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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: FETC Board of Directors makes shameful move

As a stakeholder (participant), the Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center Board of Directors’ decision to remove Chairman Karen Signal and allow five staff members to resign due to the board mishandling of noted financial discrepancies is simply shameful. Further, I am beyond bewildered by comments made by board member Tom Keathley, speaking on behalf of the board and board member/founder and former CEO  Bonnie Rachael’s late attendance to the board meeting where her actions were directly in question.

Signal, FETC Executive Director Fran Todd and the entire staff should be commended for standing up to the Board based on 2019 financial audit discrepancies attributed to Racheal. Keathley, ignoring audit evidence, speaking on behalf of the board to WTOC News, stated, “The auditors never mentioned misappropriations of funds from anyone at Faith and they never mentioned any amount of money that was misappropriated.”

He further stated, “That was simply accusations made by a single board member.”

If that is the case, why did Keathley donate $10,000 on the condition that the audit never be mentioned again during a Nov. 18 board meeting? 

WTOC quoted Keathley saying, “We do intend to remove Karen in the board meeting this evening citing priorities and objectives that don’t align with the mission of the board and questions the motivation of those standing with Signal.

He further went on to state, “We just question whether or not those people truly have the interest of Faith in mind because it will hurt Faith.”

I have three points in response:

1) “Priorities and objections that don’t align with the mission of the board.”

A nonprofit’s board of directors is legally responsible for exercising the care an ordinarily prudent person, in a like position, would exercise in overseeing the organization’s operations which includes the organization’s finances and legal compliance. that a priority this board does not see as their mission? Boards are responsible for developing and implementing policies that help the organization reduce risk, comply with the law and adhere to high standards. 

Is that another priority this board does not see as its mission? Financial oversight is a key duty of any nonprofit board. If the organization has audited financial statements, careful review of the financial statements and management letter will alert the board to weaknesses in its financial management.

Is that not a mission of FETC’s current board’s duties? Based on Keathley’s comments, they seem not. If they did, then why did the former board treasurer resign? 

Singular answer, the board failed to put into place internal controls and policies to prevent financial “mistakes'' from occurring.

2) “We just question whether or not those people truly have the interest of Faith in mind because it will hurt Faith.”

What arrogance! “Those people?” Is Keathley speaking about the staff members who are giving up their jobs for what is morally and ethically right? Surely, not the staff that requires their jobs to financially support themselves and/or their families. Can’t be the staffers who are truly at the heart of FETC’s mission who pour their hearts and souls into their work daily. I know he is not speaking about the staff, as in my case and that of most others, have made profound impacts on our lives and enhanced our ability to live with our disabilities.

He should be ashamed of his comments and immediately apologize to the staff. I am appalled!

The board’s lack of foresight, transparency and blinding allegiance to Racheal and her failure to own up to her “mistakes” will be the organization's downfall! Not the actions of “those people.”

3) Lastly, this should have been an easy solution for Rachael and the board member’s supporting her.

Acknowledge mistakes! We have all made them. People are very forgiving when you make mistakes. Make restitution for however long that may take! Work with Mrs. Todd and staff to put in internal controls and policies to prevent “mistakes” like this from happening in the future! Openly admit mistakes to regulatory agencies, donors, volunteers and participant families! Re-earn the community’s trust! And most importantly, come out of this stronger. It’s not too late! It’s never too late to do the right thing! Never!

Ms. Rachael, I beg you, please do the right thing! The community will rally around you as this is a service that is desperately needed. You have positively impacted so many people. I ask you to put away any pride! You will save the organization you founded and have worked so hard to make a success.

Contrary to Mr. Kaethly’s remarks, you, not “those people,” are the singular person one that can ensure no harm is done to your organization.

Trevor Hess,