Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany; Chamonix, France; Davos, Switzerland; Abetone, Italy;
Queenstown, New Zealand; Shimukappu, Japan; Bariloche, Argentina
ASPEN SISTER CITIES MINUTES
June 14, 2018 @ 5:00 pm
Aspen Middle School Conference Room
1) Transparency- in operations/Bylaws, in finances- City/schools, programs, Budget 2018
2) Build International Exchanges/partners- community outreach, new programs, student exchanges, patrol exchanges, medical exchange
3) Website as central hub- communications & membership
Members In attendance:
President: Danno Lahr
Vice-President: Elise Cohen
Secretary: Anita Moose
Aspen City Council Representative: absent
Snowmass Representative: absent
Sister Cities Coordinators
Abetone: Chair: Jill Sheeley Co-chair:
Bariloche: Chair: Griff Smith Co-chair: Lala Caffarone
Chamonix: Chair: John Armstrong Co-chair:
Garmisch-Partenkirchen: Chair: Nancy Gensch Co-chair:
Queenstown: Chair: Jill Sheeley Co-chair:
Shimukappu:Chair: Kamala Marsh Co-chair:
Davos:Chair: Karinjo DeVore Co-chair:
Sister Cities Student Coordinators: Georgina Levey absent, Betsy Ann Anastas
Members at Large: Jenny Beltman, Diane Godfrey, Maria Carbonetti absent
Add to the website:
- Call meeting to order
- Move on approving May meeting minutes.
- Preliminary findings Accountant
- Presidents presentation of findings School Exchanges after meeting with school district administrators
- Move on 4 Motions by the president. (see addendum)
- Approval vote dinner for the artists visiting from Bariloche (like we did for doctors).
- Passion Play in Oberammergau
President: Meeting was called to order at 5:02 pm.
Danno made a motion to approve minutes
Anita seconded the motion.
Minutes were approved.
Danno Lahr: Preliminary findings from accountant Mike Marolt and we need clarification on bookkeeping versus accounting.
BetsyAnn Anastas: She is willing to do whatever Mike Marolt recommends, but it needs to work for the student trips.
Griff Smith: Agrees that it must work for the student trips.
BetsyAnn Anastas: Jill and I will meet with Mike before next meeting to discuss next steps, and will figure out best practice of using debit card versus a credit card.
Danno Lahr: We need to be sure we are being responsible with our funds and Danno will meet with the city attorney, Jim True, tomorrow.
We spend approximately $13,200 per year on the middle school program coordinators. We receive about $17,000 from the city, $2,500 each from Aspen Country Day, Aspen Community School and Snowmass Village.
Danno Lahr: Presentation of findings School Exchanges after meeting with school district administrators. Middle School Exchange trips are $3,000 and comparable high school trips are about $1,500.
Discussion: We need to have our books published so we can be transparent for grants and to be accountable to the community. We need to have a committee look at these trips and discuss the costs of trips.
Kamala Marsh: The pricing of the trips was voted on so we can revisit if possible, but it was thoroughly discussed in the past and decided upon.
Diane Godfrey: We need to clarify and get our documents public.
Danno Lahr: I would like to move on a motion to: Regulate future school exchange coordinator work contractually. This pending a consult from the Aspen city lawyer, as pertaining to workload, compensation, and performance review process.
BetsyAnn: She shared that Georgina has the idea of creating a memorandum of expectations of how the student trips work.
Discussion: We need to culminate the surveys from the recent Chamonix trip and meet to discuss to see what next steps are. Jenny, Anita, BetsyAnn, John, and Georgina can get together to debrief and brainstorm.
John Armstrong: I will put out an email to get the group together soon.
Motion tabled until after a debrief meeting with chaperones Jenny Beltman and Anita Moose, John Armstrong, and BetsyAnn Anastas (Georgina Levey will be in Queenstown) and after Danno Lahr meets with city attorney, Jim True.
Danno Lahr: After meeting with school administrators and to guarantee support from the district in the future; The school district would like to encourage us to separate the review process; the collection of surveys, and debriefs from trips to a committee independent of the school coordinators themselves to assure an independent evaluation process rather than self-evaluation, for the organization’s paid services. This could be, but not limited to, a city delegate, school administrator or public service representative. This is in resonance with the school administrations desire for their continued support.
Discussion: There were questions as to how this information came to light, who Danno met with, etc.
Danno Lahr: I would like to move on a motion: to require balanced books per school exchange separate, as recommended by Executive Corps per consult from 2014, pending consult with the city lawyer and accounting.
Danno Lahr: I would like to move on a motion to compile budgets for 2019 by next month, without budgets there shall be no reimbursement of any other funding, as is an industry standard. Starting in July, bimonthly meetings.
All four resolutions tabled until next meeting for members to reflect upon, and to allow for more information collection from meetings with Mike Marolt and Jim True with various committee members.
