappointment with the UUA’s decision to terminate her employment. She told UU World, “I am so sad to be leaving a job I’ve loved so much, but I will be forever grateful to have been given the chance to be in this amazing role for the past seven-and-a-half years, to have been a part of doing such worthy work, and to have worked with such remarkable people.”

District executives and some other staff in the UUA’s 18 districts are co-employed by the UUA and the districts they serve. Any party in that agreement—the UUA, the district board, or the employee—could end the employment, Cooley explained. Co-employed district staff must be evaluated by both the UUA administration and the district board. In Raughley’s case, the two employers disagreed. “In practice, we’d like it to be a joint decision,” Cooley said. “We just weren’t able to reach that in this case.”


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