Transition Task Force

PRESENT: Commissioners Jenni Tilton-Flood, Celeste Branham, Becky Hayes Boober, Janet May, Chelsey Fortin-Trimble, Luke Shorty; Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, David LaChance (SOS), John Portela (former Commissioner), Maryalice Crofton (VM Executive Director), and SISGI’s Dr. Cynthia Brown. 

The members convened at 3pm using the virtual meeting technology.

Milestone 1 - Transition Committee Plan and Support
Luke Shorty opened the meeting by asking for a report on the public hearing on LD1260 which calls for a study on moving the Commission’s fiscal agent from the Dept of Education to the Secretary of State Dept. The hearing before State and Local Government was on 4/11. Jenni reported there were no questions related to her testimony in support. The liaison from SOS, Joanne Bautista, responded to a couple of points of confusion by committee members. The committee chairs pointed out the bill calls for a study that would bring back answers to the questions being posed.

Dr. Brown gave an update on interviews scheduled that are expected to inform the task force’s work. These interviews will focus on administrative operations, financial support, and operational issues. The state commissions are Georgia (Linda Thompson), Jew Jersey (Rowena Madden), and New Mexico (David Chené).

Milestone 2 - Department of Education and Department of State Operational Review
The SISGI conducted three interviews over the past month, one each with Secretary of State staff (Joann Bautista, David LaChance), Dept of Education (Chelsey Fortin-Trimble, Nicole Denis), and Volunteer Maine (Maryalice Crofton). The interviews sought to understand issues related to three questions:
1.    Within the Dept of State, what is the thought on where Volunteer Maine will operate and how does this compare to other current work/programs in the agency?
2.    How will the operations inform reporting within the organizational chart given the program and fiscal duties of Volunteer Maine?
3.    What are the systems and organization structure in Dept of Education that support the operations of Volunteer Maine? Should they be replicated, modified, or replaced in the transition? 

Key points from interview with SOS representatives about the current structure and responsibilities in that department and concerns/challenges with operations of Volunteer Maine.

This point led to clarification that the Maine Commission for Community Service is an independent agency, it just doesn’t have budget authority. The board is not advisory but a board of authority, something clarified by the Attorney General years ago. It was noted that in the State of Maine annual report, the Commission’s information is in the section on independent agencies and the umbrella code is 94. (Maryalice was asked to find the definition of the codes for the group.) The Secretary of State’s code is 29 and the unit is 250 with the subunits designated by adding a letter (e.g, Motor Vehicles is 250D).
•    In SOS, Human Resources reports to the Deputy Director of DMV; what would that mean for Volunteer Maine and their HR needs?

Secretary Bellows clarified that the HR director wears two hats. One as HR for DMV and the other as HR for the rest of SOS where the position is also a Deputy Director of HR. Over time, Sec Bellows has not heard of any concerns from the State Archivist or Deputy Director of Corporations, Elections, and Commissions about sharing the HR person so she does not anticipate Volunteer Maine would have difficulties. Maryalice noted that Volunteer Maine currently works directly with the service center HR unit, Procurement Services, accounting, state audit (not audited as part of Dept of Education), and Attorney General. The Commission also has its own Public Information Officer who works independent of the Education PIO, although they know and communicate with each other about areas of interest.

•    There is a bill in process to study creation of a Deputy Director of Civic Engagement. It may create a reporting structure for Volunteer Maine. The SOS civic engagement work currently includes programming in schools and other places. The SOS plan for VM is to treat it similar to the Commission on the Status of Women. [Post meeting note – this Commission is not in the state annual report so it’s not possible to see how it structurally compares to Volunteer Maine.]

Secretary Bellows noted she expects the Executive Director would report directly to the Secretary of State and be considered like the Archivist or other deputies as running an agency internally. It was noted the current pay range for the Volunteer Maine exec director is substantially below that of leadership positions in both the Dept of Education and Secretary of State. The position needs to be reviewed and reclassed before it is filled in the future. 

A question was asked of Dept of Education representative regarding the current relationship between another independent body, the Charter School Commission, and the DOE. Chelsey said she would dig into that.
•    Concerns and challenges noted included SOS Financial Capacity. 

  • The accounting manager is retiring at the end of April and the financial analyst is only 3 months on the job. SOS has no capacity to provide financial support, especially because it has no experience with federal grants and subgranting. The Commission noted there is strong experience with the federal financial requirements, especially 2 CFR 200, and staff actually train subgrantees on these requirements so Commission staff would bring this expertise to SOS.
  • Communications is an area that needs to be examined. In SOS one person handles messaging and PR. Who will handle messaging and PR around service and volunteerism needs to be determined. Currently communications at SOS is handled completely by Emily Cook.
  • Volunteer Maine role in legislative relationships needs examination. The reporting structure and responsibilities would be different within the SOS. The VM Exec Director and commissioners currently handle legislative issues according to the type.
  • Need to consider staffing and whether all positions would be similar after the move. The Office Administrator is shared between VM and Dept of Education.