Nancy Gensch: We have so many Sister Cities, and it’s a lot of work. It might need more time than once per month.
Danno Lahr: This (presidency) is a full time job. There might be a time in the future to consider an Executive Director.
Discussion: We can learn more at the International Sister Cities Conference and hopefully answer some of these questions.
Anita Moose: I will talk to Griff and coordinate the Bylaws committee.
Approval vote dinner for the artists visiting from Bariloche (like we did for doctors).
Dano made a motion to approve
Article from the Aspen Times shared with multiple copies of the Catherine Lutz article.
Nancy Gensch: Passion Play in Oberammergau planning is beginning and more will be shared.
Verbal City Coordinator Reports:
Jill for Queenstown: The students are in Queenstown right now and they have been bungy jumping!
John for Chamonix: The patrol exchanges have been a great success. May want to revisit our 30th anniversary with Aspen Sister Cities.
Next meeting is June 28th at 5pm.
Motion to adjourn by Danno, Karinjo seconded. Motion passed.
Next Action Items: Report by Danno re: meeting with Jim True
Report by Betsy Ann re: meeting with Mike Marolt
Consideration of 4 motions presented by Danno
WRITTEN MONTHLY SISTER CITIES REPORTS
Art & Music Exchange:
Accommodation for artist and musicians has been arranged- Missy Pruden- Mountain Chalet- Mack and Rachel Levy.
(Griff: “Have we actually gotten a commitment from Debbie Braun about providing housing for visiting delegations from our sister cities?”)
We would like to ask for a Sister Cities dinner for the artists visiting from Bariloche (like we did for doctors).
Database- we would like to reach out to families that participated in student exchanges to Bariloche (at leasts the past three years) to inform them about upcoming events in the valley related to other Bariloche exchanges (Art & Music Exchange- Challenge Aspen Marathon).
Challenge Aspen Marathon:
We continue to work together with Challenge Aspen and Bariloche race organizers to facilitate their trip in October.
Finalizing plans for medical exchange in Bariloche next September.
Chamonix report: After an epic winter season which brought record setting snowfalls and precious few sunny days, spring has finally come to the Chamonix Valley. Two Aspen Ski Areas sponsored successful ski patrol exchanges this winter. Both patrollers expressed sadness to leave Aspen this late May. Isabelle Day, Ski Co patrol coordinator, hosted a lovely bon voyage party to send the patrollers off.
I met the most recent patrol candidate for the Chamonix exchange, Dan Berg. He has no language skills at this time but expressed an interest in attending an immersion program prior to his next ski season.
Jacques Tomei was very pleased with the student exchange this spring. Planning efforts for the exchange were very challenging and it was heartwarming to see the student to student bonding and the ultimate success of the exchange. Jacques said the people involved in the exchange just had a meeting to review the exchange.
Jacques also noted the recent 40th anniversary celebration of the Fuji-Yoshida-Chamonix sister city relationship. Jacques asked if it might be a good time for Aspen to re-consider hosting a modest anniversary celebration this year.
Parking Lot/Future Items:
- Vote on changing bylaws so all committee members can vote
- Vote on Scholarship guidelines (Betsy Ann will get documents to members.)
- Vote on adopting mission statement
- Vote on articles 1 and 2 in bylaws
For the record:
Upon taking over as Aspen Sister Cities’ president I inherited not much in written, archived, record keeping. A year later I feel like I have just barely wrapped myself around the magnitude of the organization. Very little is documented in a discoverable fashion of our bonafide, city-funded, non-profit. If I carry on this tradition of not documenting I would be complicit in bad governance. We’re at the one year mark of new leadership at the organization, so a good time to recap.
“The president shall be the chief executive officer of the organization and is responsible for seeing that the organization is properly staffed and functioning in accordance with these bylaws and with policies established by the BOD. S/he shall conduct the meetings of the BOD and general membership and is an ex-officio member of all committees of the organization.”
If it was only that simple, It’s so much more though. As rewarding as doing this volunteer work has been, the volume of the responsibility is dazzling, the website, citizens exchange the absence of a treasurer, the audit, meetings with school administrators, city officials, finding succession, etc. It has reached near full time status, increasing the odds of not seeking re-election at the end of my term next year.
As full of enthusiasm as I started with, excited about pioneering new programs, my focus is now pragmatically grooming for succession.
Revisit the student exchange program:
Over the months of January, February, April, and May I’ve had time to meet with the middle school principal, assistant superintendent, teachers, parents of exchange students and other school administrators and community members in a fascinating discovery and have received feedback which made me want to solicit more. As offseason and some time off allowed me to complete a lot of the research, I am looking forward to sharing with you some of this discovery.
