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.
The document, obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, suggested that Chinoda step down to help repair the image of the nonprofit, one of the largest independent blood banks in the nation.
"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."
Like many other donors, Morgan said he stopped giving blood and money to FBC when he learned of its business practices. A sweep of the board and Chinoda is necessary, he said, to win back former donors such as himself.
"I think this is a matter of great community import," he said. "It is so important to people's lives. It is a matter of life and death."
New FBC board member Jeffrey Eisenbarth, vice president for business and finance at Rollins College, said in an e-mail that the nonprofit needs to change, but he declined to be more specific.
"Some planned changes will be adopted … while other changes are yet to be determined," said Eisenbarth, who is out of town today and will not attend the meeting.
No other board members could be reached for comment.
Nason's report also called for change.
In it, she said, she had sought feedback about Chinoda and FBC from nine Central Florida leaders representing education, nonprofits, public relations and health care.
"There is virtually no support upon which to draw," she wrote, adding that FBC was facing a "gaping goodwill deficit."
She also wrote she no longer would offer advice to the board's executive committee — Yates, Chinoda and George Tomyn, a Marion County schools administrator — because they are "not in agreement with my analysis or recommendations."
Nason was brought in by Richard Costales, a vice president at Universal Orlando and executive committee member. He quit last week after the board did not accept Chinoda's resignation, becoming the ninth board member to resign since September. The board now numbers 28.
FBC brings in more than $100 million annually by accepting donated blood, testing and certifying it as safe, then selling it for $302 a pint to 70 hospitals and medical facilities in 21 Central and South Florida counties.
Dan Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5444.
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Since being promoted to CEO:
SOURCE: Internal Revenue Service, Florida's Blood Centers