The chairman of Metro Orlando's main blood bank may urge the agency's board today to keep top executive Anne Chinoda, even though a recent survey found little or no backing for her in the community.
"No one expressed support for the retention of the current CEO. No one expressed interest in serving as a champion for the agency," were among the conclusions of a six-page memo compiled for Florida's Blood Centers by a Tallahassee firm specializing in crisis communications.
"To end the media circus, restore public faith and bring controversy to an end, a dramatic demonstration of organizational change will be required. As soon as feasibly possible, a change in CEO is recommended," said the report written by Lisa Nason, a vice president with Ron Sachs Communications.
Nason, who advised FBC for free, would not comment.
Her research, first given to board members nearly two weeks ago and updated for them Monday, apparently prompted Chinoda, 50, to offer her resignation and clean out her office. She has not been seen at her south Orange County headquarters in 10 days, according to three workers there.
Negotiations over a severance package worth $640,000 to $1.2 million were begun as well, said two sources with knowledge of the situation.
But longtime FBC chairman Leighton Yates has decided he wants to keep Chinoda as CEO, the sources said. During a telephone call with board members last week, the sources said, Yates argued she had done nothing wrong and deserved to stay.
Yates, in an e-mail to the Sentinel, would not discuss the more than hourlong conference call, during which the panel took no action.
"Whenever I speak at any board meeting, anything I say is strictly for the benefit of the board and not for any other audience," wrote Yates, who first became a director 34 years ago and has been the chairman for the past 15 years.
He also declined to talk about what would be discussed during today's meeting, where new rules for running the blood bank are thought to be on the agenda, too.
Yates, 63, did confirm he would be leaving the volunteer board in April because of the new regulations the group is likely to discuss today. One of the changes would be instituting a nine-year limit on board service, which would force the departure of Yates and several other members.
That measure, plus one prohibiting board members from doing business with FBC, was announced in November, a month before a state Senate health regulation committee held a hearing in Tallahassee that looked into the way the Orlando agency does business.
The Senate investigation was sparked in part by a series of articles in the Sentinel revealing that board members annually conducted more than $1 million worth of business with the agency, that there were no board term limits and that Chinoda's compensation nearly doubled after being named CEO in 2003.
It is unclear how long Yates has provided legal counsel to FBC, but his firm — Holland & Knight — has billed more than $1 million to FBC since 2003, according to records filed with the Internal Revenue Service. He said his firm "would be proud" to continue working for the blood bank once he steps down.
But, he said, that "will be a decision of FBC leadership."
Yates was instrumental late last year in approving a $71,000 annual raise for Chinoda — bringing her total pay package to more than $605,000 — just six weeks before she decided to lay off 42 workers, most of them paid by the hour.
Well-known Orlando attorney John Morgan, who has raised money for the blood bank, said he thinks it's time for Chinoda to go. He contends her salary is too high, and he said board members should not be selling goods and services to the agency.
"What I worry most about," he said, "is quid pro quo. That is a culture of you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours."
Anne Chinoda: Florida's Blood Centers
Florida's Blood Centers' Anne Chinoda: Blood-bank chairman expected to fight to keep CEO Anne Chinoda
Florida's Blood Centers' Anne Chinoda: Chairman expected to back Anne Chinoda although survey finds little support for her in Orlando community.
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