Roberts retires as Senior Center director amid investigation

New board of directors will be appointed effective Jan. 1, 2024


 The longtime director of Sparta-White County Senior Center has turned in her letter of resignation after she had been temporarily relieved of her duties because of an ongoing investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s office.

The Sparta-White County Senior Center Board of Directors met Nov. 15 and discussed how to move forward with the management and re-opening of the center, which had been closed since Brenda Roberts, director, had been placed on administrative leave.

As the meeting began, chairperson Tresa Niedert asked Denny Wayne Robinson, who is the White County executive and a member of the Senior Center Board of Directors, to take over the running of the meeting. Additionally, Niedert read a letter that had been sent to the board from the director, Brenda Roberts.

“To whom it may concern. This is to notify the Sparta Senior Citizens that I will be retiring effective Nov. 18, 2023. It has been my pleasure to serve as executive director since 11/15/97. We have provided meals and activities to enrich the senior lives. We have doubled the size of the center. Thanks to the board for guidance and also thanks to the community for all the donations to achieve these things. Sincerely, Brenda Roberts.”

The board accepted the resignation, making it unnecessary for them to review the independent report prepared for them by attorney Danny Rader with recommendations on how to proceed with the legal matters before them. Additionally, the board was unable to discuss items related to the budget as the financial statements had been confiscated as part of the investigation. However, it was determined that copies of records from the Senior Center’s bank accounts had been obtained and sent to Ben Holland, CPA, to be reconciled. Given that the board did not have those statement back yet, the decision was made to table any discussion as to whether to adjust the budget considering the loss of funds from the Upper Cumberland Development District terminating their contract with the Senior Center because of the ongoing investigation.

That left the board with just two items to discuss: whether to move forward with hosting activities and what the board of directors should look like moving forward.

Niedert said she felt like the board should start soliciting applications for the position of executive director. Jim Floyd, City of Sparta alderman, is serving as interim director. Floyd said he would like to see the center hold a soft opening after the Thanksgiving holiday in which they could serve coffee, cakes, and donuts and let the members come together and socialize – something they had been accustomed to doing weekly until the center had to abruptly close last month.

City of Sparta Mayor Jerry Lowery, who also serves on the Senior Center Board of Directors, told the board that drastic changes were needed as they prepare to move forward.

“After talking with state authorities, I think we need to adopt a new set of bylaws about how we select this board,” Lowery said. “If this board continues the way it is, we may not get that federal funding that helps with providing meals and such. It may - it may not return.”

Lowery suggested the existing board be dissolved effective immediately and that he, as mayor of the city of Sparta, and Robinson, as county executive, appoint new members to serve with them.

“It’s clear by the reports we were given by the attorney the other day, this board has not been diligent in the way this place is run,” Lowery said. “I’m not blaming anyone, but the fact is this board has failed miserably.”

After a lot of discussion and several amendments, the decision was finally made to appoint a new board effective Jan. 1, 2024. The board will be made up of the mayor of the city of Sparta, the White County executive, and an additional 11 persons – five of whom will be appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city’s board of mayor and aldermen, four of whom will be appointed by the county executive and confirmed by the county’s board of commissioners, and two of whom will be appointed by a vote among active members of the Senior Center as representatives of their interests.

Floyd, as interim executive director, was instructed to look at previous employees and determine if they needed to be rehired at this time but that all wages for those who had been laid off with pay needed to cease immediately.

With the new board not set to be in place until Jan. 1, the decision was made to leave Jim Floyd in the position of interim executive director until the new board takes action. It was also determined that a discussion about qualifications and pay for a new executive director needed to be added to the agenda for the next meeting – the date of which was not determined, other than to say the interim director would let the board know if a meeting was needed before the new board took office.      


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