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Commission Minutes

September 24, 2020

Present: Jonathan Barczyk, Ed Barrett, Celeste Branham, Susan Cheesman, John Portela, Luke Shorty, Jenifer Tilton-Flood.

Public Comment Period.  No public comments were offered.

Call to Order.  Chair Branham called the meeting to order at 10:06 am.  After Commission member introductions, Chair introduced Susan Cheesman. Chair then asked for a minute of silence in memory of Zach Harder, office administrator who passed away over the weekend. His contribution to the Commission was appreciated.  The Commission will be sending a letter of condolence to his parents and to Kirsten Brewer, his partner.  Chair reminded everyone to sign in using the chat box. She also asked members to respond to future emails about whether they can attend meetings.

Barrett had the correct answer to the quiz.  Maryalice put the correct answers up on the screen for everyone.

Announcements and Appreciations.  Chair will be sending thanks to Jamie Logan and Maria Staples for their service on the Commission.  They both are not seeking reappointment because of other obligations.

New Chair for Financial Oversight.  Chair introduced Luke Shorty as the new chair for Financial Oversight and thanked him for taking on this position.

Board Member Changes.  Chair reported that a list of recommendations for appointment has been presented to the Governor.  In August the Executive Committee and Maryalice worked on the list of prospective Commissioners to fill the 12 vacancies. The list of recommended individuals was shared for all to see.  Another change occurred. Susan Cheesman is replacing Anne Ostberg from the Corporation of National Service.  Barrett, Doak, and Shorty have asked for reappointments. Maryalice said the Governor has not acted on any Commission nominations since March 16.  The Commission really needs to be brought back to full force.  Shorty asked how many current Commission members are still seated.  Maryalice said 13.  There are 25 positions total.  Portela said every board and commission in the state faces the same problem. He suggested we reach out to other boards and sign a letter to the Governor.  Chair said she would take this under advisement, and have Executive Committee discuss the strategy. 

Additions, Deletions, Changes to the Agenda.  None were requested.  Moved by Shorty to approve the agenda.  Second by Portela.  Vote on the motion:  In favor – Barczyk, Barrett, Portela, Shorty, and Tilton-Flood.  Opposed – none.  Motion approved. 

Consent Agenda.  Included in the Consent Agenda were minutes from the June 26 Commission business meeting, and the Executive Committee meetings of July 7, August 4, and September 1. Accepted and approved.

Focus on Mission Responsibilities

Inspector General Audit:  Chair reported that Tuesday, September 22, that she and Maryalice participated in a meeting with the Inspector General, representatives of LearningWorks, Maine Conservation Corps, and CNCS to review the report that was submitted on the findings that were quite concerning.  Chair explained there findings allege insufficient documentation for in-kind office and classroom space, and service hours of teachers. Tilton-Flood said this is not about willful wrong doing, but not doing well by the OIG standards.  Barrett was concerned what impact this might have on other grantees and doesn’t want other agencies put at risk.  Shorty asked if the state attorney general can give legal advice and support. LearningWorks does have 2 attorneys and auditor.  Shorty asked about the timeline for dispute resolution.  Maryalice said by the end of 2 weeks, a draft final report will be issued.  Once they issue it, CNCS has 30 days to respond.  LearningWorks will report to us, then we report to the Inspector General who has the final word. After the final OIG report is issued, the matter moves to the CNCS resolution office and CNCS determines what action it wants to take on the OIG recommendation related to its finding.

Schedule of Meetings.  The proposed upcoming scheduled Commission meetings for 2020-2021 was presented:  October 16 (10:00-1:00), No meeting in November, December 18 (10:00-1:00), No meeting in January, February 19 OR March 19, April 16, May 21, and June 18.  There will be no in person meetings for the rest of 2020. There were no objections to the schedule.

Business Reports. 

Grant Selection and Performance. Barrett reported on the following policy issues for Commission action:

Proposed Policy:  All Fixed-Amount AmeriCorps grants will be charged an amount not to exceed 1% of their CNCS award, at the time of submission of reimbursement requests.

