[nfbmi-talk] System Seven
president.nfb.mi at gmail.com
Thu Dec 23 02:01:23 UTC 2010
20812 Ann Arbor Trail
Dearborn Heights, MI 48127
president.nfb.mi at gmail.com
Dear Michigan Federationists:
I would like to encourage your thoughts and discussion concerning the following emails, which I have included below my
letter to you. One is from Joe Sibley.
They all concern the problems at the Commission for the Blind with System Seven. They also concern the problem with the Director of
our agency. I propose a dialog on the listserve about who is really the problem with the Michigan Commission for the Blind?
Larry J. Posont
President, National Federation of the Blind of Michigan
From: Joe Sibley
Michigan Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired (MCBVI)
An affiliate of the American Council of the Blind
Joe Sibley - President
Dear Jo Ann,
I am writing to respond to a letter recently sent to you by Larry Posant, president of the National Federation of the Blind of
Michigan, the letter is currently posted publicly on the NFB website. Although I am very pleased with the recent open dialogue
between MCBVI and NFB of MI, and continue to look forward to working with the NFB in areas where we can agree, I must take exception
to the letter sent by Larry to you and widely distributed to many others. In the interest of open dialogue I am sending a copy of
this letter to Larry Posant and Fred Wurtzel, and other involved officials, and give you permission to share it wherever you see
fit. I need to address this from three angles.
First, I am very troubled that internal emails from within MCB staff were used as a base to add additional allegations and bring
personal attack against director Pat Canon. Using these emails in this fashion has created a turmoil among the MCB staff and can
only result in a situation where staff will be afraid to address concerns in internal emails for fear that they will be publicized
and put them in uncomfortable situations. That only further discourages open communication which is already a problem within the
agency. We can't have a situation where staff is afraid to bring problems to the attention of management. Reading Karen Silky's
email it is a very well written and constructive message pointing out many of the serious problems with the new System 7 upgrade. It
is written by a very frustrated staff member trying to resolve these problems, yet it was used for political purposes to attack the
director, this was obviously not Karen's intent in writing this message.
Next I would like to address the continuous attacks on director Canon. I am truly tiring of the never ending personal attacks on the
director from those who try to portray him either as incompetent or an all powerful evil dictator. I have known Pat Canon for quite
a few years now and have had many conversations with him, and with those who work around him. Do I always agree with Pat on every
issue? Of course not. I do find him to be a man of good character and I do believe his actions and intentions are always aimed
toward the best for the agency. I can't imagine having to juggle the politics, the burocracy, the variety of funding sources, and
the public relations headaches that Pat has to handle. The fact that the agency is still fairly well funded at a time when many
departments in our state are having to slash programs tells me that Pat is doing some very positive things. Yes, there are many
problems within the Michigan Commission for the Blind and we will continue to speak out to try to address those problems, and yes
the ultimate responsibility for all activity in the agency lands on the directors desk, but to continuously try to personally
assassinate Pat's character is a cruel mistake. I have not seen the criteria used on the board's annual evaluation of the director,
but from my vantage point I believe your 2.1 out of 3 is probably a very fair judgement.
I am in agreement with Larry's letter in one area. I have spoken to a number of MCB staff members and this new System 7 so called
upgrade is a disaster. The Commission's internal computer technology has never been great, I am assuming much of that goes back to
the DTMB. For starters, I imagine those making decisions for the state's computer networks know little about access technology. With
this new System 7 revision, field staff who are already stretched with large case loads are having to spend many more hours trying
to do their jobs, and the system won't allow them to do what they have to do to do those jobs. From what I have heard and reviewing
Karen's original email, this is a problem that must be addressed immediately as it looks like the longer that staff tries to work
around this useless new system, the greater shambles that the agency's records will be. I hope that correcting this problem is an
urgent priority for the administration.
Thank you as always Jo Ann for your time, and your service to the agency. I have great respect for you and the direction you have
been moving the board in during the past year or so. There will be those that disagree with portions of my message, and I will
defend everyone's right to state their opinion. MCBVI remains committed to working to make this a great state to live in if you are
visually impaired. We will address problems and work with all parties to correct those problems, but will do so with an attitude of
positivity and constructive dialogue.
