October 22nd, 2020

Report paints adverse picture of ARCHES


By Kalinowski, Tim on July 9, 2020.

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald

tkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com

A copy of an internal report on ARCHES from local consultant Collaborative Strategies Business Consulting and Empowerment Solutions, and obtained on Wednesday by The Herald, in wake of a provincial government audit of the organization announced earlier this year, paints a picture of a dysfunctional workplace setting, with multiple employees feeling the atmosphere is “toxic” and “unhealthy,” and some managers feeling like they are “constantly drowning” due to a general lack of direction in the organization. The report also states several employees at ARCHES were being paid inappropriately to work in positions they were simply not qualified for.

The report, written by Collaborative Strategies owner and consultant Mandy DeCecco-Kolebaba, states many of the problems at ARCHES stem from the organization’s informal hiring practices.

“There is a level of incompetence in many areas,” states DeCecco-Kolebaba in the report, “most likely because the hiring practices have been so informal. Not one person has been hired appropriately. There is a grooming culture here that is alarming and means that not many of the current staff are in roles that fit their skills.”

DeCecco-Kolebaba goes on to state in the report other concerns reported by ARCHES employees include concerns about “mismanaged funds,” “poor decision making,” “poor” relations with outside partner agencies, a “lack of leadership since the beginning,” a lack of transparency, and expressions of the opinion the organization needs a “massive transformation.”

ARCHES board chair Aaron Fitchett and DeCecco-Kolebaba stressed, when asked about the leaked internal report late Wednesday, it was intended to be a confidential email to a government official and captures only a moment in time early in the assessment process. They point to large organizational changes which have been enacted in recent weeks to address the concerns DeCecco-Kolebaba gleaned from speaking at length to 28 individual ARCHES employees in her initial assessments.

“Things are really going well here in the last five weeks,” DeCecco-Kolebaba told The Herald.

“A lot of those concerns mentioned have been addressed. We are making changes on a daily basis … Although that report seems really negative that’s just a snapshot and was meant for government officials to see how far we have come.”

In a public press release distributed to other local media organizations earlier in the day, ARCHES stated it was committed to making broad changes to address the concerns DeCecco-Kolebaba has raised, including enhanced financial oversight, streamlining the operational structure of the organization, and enhancing “good neighbour” practices to improve the supervised consumption site’s relationships with others operating nearby.

“One of the great things (Decceco-Kolebaba) has been able to provide through her expertise working with businesses, and the business community and non-profit community, is really looking at the organizational structure,” says Fitchett. “She has been able to consult with the board on improvements to the organizational structure all around which could increase the ability to have joint board and staff committees, increased transparency between all stakeholders within the agency: the board, the senior level managers, staff, all those types of things. We think (that new organizational structure) will provide lots of opportunities moving forward for that consultation, collaboration and communication within the agency.”

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