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Red Cross removes chapter board

June 07, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL

Staff Writer

The national Red Cross voted to remove the San Diego/Imperial Counties chapter's board of directors Thursday, saying the chapter became paralyzed and showed a lack of leadership in the face of growing problems.

The national board also suspended the local chapter's bylaws.

The state Attorney General's Office is investigating whether the local chapter's administration has appropriately raised and spent money.

How Thursday's decision will directly affect Imperial County remains to be seen, but Sylvia Preciado, director of the Imperial Valley Red Cross office, said she will continue to provide disaster preparation and relief services.

Preciado said the situation is difficult, even though Imperial County is removed from the politics in the San Diego office.

"It just makes me all that more determined to become more active," she said.

The Red Cross assists international and local disaster and conflict victims, provides lifesaving training and supplies blood and blood products.


The local chapter was criticized over how it handled $410,000 in donations for victims of the January 2001 Alpine fire, the Associated Press has reported. A national audit found less than $25,000 had gone directly to victims.

Mona De La Riva, district director for east San Diego County, said the Red Cross raised $343,746 for the Alpine fire and already committed $264,267 of that money. The Alpine Community Planning Group will decide how to spend the rest of the money.

In a press release, Jim Topping, Red Cross national chairman of the Chapter Services Network, said the national board came to the difficult conclusion that nothing short of a fresh start would give the San Diego/Imperial Counties chapter of the Red Cross a chance to rebuild.

The action comes one week after national Red Cross officials removed Dodie Rotherham, the San Diego/Imperial Counties chapter's chief executive officer for two decades.

Rotherham was the highest-paid executive for local chapters for two consecutive years. Before being let go, her salary this year was $203,000 plus up to half her salary in incentives, as decided by the local board.

San Diego County officials also are investigating allegations of fraud in the nonprofit organization's transportation program.

The national directors said they did not think the local chapter board could fix the problems or regain the public's trust in the local chapter.

The national board authorized a local advisory committee to work with the interim management team to help rebuild the community's confidence in the Red Cross.

The Red Cross says the change is an issue of governance. The chapter will continue to be open to provide community disaster preparation, prevention and relief functions. National Red Cross officials put the chapter under its Mountain Pacific Regional Management team.

Preciado is looking for a person to represent Imperial County with the San Diego/Imperial Counties chapter board of directors.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or

>> The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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