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Turmoil at the Adventist Development and Relief Agency

In a dramatic reshaping of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, new President and Executive Director Rudi Maier cut twenty percent of the headquarters staff this week, and demoted or changed the positions of several others.

The remaining 77 staff members gathered at the Spencerville Seventh-day Adventist Church today for an offsite meeting where a new strategic plan was to be presented.

This is the agency’s second management shift this month. On February 10, two of its vice presidents—Mark Webster, vice president for programs; and Gideon Mutero, vice president for finance—were replaced.

Brief, terse statements were released about the changes leaving many questions about the agency finances, the people being cut, and what effect the changes would have on the organization and its programs.           

A three-year gradual decline in revenue was the reason given for the cuts being made. “Many Non-Governmental Organizations reduced staff in 2009 because of the downturn in the economy, while ADRA instituted a temporary hiring freeze and cut administrative expenses. However ADRA continues to struggle to keep operational and management costs balanced,” Maier said in a news release.

But no numbers were provided for the amount of savings that would be realized or the amount of the current budget challenge. And some ADRA board members suggested that there were differences of opinion about the financial status of the agency.

The November 2010 financial statements show net income exceeding budgeted net income by $4.6 million.

Board Chair and Seventh-day Adventist Church Vice President Geoffrey Mbwana was simply quoted, “Moving forward, this team has an outstanding opportunity to ensure that the agency is prepared to meet the increasing needs of so many underserved communities around the world.”

This week sixteen people abruptly lost their jobs because of the cuts, including Hearly G. Mayr, the director for public awareness, who had issued the press statements about the new leadership team the week before.  Senior staffers as well as newer hires were fired. Some had been at the Agency since the 1980s.

Demotions included a change in the position of the third vice president of the organization Mario Ochoa, who had been the executive vice president. He had his title changed to Vice President for Network Relations and he, along with new vice president Ken Flemmer, were given the task of meeting with employees who were being cut from the Agency. President Maier met with those who received promotions or demotions.

With so many people losing their positions, the atmosphere was like a morgue one employee said. “We stood in the halls and cried like babies.”

February has been eventful month for the Agency. The regularly scheduled February meeting of the ADRA Board was cancelled for February 7. On February 8, members were suddenly notified that the meeting would take place on February 10 instead. Although several board members protested the short notice for the conference call, the board chair persisted and said that a quorum would be present for the call. President Ted N. C. Wilson joined the meeting, although he is not a regular member of the Board. It was at this meeting that the changes in the vice presidential positions were voted.

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