There is controversy within one of the oldest and largest Deaf nonprofit organizations in California, DCARA Deaf Counseling Advocacy and Referral Agency that has led to their executive director Raymond Rodgers to be placed on paid leave pending an investigation.
This afternoon, I got word from the DCARA management team that the DCARA board president Judy Gough has resigned.
I will discuss what happened and show you an interview with several DCARA staff.
Before going into this story, I want to acknowledge that I, Alex Abenchuchan, am an outsider trying to understand and explain what is going on and that I am a white person covering a story that has issues impacting persons of color.
The center of the controversy appears to be about two things: a vlog made by Gough, and the DCARA board placing Rodgers on paid leave with an investigation.
Here is a timeline of key incidents.
Sometime within the past month, Rodgers was put on paid leave, but there was no official announcement posted on DCARA’s social media accounts.
Last Wednesday the DCARA management team consisting of five people posted a vlog, led by Rosa Lee Timm, confirming that Rodgers is on paid leave. They explained that they do not know the reasons why nor do they know how long he will be on leave.
Last Thursday the DCARA Board Vice-President Tom Murillo posted a vlog explaining that they have hired an investigator to get the facts and that they are required to maintain confidentiality during the process.
On Friday, 22 of DCARA’s staff made an united vlog demanding Gough and the entire board to resign and for Rodgers to be reinstated. They said in early February, Gough made a public vlog attacking a Deaf Black man and his minor child and said she did this in her role as DCARA Board President.
The Deaf Black man is Sam Holden, who is the National Level Black Deaf Advocates Vice President.
I was able to confirm Gough did make a vlog in which she suggested Holden was a drug user and that his child was adopted.
Several people emphasized that this was not true. The vlog was taken down briefly after it was posted, but several people saw it.
The vlog by Gough appears to be a part of heated debates on social media about the relationship between LEAD-K and AG Bell. It seems like there were several personal attacks levied by people from different sides against each other when the vlog came up.
The DCARA staff said they met with the DCARA board on February 22 and made several demands — for there to be a public apology to the Deaf Black man and his child, for Gough to immediately resign, for the board and Rodgers to apologize to the public, and for there to be a written policy of zero tolerance for the abuse of power and privilege.
The staff said they set deadlines for the demands but that none of the demands have been met. They said DCARA’s staff of color have been targeted and the work environment has become increasingly hostile.
The vlog was posted on DCARA’s Facebook page, but was taken down shortly afterwards, but the vlog was reposted on YouTube and on several other people’s social media accounts.
I reached out to the staff of DCARA to ask several follow-up questions. They were able to send video responses.
I asked them to explain what they meant when they said the only issue with Gough’s vlog was that she made it in her role as DCARA’s Board President.
DCARA Staff: Thank you for giving the DCARA staff an opportunity to answer your questions. This is for transparency and communication purposes. To answer your question, DCARA’s Board President Judy Gough identified herself as DCARA board present when she made a public vlog to verbally attack to a person of color, a Black man, and his minor child. Her message to that individual’s and his child directly conflicted with DCARA’s values. Her action had and continues to have an indirect and adverse impact on the communities and organizations DCARA serves.
Alex: I asked them which DCARA staff saw the vlog and what made them decide to meet the board with the list of demands.
DCARA Staff: Multiple staff members saw the vlog in which Judy identified herself as DCARA Board president before proceeding with her vlog. We decided to call in the board, including board president, with our list of demands due to lack of a timely response and accountability. On February 22nd, during the board and POC staff call in with the agency witnessing, Judy did acknowledge her vlog, her wrongdoings, and agreed to step down.
Alex: I asked if they felt their demands were a part of the reason why Rodgers was asked to leave. I asked if they could share if he “sided” with their demands or if he was opposed.
DCARA Staff: We cannot speculate why our executive director was suspended. We have no information. After the February 22 meeting between the POC staff and the board, Rodgers was suspended shortly afterwards. The timing is suspicious. We do want to add that Raymond Rodgers did meet our 4th demand by making an apology vlog, but was barred by the board from posting.
Alex: I asked why the staff mentioned a hostile work environment, what made it hostile?
DCARA Staff: On Monday, March 4th DCARA board members showed up at our headquarters office without warning with a letter to suspend a POC staff. DCARA board members returned on Tuesday, March 5th to serve the letter of suspension to the same POC staff. The Board did not follow DCARA’s bylaws regarding proper communication channels by directly approaching this staff member instead of the management team. There continues to be a threat of intimidation and a cause of worry throughout the agency. The board continues to not communicate with the staff thus there is no transparency.
Alex: I asked if the staff felt like their jobs were at risk because of the vlog they made. I asked if they were prepared to lose their jobs.
DCARA Staff: We are deeply concerned about the potential loss of our jobs. We do have this fear since this whole thing started and the confrontations. We have to do the right thing. We are also prepared to resign collectively if there is no accountability with the board.
Alex: I asked if they wanted to add anything.
DCARA Staff: DCARA staff is here to serve our Deaf in communities by continuing to providing quality services to our clients. We will continue to stand up for our communities by living our values. DCARA’s doors are always open. Our statement of demands from March 8, 2019 has not changed.
Alex: Thank you, DCARA staff, for your time.
I reached out to the DCARA Vice-President Tom Murillo a few days ago to see if they could provide comment on the reason why Rodgers was placed on paid leave with an investigation and comments on Gough’s vlog.
Murillo and the board told me that they have to keep the investigation and the process confidential until it is done.
I reached out to Holden and a person associated with Gough for comment, but both declined.
The Bay Area Black Deaf Advocates (BABDA) posted an open letter on March 11 to the DCARA Board expressing concern for DCARA’s lack of transparency and their “inappropriate course of action taken.” They said they support the DCARA staff and have called on the DCARA Board and Rodgers to apologize for not being proactive in responding to the situation.
The California Association of the Deaf, the California Latinx Deaf Advocates, Bay Area Asian Deaf Association, and DeafHope made statements supporting BABDA.
BABDA plans to host a town hall meeting on Friday, March 15 at the Deaf Community Center in San Leandro.
As I was writing this story, I got word from the DCARA management team that Gough has resigned. There will be more information going out soon, and I will update this story when there is more information in the comments section.
DCARA Management Team Video: https://www.facebook.com/DCARA1962/videos/272023153693810/
DCARA VP Murillo Video: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=393830548096885
DCARA Staff Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkVWVkQdqvM&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR0KR9aBWKzHWcXgwJSDgZITortllqq6PJ4hk6tGBit6i5qdwrog6M8l6Qo