In January our treasurer announced she wanted to transition out of the position. On February 7th in an executive meeting, we voted on retaining an accountant with the goal to get our bookkeeping to a level where we can apply for grants. As well as per bylaws:
8.2 Audit of Books and Accounts
The organization’s books and accounts shall be audited as such.
We hired an accounting firm on April 5th. Currently, the most works consist of the Middle school account. I have some Preliminary findings from the accountant. Compliance to sound accounting standards has been assured upon pending completion.
Preliminary findings (Verbatim):
“Woooaaaaaaaay to many check books and debit cards out there, you gotta stop that.”
“You get a credit card for these things…”
“A lot of bookkeeping but no accounting”
“The good thing it’s only a few hundred items, not in the thousands”
The organization’s accounts
The General fund at First Western
A Savings account at First Western
The Japan account at First Western
At Alpine bank:
The Middle School Account
The Garmisch Partenkirchen account
The Queenstown account
With a total of 7 signers… This is in violation of our bylaws. This needs to be addressed and solved by either adapting our banking practices of updating our bylaws. For the latter, I would like a consult from the city attorney (scheduled June 15th).
The former president of the organization had meetings with school administrators, sometimes monthly as I was told. No written record whatsoever has ever been kept or is available for the president or successor.
There is no written trace in the Aspen Sister Cities records of who is hired for what job, or how much to be compensated, which is signed by either the President or Vice President, current or former who are statutory the ones responsible according to our bylaws.
A coordinator submitted May 2018 reimbursement for 2017 for 2x $1600 per trip. A fiduciary liability with nothing in writing in our record keeping as an agreement on this. This is not in compliance with best practices for a publicly funded non-profit, in other words not acceptable.
I will move on a motion to: Regulate future school exchange coordinator work contractually. This pending a consult from the Aspen city lawyer, as pertaining to workload, compensation, and performance review process.
After meeting with school administrators and to guarantee support from the district in the future;
I would like to move on a motion: to separate the review process; the collection of surveys, and debriefs from trips to a committee independent of the school coordinators themselves to assure an independent evaluation process rather than self- evaluation, for the organizations paid services. This could be, but not limited to, a city delegate, school administrator or public service representative. This is in resonance with the school administrations desire for their continued support.
I would like to move on a motion: to require balanced books per school exchange separate, as recommended by Executive Corps per consult from 2014. Pending consult with the city lawyer and accounting.
I would like to move on a motion to compile budgets for 2019 by next month, without budgets there shall be no reimbursement of any other funding, as is an industry standard. Starting in July, bimonthly meetings.
Revisit the “lost” and forgotten consult from executive Corps 2014,
Hidden in a folder passed on to me was a consult from Executive Corps dating back to 2014. I only uncovered this last. The recommendations echo eerily similar to those of the retreat in January regarding succession and (fiscal) transparency.
This again is a shining example of resources not properly documented and almost lost.
For those in need to have their memories refreshed, I have included the Executive Corps Consult, no archived on our website.
I will be working on implementing these recommendations from 2014.
Signed Danno Lahr
Minutes/Findings from 2014 Executive Service Corps
Sister Cities Board Meeting Facilitation January 9, 2014
Areas of concern that need to be addresses in the near future:
- Organisational Structure
- Selection Process – Students
- Selection Process – Chaperones
- Student Account Tracking/ Financial Reporting
Present: Don Sheeley, Jill Sheeley, Susan Glah, Griff Smith, Craig Rogers, Tom Heald, Jim Gilchrist, Kamala Marsh, Karl Adam, Georgina Levey, Francesca McPherson, Diane Godfrey, Julia Roark. 
- Student Experience [Transforming for the participants]
- High student demand [Especially in the Middle School]
- Selection process [Also under not working]
- Limitation of electronics use [Aspen students]
- Relationship with other country advisors.
- Selection Process (Also under working) – Transparency needed so all understand how it works; students, parents, school admin, teachers, board members, City, etc.
- Selection Committee composition – Same as selection above.
- Limitation of electronics: Visiting students – need to let them know to disconnect.
- Davos program – I believe it was dropped base on their end. Re-energize or let it lie?
- School entities in number of participants, chaperones, board involvement, coordination of calendars.
- Strong Financial Position
- In kind contributions – many contributions, but not tracked
- Board reporting transparency – financials are not shared with the whole board.
- Scholarship policies – no written policy for qualifications or amount
- Student account tracking/ Financial reporting – need a template for program directors to follow
- Program specific reporting – not currently tracking by program.
- Policies – Need to clarify and/ or record policies for how extensive, detailed the tracking and reporting are expected to be.
- Board meetings – Meetings are efficient and effective. Not a lot of time wasted with committees.
- Sub committees – Are formed ad hoc when important issues arise.
- Board Succession – No Plan in place.
