Commission Minutes

Swearing-in New Commissioners: Dedimus Justice Heather Priest administered oaths of office to new Commissioner Necole Janczura and returning Commissioners Pamela Proulx-Curry and Diane Lebson.

Public Comment : None.

Present: Ed Barrett, F. Celeste Branham (remote), Gary Dugal (remote), Chelsey Fortin-Trimble, William Guidon, Becky Hayes Boober, Necole Janczura, Diane Lebson, Janet May (remote), Robert Meinders, Pamela Proulx-Curry, Michael Williams (remote)

Guests: Kaitlyn Norden, AmeriCorps federal agency. Heather Priest , Dedimus Justice. 

Call to Order: Chair-elect Pamela Proulx-Curry called the meeting to order at 10:11 a.m.

Welcome, Announcements, Agenda Adjustments: Today is the last day Commissioners Ed Barrett and Robert Meinders will serve on the Commission. There was no Commissioner Quiz for this month. Proulx-Curry reminded everyone that they can recuse themselves when a potential conflict of interest arises. She also noted that remote meeting attendance is only appropriate when illness or significant life circumstances interfere with the ability to attend in person. 

There were no additions or deletions to the consent agenda.

Consent Agenda: MOVED by Guindon to approve the consent agenda. SECONDED by Lebson. Vote on the motion:   In favor–Barrett, Branham, Dugal, Fortin-Trimble, Guidon, Hayes Boober, Janczura, Lebson, May, Meinders, Proulx-Curry, Williams. Opposed–none. Motion passed.

Items approved by the motion: the Commission meeting minutes for September 15, 2023; the report of the Executive Committee meeting for October 3, 2023; the report of the Climate Corps Task Force meeting for September 20, 2023; and the report of the Maine Service Fellows Advisory Committee for September 19, 2023.

Planning and Future Initiatives  
A.    Maine Volunteer Foundation update
(Crofton): Kerry Smart, a Development Officer for Thomas College, was recently sworn in as a new board member. The Commission staff were responsible for a $3,000 to MVF. It will help MVF meet its goal of having a base of $10,000 for its own operations. The board’s secretary is now responsible for communications and record-keeping.

B. Transition Task Force Update – including recommendations and findings from SISGI consultation (May): The task force examined two possible transitions that the Commission could pursue in order to replace its current arrangement with fiscal agent DOE. The two options are the Commission could either seek budget authority to complete its independent commission legal status or have a new fiscal sponsor, the Secretary of State. The task force interviewed independent commissions such as Maine Arts Commission in order to understand their experiences. There was also discussion about how to restructure fiscal and administrative tasks currently carried out by DOE after the Commission separates from that agency. 

Volunteer Maine should transfer to the Secretary of State’s office by August 2025 so that that the Commissioners and staff will be on solid ground at the beginning of the AmeriCorps grant cycle in late summer and early fall. Also, before Executive Director Maryalice Crofton’s retirement in December 2024, the task force should re-classify her staff leadership position and outline duties of a new financial analyst role. The Executive Director position can be posted within six weeks of Crofton’s retirement date. There was discussion about how a short-term acting ED after Crofton’s retirement might be a useful way to ensure that staff leadership and a smooth operations during the transition process. 

The Commission should determine staff roles and duties according to the strategic plan. The Commissioners then noted that though Volunteer Maine is an independent agency, it does not have budget authority.

There was discussion that since the report on the Commission’s potential transition to SoS is due to the Legislature before the December Commission meeting, Executive Committee must receive all comments and recommendations from Commissioners on the final draft of this report by December 4th, 2023, before it can make the final submission. SISGI, the consultant involved in the transition, is drafting the report and can revise it according to comments. The full report to the Legislature has a second component in which Secretary of State contributes a document discussing establishment of a Deputy Secretary for Civic Engagement.

Business Reports
A. Public Policy
(Proulx-Curry): The task force is smaller now that Jeff McCabe has left the Commission. There is likely to be a slight decrease in AmeriCorps positions available to the Commission if the U.S. Senate’s current budget proposal for the AmeriCorps federal agency is accepted.

