The reply came without hesitation or reservation.
The question? In the eyes of the Garden Path Elder Living’s board of directors, did former Executive Director Cindy Jerome, who is running against two Democrats in the Aug. 14 primary — incumbent Rep. Mike Mrowicki and newcomer Nader Hashim, for a House seat in Windham-4 — act inappropriately?
“No,” said Board President Ted Vogt.
Garden Path manages Bradley House and Holton Home.
It is perhaps the only brief answer to a series of questions sparked by two letters to the editor that appeared in the Brattleboro Reformer on July 16 and July 26. Kree Rinfret, an executive assistant at the senior assisted-living nonprofit, authored both letters.
The Commons also received one of the letters, submitted by Rinfret on behalf of the staff of Holton Home, but chose not to publish it without additional clarifying information.
The original letter implied that the candidate, who is running on the strength of her management and leadership skills, was no longer associated with the nonprofit after having left under a cloud.
About Rinfret’s letters to the editor, Vogt said, “They are not sanctioned [by the organization]. They do not represent the organization.”
Vogt declined to discuss Rinfret, saying he wouldn’t address personnel matters.
In addition, an email sent to The Commons from a community member asking about a state survey conducted at Holton Home also raised questions.
The report, which the writer said was released by a staff member of the facility, was issued by Vermont Department of Aging, Disabilities, and Independent Living’s Division of Licensing and Protection, which conducted the inspection in April 2017, while Jerome was still working as executive director.
Both the letters to the editor and the reader inquiry expressed concern about former executive director — now consultant — Cindy Jerome’s integrity and treatment of Garden Path staff.
Vogt stressed that the board felt satisfied with Jerome’s past and current work for the organization. He confirmed that Jerome stepped down as executive director in May to run for state representative.
Jerome still works for Garden Path as a consultant, responsible for projects such as the multi-million-dollar renovation dubbed “The Bradley House Revival.”
Vogt described the revival as “complex.” According to him, Jerome was providing “valuable consulting work” for the project, which he expects will be complete later this year.
Vogt added that his mother lives happily at Bradley House.
Vogt said he welcomed the Division of Licensing and Protection’s surveys.
The organization always wants to do its best, he said, but it can always do better. In her own response to the letters, Jerome echoed that sentiment. [See Letters, E1.]
“When the state finds something, we comply,” Vogt said.
And this is how Vogt views the state’s findings in April.
As an example, the state highlighted a series of necessary corrections from a can of expired soup to concerns about how Garden Path handled money on behalf of residents. For example, the state noted that Holton Home had received more than $35,000 in donations from a resident.
In response to the state’s investigation, Garden Path developed corrective actions, Vogt said.
“There’s no mystery here as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
“Cindy [Jerome] has played a large role in making Holton Home the stellar organization that it became,” he said. “We’re very appreciative of that.”
“Frankly, if I lived in her district, I’d vote for her,” said the West Brookfield resident.