Key points from meeting with Chelsey Fortin-Trimble and Nicole Denis at the Dept of Education.
•    Dept of Ed and the Commission both get bookkeeping services through the General Govt Service Center. Each are billed separately. The Commission pays around $12,000 annually for service center functions (HR is $800 per quarter). These services would not be available in SOS. It was noted that the service center does the federal cash reports and federal financial reports.

•    Exec Director salary should probably move to range 34 to be more equivalent with the Director of Child Nutrition and similar positions.

•    DOE procurement has a tiered process with Chelsey being the next signature after Maryalice on certain documents. It was clarified that, in DOE, directors have signing authority up to $30K and this includes contracts, grants, orders on state master agreements (e.g., conference services), purchases orders, etc. If the amount is greater, then there is a clearance process which goes from Maryalice to Chelsey to the Deputy Commissioner of Education who signs. 
Maryalice noted the Commission deals directly with Procurement Services on developing RFAs, having them authorized for release, the selection, and award process. The Commission’s grants do not adhere to Procurement’s templates but the format has been developed collaboratively with Procurement so documents marry grant requirements and state procurement requirements. The Commission also has its own grant policies.
DOE handles the budget process, allotments, financial orders, and presenting the Commission budget to their oversight Committee which is Education and Cultural Affairs. (The Commission budget is disconnected from its oversight committee which is State and Local Government.)
DOE helps the Commission with financial reports because the Commission staff’s access in Advantage does not give access to detailed information. It’s an internal controls issue. 
•    The admin role in Volunteer Maine is 0.5 FTE with School Construction using the other half. What happens to that role? Both School Construction and Volunteer Maine have 1 FTE each in their legislative head counts but only have funding for half a position which is what led to the sharing.
•    Concerns and challenges noted by DOE

  • Capacity is DOE’s issue. The huge investment of ARP funds in Education further stretched their capacity which has stayed at two key staff.
  • Volunteer Maine operates like a mini agency within DOE. It has significant independence to operate and cover as much as they are permitted to oversee. (This would be different in SOS structure.)

Key points from meeting with Maryalice Crofton.
•    The first fiscal agent for the Commission was the State Planning Office (1994-2011, SPO). The CFO there handled relationships with HR, state accounting, audit, and the budget office. His staff took care of all Advantage functions,  federal financial reporting, and produced regular reports for Commission staff.

When SPO was closed by the legislature, the Commission’s fiscal agent changed to Dept of Education. DOE was probably assigned because federal and state law have the Commissioner of Education as an ex-officio member. DOE has a very different system for grant management. Every grant is managed by the people that are assigned to it. The department CFO, Nicole, then manages oversight of the full picture of the agency.
•    Over time the service center functions have decreased with increased expectations for Volunteer Maine staff. Three staff use Advantage (state accounting system) – two can create documents, enter account coding, see bottom line balances, etc. One (Maryalice) can only approve which is part of logical internal controls. The DOE fiscal staff help compile reports that track federal dollars and match. These are passed to the VM staff responsible for managing those grants and they are required by VM procedure to review and flag problems for discussion with the service center accountants or DOE financial staff. This has to be done monthly but, with DOE’s limited capacity, is off schedule. Commission staff use report details to track payments and how expenditures match up to the federal grant budget which does not easily line up with the state chart of accounts.
•    Any finance person who steps in to take over Commission staff functions will need to understand split coding, match tracking (in-kind included), comprehensive financial/grants reporting and management. In addition to understanding the state accounting, budget, and legislative responsibility.

Maryalice noted the Commission internal systems that staff use have passed a federal monitoring review last summer, a state audit, and a 3-year OIG audit which had no Commission findings.

Milestone 3 - Executive Transition and Succession Planning
As a result of the meeting reports above, there emerged some areas that need more thorough understanding.
•    What systems Maryalice oversees and knows how to work within
•    Lack of training among others on systems may present challenges in transitioning responsibilities from Exec.
•    Budget implications of salary range for ED needs to be reviewed

Maryalice noted that the Commission operates as it does because two people ran micro-nonprofits before coming into government and have carried systems with them. Two other staff had manager positions in small nonprofits and another person came to the staff from a federal agency’s grant making staff.

Milestone 4 - Sustainability Audit
No Updates

The time allotted for the meeting was expiring so the members dispersed at 4:03pm. The next task force meeting is May 12.