B. Grant Selection and Performance Task Force (Barrett): MOVED by Barrett that the Penobscot Nation Housing Department AmeriCorps Energy Efficiency Program proposal for a 3-year fixed amount grant be awarded if corrections and conditions listed in the task force report can be negotiated before the federal submission deadline. The first-year funding request approved is $280,000 Federal Share supporting 10-member service years distributed over 10 slots. The proposed cost per member service year is $28,000.

Referenced Conditions/Corrections
The following proposal issues need to be clarified or, in the case of missing required elements, added.
•    Clarify that the public funding referenced is in hand and approved for program support.
•    Clarify that the tribal authorities who must support the grant have given their approval. The process was described but it is unclear whether the process occurred or was pending. 

SECONDED by Branham. In favor–Barrett, Branham, Dugal, Fortin-Trimble, Guidon, Hayes Boober, Janczura, Lebson, May, Meinders, Proulx-Curry, Williams. Opposed–none. Motion passed.

Barrett noted that the proposal from Alpha Legal Foundation did not rate well enough to fund by either the peer reviewers or tech reviewers. The reviewers acknowledge there is a need for a Maine Justice Corps.  The person who is driving the program development is very impressive but the systems to implement the grant are not in place yet. There are no staff, no internal financial system, and funds to operate the program are to be fundraised. The proposal should come back when the organization is more defined or staffed or has a partner who would be the fiscal agent and provide some assurance of continuity and stability for finances and members while the Foundation develops further.

C. Communications Task Force (Lebson): The task force discussed how to raise Volunteer Maine’s profile in Maine and how the strategic planning process gives the task force an opportunity to set new goals. Also, the task force would like to reimagine what Governor’s Service Awards will look like in the future.

D.  Maine Service Fellows Advisory Task Force (Branham): MSF has received letters from agencies in the towns of Northport, Norway, and Dover-Foxcroft asking for a service fellow. The task force decided to prioritize Dover-Foxcroft since it displayed the greatest readiness.

E. Climate Corps Task Force (Brewer): There are several agencies in Maine competing for an EPA grant and some of them have mentioned that they will seek Maine Climate Corps funding and support as well. A new evaluation expert added as a member to the task force. Maine Climate Corps is now included in larger application to NOAA grant for coastal resiliency; funding would go to MSF fellows for a coastal resiliency “Shore Corps” service and other Climate Corps Network projects.

F. DEI Task Force (Branham): The task force met with the Massachusetts Service Alliance to see how the agency integrates DEI practices into their work; this agency developed a JEDI statement and procedural policy after a year of retreats and training. 

The task force is still in talks with the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous, and Tribal Populations in order to find points of overlapping interest and action; the task force hopes to host a speaker from this other Commission in early 2024.

G. Excellence and Expertise Task Force (Preecs): The Maine Volunteer Leadership Conferences new venue at Snowpond in Sidney, ME was well received by attendees. Attendance numbers are starting to improve from recent years after the Covid-19 pandemic caused a temporary decline in conference attendance in previous years. This year, attendance numbers reached a little over 120.

H. AmeriCorps federal agency update (Norden): The agency is currently operating on monies from a continuing resolution. Soon, the agency and Clinton Foundation will be hosting a symposium discussing the future of national service. This event will be livestreamed, and registration is on the Clinton Foundations website.

I. Commission Staff Reports: Training Officer Michael Ashmore added that he attended a conference on the Office of New Mainers in development. Stressed that there should be more coordination between state agencies to efficiently use funding for support services and apprenticeships aimed at new arrivals and to ensure consistent messaging around these services from agency to agency.

Focus on Mission Responsibilities
A. Recognition

MOVED by Barrett to recognize the peer reviewers who worked on the most recent round of grant proposals: Michael Williams, Matt Williams, and Ann Louis-Rice. SECONDED by Hayes Boober.
 In favor–Barrett, Branham, Dugal, Fortin-Trimble, Guidon, Hayes Boober, Janczura, Lebson, May, Meinders, Proulx-Curry, Williams. Opposed–none. Motion passed.          
Business Wrap-Up (Proulx-Curry):  MOVED by Lebson to adjourn the business meeting. SECONDED by Branham. 
 In favor–Barrett, Branham, Dugal, Fortin-Trimble, Guidon, Hayes Boober, Janczura, Lebson, May, Meinders, Proulx-Curry, Williams. Opposed–none. Motion passed.

the meeting was adjourned at 11:44 a.m.

The next Commission meeting will occur on December 15, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.