I hope you have a very blessed holiday season and a truly happy new year.
Michigan Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired (MCBVI)
From: "Kramer, Bernie (DELEG)" <kramerb at michigan.gov>
I feel humbled in thanking you for your kind remarks. I am indeed honored by your compliments and feel I'm leaving before the job
is done. It is just Larry, that it's time to go.
In terms of personal situations I am a first generation American German Jew, born in NYC but faced tremendous prejudice as I grew up
in rural New York State. The community had many Nazi's living in the area. I know it's not the same issue; but that is why I have
always fought for what is right.
I have the highest professional respect for Karyn Silky. I believe you are right on target. Her expertise in all facets of Blind
and Low Vision qualifications are exemplary. I think what we both are frustrated with is the Politic that I wrote about. We cannot
as an organization get beyond those issues. I would stand this Staff up against any in State Government. They are a special group
of professionals willing to go to the edge to ensure services are offered.
Until this Management team trusts it's staff, all the learning opportunities I was offered by John Victory just will not allow this
organization to move Forward. The tragic part of all this is that my friend and brother, Tony Van Staveren, and I to an extent,
determined we could no longer "fight the fight".
You may know I have faced many health challenges the past two years. In the early 2000's Tony Van Staveren and I took a lot on by
ourselves. I thought we were making progress, but I take you back to my remarks of yesterday's message.
I would appreciate it if I can remain on the NFB of MI distribution list. This address expires 29 Dec 10 and new address for you is
bpkramer45 at gmail.com
What I will look back on is the tremendous folks I was blessed to have spent the best part of my day with; for 15 years. I continue
to learn about Blindness.
God willing I hope to attend next year's state conference.
All the Best.
National Federation of the Blind of Michigan
20812 Ann Arbor Trail
Dearborn Heights, MI 48127
December 15, 2010
Dear Jo Ann,
Below are 2 emails from 2 of the most dedicated people in the MCB. They are speaking out about one more system within MCB that is
broken. As you are aware, much of the relationship with RSA is data driven. That is, the agency performance is measured and
evaluated in quantitative measures. There are few, if any qualitative measures.
The RSA recently completed a monitoring report which was a very poor reflection on the agency. As you read the comments from Karyn
Silky, you can sense her frustration as she tries to do her work and cannot do it efficiently and meet the demands of the
administrative management information system (System 7). As she points out, even the accounting is broken. She cannot charge costs
to the proper accounts. If these are not caught and manually corrected, RSA will, again, find that MCB is misappropriating funds.
The bottom line here is that System 7 is failing.
If that were the only major administrative problem in MCB it would be very serious and demand immediate and drastic action.
Unfortunately, this is only one among at least 4 other systems that have failed within the past year. Or should I say, more
correctly, which have been reported in the past year. Certainly the monitoring report covers a broader time span and shows ongoing
mismanagement by the Director.
Here is a brief recap of some of the failed and broken systems at MCB:
1.. 37 MCBTC staff are sitting idle and did so all last week at a cost of more than $75000/week, because there was inadequate
planning to anticipate issues that may arise in commencing a major construction project. This project has been in some stage of
planning since around 2005; it did not sneak up on anyone. This failure alone ought to be enough to demand drastic action from the
board. It is easy to predict that Pat will blame Melody Lindsey, Christine Boone or Sherri Heibeck. He will not ever take
responsibility for anything. Who is accountable?
2.. The Business Enterprise Program is in meltdown. With 15 facilities on the bid line and not enough blind people trained to
fill these positions it is just going to continue to cause major problems for MCB. Sooner or later, there will be a major incident
someplace which will create public relations problems and possibly attract negative legislature attention.