- Additional positions/ responsibilities needed (Membership/ IT, Visitor hosting, should be addressed and assigned to one person or committee.
- Organisation Structure – How should the organzation be structured?
- Start with the optimum structure by defining the roles, then select the person/ people to fill the roles
Seperate the responsibilities for inbound and outbound coordination.
Have one person responsible for each program, both inbound and outbound
One person with overall responsibility(Director), one person for High School and one for the Middle School programs who both report to the overall director
Executive Service Corps
Recommendations to Aspen Sister Cities, Jan 13, 2014
By Christine Nole and Gary Hartman, ESC Consultants
General observations clearly you oversee an organization that is operating at a high level on many fronts. You are financially solvent. You have an active and committed volunteer leadership; demand for acceptance into the exchange program is significant, particularly in the middle-school grades; and the trips themselves are described as “transformative” for many participants.
Understanding is that you start with this strong base, we will address recommendations for improvement based on comments from board members and invited guests at your January 9 meeting.
Administration: The group identified this as the most key element on the agenda.
Much discussion was held about the way forward, given that Georgina Levey has resigned her position. Many different suggestions were offered about appropriate personnel and models. We said, and repeat, that current circumstances offer an opportunity to re-evaluate and ensure that the organization has the right structure.
Define all necessary roles of staff and volunteers in the administration of the program; construct an organizational chart reflects relationships and hierarchy
Group tasks to be performed in logical divisions of responsibility.
Draft job descriptions.
Publicize as appropriate
Nail down the actual hiring process. Who vets potential candidates, and who makes the decisions?
We know that it is tempting to take the most expeditious paths, but with many options flowing from your discussion– A director with middle school and high school coordinators, one person responsible for each program, one”Inbound” person and one “outbound” person, etc., You need to be thoughtful about this juncture and use it to address the weakness you have knowledge exists here.
Selection process: Transparency appears to be the key.
Examine the selection process for clarity and consistency.
Document it and obtain sign-off from all necessary parties.
Communicate the policies and procedures in the process to students, parents, school administrators, teachers, city representatives, etc.
Stick to the plan.
Exceptions should be handled with extreme caution, and required approval more than one person, i.e., the board.
Evaluate the sister cities schools interface to ensure and equitable and a rational distribution in number of participants, chaperones, board involvement, and coordination of calendars.
Also codify the chaperones selection process. A lack of understanding and some disgruntlement were noted.
Ditto for those assigned to the selection committee.(Who is eligible and how are they chosen?)
Governance: there is much to celebrate here, as we shared with you during your meeting.
Your leadership is committed and involved, as evidenced by the showing January 9. This is somewhat remarkable, considering the fact that you meet monthly. A couple of suggestions:
Make sure, especially considering the frequency of your meetings, that agendas in financial statements are prepared and shared ahead of time and that the agenda is followed.
Consider establishing a more robust committee structure. We know this sounds at the outset like more work, but committees(membership, public relations/liaisons, quality control, nominating – These are areas in which the board expressed a desire for improvement– can help address the transparency question, strengthen ties to the community, manage tasks, and ideally cultivate future board members.
You know what’s coming: we would strongly recommend a strategic planning exercise. This reiterates mission, core values, goals and objectives, and helps you delineate your responsibilities, assignments, deadlines, and budget impacts. If some board members occasionally feel “Out of the loop”, their participation in such an exercise puts them squarely back in the circle.
Financial management: the good news is, you have money.
And it sounds as though Karl already knows what he’d like to see happen to tidy up this area.
Adopt financial policies and make sure the board members are clear on these.
We’re not entirely sure what is in place, but these should address investment strategies, checks and balances(Check signing, account balancing, making deposits, etc. Closing parentheses, budgeting and financial reporting.
Consider melding the two accounts. From our cursory overview, we believe you could maintain(or improve) control and consistency with one P&L and balance sheet. The fact that some board members(not to mention officers) express a lack of understanding of how this all works is that red slack.
In keeping with this last suggestion, decide whether or not a simple cost accounting– type budget and financial reports could serve your need to show “performance” of each exchange program.
At this point, and on doubtedly if you move to incorporate the two accounts, you should be filing an accurate 990. You appear to be “skating” in your use of the 990, for groups realizing income of under $50,000.
In any case, establish some type of template program directors can follow to help in tracking income and expense, if indeed this task falls to them.
Clarify the scholarship process. Rules should be in place regarding amount of requests and awarding of scholarships.
Consider a booking in– kind contributions. This zero’s out, as you know, but it is a more accepted way of reflecting your true income and expense.
We spent a relatively short time conducting individual interviews, meeting with staff, and facilitating your meeting so this is a cursory overview. We hope it generates further discussion and begins to plot anyway forward to an even stronger organization. It was a pleasure working with you, and I hope you contact us again if we can be of more help thank you for the opportunity.