Background: Under AmeriCorps grant rules, Commissions may claim up to 2% of the 5% indirect amount budgeted under the federal share of an AmeriCorps grant. Our Commission only claims 1%. The 1% (totaling $11,930 for this cycle) pays for services/technical support and memberships that decrease the costs overall for State programs.  Barrett reported that the 1% for technical assistance is not claimed on fixed grants now.  This is not fair, to charge some but not others.  This policy would make things equitable. Moved by Barrett to approve Proposed Policy #1.  Second by Tilton-Flood.  Vote on the motion:  In favor – Barczyk, Barrett, Portela, Shorty, and Tilton-Flood.  Opposed – none.  Motion approved.

Proposed Policy:  When grantee reports are not submitted according to the schedule in the grant agreement or contract, and no extension has been granted, there will be the following repercussions:

First offense: Written warning letter from the grants officer with requirement of corrective action plan sent to program staff and agency director.

Second offense: Written notice requiring new corrective action and suspension of reimbursement until evidence that corrective action is in place and working.  The written notice will be distributed to the full Commission.

Third offense:  5 points will be deducted from the grant review total, during continuations and recompetes, for every instance of delinquent reporting thereafter.  

Discussion.  Tilton-Flood said this is not about punishment, but to convince people this is the best way of reporting, to correct their actions.  Barrett said this applies going forward, not retroactive.  Moved by Barrett to approve proposed policy.  Second by Barczyk.  Vote on the motion:  In favor – Barczyk, Barrett, Portela, Shorty, and Tilton-Flood.  Opposed – none.  Motion approved. 

Call for Peer Reviewers.  Barrett reported that more peer reviewers are needed.  Deadline to RSVP is in October.  Peer reviewers can go to the website for an application. 

National Public Policy Issues.  Portela reported that changes have been made since last June.  There will be no new stimulus packages before the election.  There has been no action on a federal budget for the year starting October 1 and, so far, no movement on a Continuing Resolution. The House adjourns around October 2. The CORPs Act discussed in June has not moved forward. There was a successful effort to insert it into the last stimulus bill but that bill also went nowhere.  At the moment, things do not look promising. 

Communications Task Force.  Tilton-Flood reported that the committee has lost members.  She asked if anyone wanted to join the committee.  She thanked Bryan for doing an excellent job providing messages and the work of the Commission.  She said Bryan has taken a new approach, besides mentoring the intern.  Regarding the potential legislation, Communications will have a report for the October 16 meeting. 

Executive Committee.  Chair reported the committee took action on three research projects.  Patrick Bloniasz reported on his project.  Brenda Zollitsch has completed her last interview on small organizations and her report will go to the Grants task force for initial review.  The final report is the basis for setting funding priorities. Consideration will involve the full Commission and begin with a work session in October, public comment in November, and action vote in December. 

CNCS Update.  Cheesman reported that she is the ex officio member for our Commission.  She gave us her background. She will cover 4 states: Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont.  Cheesman updated us on the CNCS rebranding for AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps Seniors (new names and new logos). Cheesman also explained the Maine Prosperity Corps VISTA Award to help eliminate hunger in Maine.  The 25-member VISTA project award is to the Maine Dept. of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry. It is part of a food security project VISTA is doing as a pilot.  There are 4 states involved and each is taking a different approach:  Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Texas. VISTAs should start serving in November. 

Volunteer Maine Staff Reports.  Maryalice reported that Bev Ludden, a temp, will continue helping with administrative duties through December.  The Program Officer for Volunteer Sector Initiatives is open for applications. There is currently a national search through ASC and other networks for candidates.

The State budget reductions/changes for the year ending June 30, 2021 may not be a full 10%.  The biennial budget for FY 22 and 23 is being developed now and there will be a 10% reduction.  She explained how the budget reductions would work. 

The Maine Leadership Conference will be held on October 13th by zoom.  The participant cost is $40, with an option of a watch party for $100 for a group. Cabot Cheese is a generous partner again. We have an internationally known trainer from England speaking. He is only charging $500 since he will not be traveling. 

Planning and Future Initiatives.  No known issues at this time.

Business Wrap Up.  Reminder to complete the meeting evaluation form (link is in email sent after the meeting.)

Reminder to join the Retreat at 12:30 today, plus tomorrow morning.  There are separate zoom links to join each meeting.  An email was sent by Maryalice again this morning listing the links.

Moved by Barrett to adjourn.  Seconded by Portela.  Vote on motion: In favor – Barczyk, Barrett, Portela, Shorty, Tilton-Flood.  Opposed – none. Abstentions – none. Motion approved.

The meeting adjourned at 11:41 am.