Wallingford Center Inc. board members resign

WALLINGFORD — Three members of the Wallingford Center Inc. board of directors resigned during a contentious meeting earlier this month.

At the Nov. 1 WCI board meeting, President Mike Glidden, Vice President Theresa Cipriani and Assistant Executive Director Caitlin Houston resigned from their positions.

According to the meeting minutes, discussion of a workplace complaint prompted Glidden's resignation, including his recommendation that the board seek outside advice in dealing with the complaint, which fellow board member Joan Parisi questioned.

"Mike asked to discuss as a board to decide what to do next and how to handle the situation," the minutes read. "He recommended WCI hire professional advice for the board. Joan Parisi questioned Mike about the submitted incident report email. During a discussion on the topic, Mike Glidden resigned as president, read his resignation letter to the board and left the meeting."

Not long after that exchange, Cipriani also submitted her resignation as vice president, according to the minutes, and Houston's resignation letter also was read to the board.

The complaint was filed on Sept. 27, and on Oct. 14, the WCI board held a special meeting in executive session to discuss it, according to the meeting minutes.

Glidden and Houston declined to comment for this article. Cipriani could not be reached for comment.

Details about the complaint weren't available Friday.

WCI Executive Director Liz Davis declined to comment, referring questions to board members, who could not be reached for comment. The “incident report email” referred to in the minutes also was not available. 

Board members agreed to form a nominating committee to find new members, which will report back to the board at its next meeting, according to the minutes.

WCI is a non-profit organization "formed to stimulate cooperation between public and private entities to enhance the restoration, preservation, beautification, revitalization and utilization of the town's center," according to its website.

It was started in the 1970s as Wallingford Beautification and was incorporated with its new name as a nonprofit in 1987 under the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Main Street program created to preserve and promote historic town centers.

WCI gets a portion of its funding from the town. For the 2022-23 fiscal year the town contributed about $150,000 to the organization.

The group is known for sponsoring signature events like Celebrate Wallingford and the upcoming Holiday Stroll.

IRS issue

In recent years, WCI has dealt with problems that have led to a number of resignations, including a failure to pay its payroll taxes in 2018, which led to fines and penalties added to the IRS debt, according to former WCI board vice president John LeTourneau, who resigned last year.

"That was one of the reasons I resigned, because I could never get to the bottom of what exactly happened and how it happened," LeTourneau said Friday. "I asked numerous times at numerous meetings what our status was. I kept asking at every meeting, and this went on for a period of months and I couldn't get an answer. At that point I said I need to step aside because I just didn't like where the whole thing was going."

The taxes were paid and the issue was resolved, said Parisi, WCI treasurer, adding that the recent resignations were not tied to that problem.

"The resignations are due to just a reorganization," Parisi said Friday. "The IRS issue, as far as I know, that was settled a couple of years ago." She referred a reporter to Anthony DeFillio, the accountant who handled the issue with the IRS. He couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

LeTourneau said when he resigned about a year and a half ago, the issue was still unresolved. "A lot of good people have resigned. I wasn't the only one at that time who resigned, there were others too. And in my opinion, it hasn't gotten any better."

He was especially critical of the change in staff leadership that took place last year.

"At one time, we had a great executive director," he said, referring to Kathleen Lilley, who was forced to resign in July 2021, less than a year after she was hired in November 2020. "She was top notch."

Lucille Casagrande, who was involved with the organization from its inception until 1995, at times as its president, brought the issue of the delinquent taxes before the Town Council earlier this year during budget deliberations. She said she has put thousands of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours into the organization and is dismayed with what she says it has become.

"I decided to go before the council and talk about this money issue," she said, referring to the IRS problem. "I got nothing in the way of 'let's do something.' Nobody did anything about it. I felt like a fool because there I stood in front of the nine councilors, the mayor, the town attorney and nobody even responded to me. It was completely let go.” The town has no oversight of the center, which it should, considering the money it contributes, she said.

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said he isn't familiar with the IRS issue, nor a complaint filed against WCI. Town councilors did not return requests for comment. 



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