The last BEP training class of only 8, had no one in charge. Trainees were left to sit unsupervised with no assignments and no
oversight. An interpreter at $40/hour was allowed to sit while the person for whom they were to interpret had no activity. Fred
Wurtzel, the retired BEP administrator called James Hull and offered to supervise the class during John McEntee's absence. No
teacher was apparently better than a 20 year veteran. There have been talks of early retirements for years. It could be
anticipated that such an event would occur, yet there was absolutely no planning. This is difficult to understand, since placements
of blind clients are down and there allegedly very few jobs, except there 15, today in the Business Enterprise Program. Who will
take the fall for this. Will anyone take responsibility? Will anyone be held accountable? Certainly not Pat Cannon, Heaven
3.. The RSA monitoring report showed a monumental lack of oversight and numerous instances of violations of the law and rules. It
is alleged that RSA is wrong and MCB is not to blame. It is doubtful if this argument will hold water. Consumers have brought many
of these issues to the attention of the Commission Board, the MCB director and various staff people over the years. Some of these,
consumers could not easily detect, like misappropriation of funds by serving ineligible clients below the age of 14. Pat alleged in
a meeting with the NFB that he provided a copy of the preliminary monitoring report to you, Jo Ann, more than a year ago. You have
denied having a copy. I'm not sure of the truth, here. It certainly appears that Pat is, again, dumping responsibility on you and
not taking his own responsibility. Who will be blamed for this? Will it be Leamon, the MCB Board, and the counselors or, as we
heard, it is RSA's fault. Amazing!
4.. Back to System 7. This is the very heart of managing the MCB. RSA will use data from System 7 to evaluate the agency
6.. Yesterday, in the Services Delivery Design Team meeting staff expressed much dissatisfaction with System 7 and MAIN. it was
mentioned that blind staff, after how many years, now, still cannot do many of the administrative tasks which most state employees
must do either as a regular part of their job or as incidental parts of carrying out their duties. For example blind staff in state
government cannot even complete their own time sheets, let alone do a large number of tasks required for state jobs. The Commission
may become the only place where blind people can work if they need to use MAIN. The whole "MAIN" system is inaccessible and Pat
cannon is the state ADA coordinator. Michigan is at risk for a giant ADA suit such as the ones in Arkansas and New york. These
states had exactly the same problem with their statewide accounting systems. Is the Governor aware of this threat? Pat Cannon
cannot even advocate for his agencies' constituency, himself or anyone else it seems. Who is at fault for this system failure? It
must be Connie Zanger, right? She has been doing the job for the past few months and did not fix it. Or, could it be Sherri
Heibeck? She was in charge for several years. Or is it Libera? Did they follow the MCB specifications incorrectly? Or, is it
DTMB for not monitoring the system progress. Oh, how about Pat Cannon? Could he, as administrator be accountable? No, he is no
computer guru, so it must be someone else.
These are just 4, (did I say "just" 4?) items that, in most places of employment just 1 problem of the magnitude of these would have
caused major disciplinary action, that are plaguing MCB Yet, given all these, you just gave this man a satisfactory job rating.
This seems inconceivable.
How about some other items like the firing of Christine Boone on false pretenses with no MCB Board oversight, though the board is
the direct supervisor of the Director and P.A. 260 calls for such oversight, 2 instances of breaking and entry into the MCB office
where computers were stolen, allegations of misuse of travel by a staff person, questions about BEP inventories, questions about bep
judge shopping resulting in overturned administrative hearings? How many more do you need?
Read both Bernie's and Karin's messages. They are afraid of reprisals. Pat Cannon has managed by bullying and intimidation. Why
should an employee be afraid to report problems with the software they are depending on to do their jobs? This is the very software
the agency will depend on to report accurately to RSA to account for the $20 million the agency is entrusted with each year to serve
blind people. Fear is the management style of preference and as you can see from the list above it is not very effective as a
strategy. When will someone take responsibility? Are blind people so inconsequential that a person earning more than 120000 per
year is allowed to behave in any manner they choose wit impunity?
It is up to you. We are depending on you as the legally appointed body to oversee the Commission to take charge. When will this
madness stop and who will stop it?
Larry Posont, President
National Federation of the Blind of Michigan
Email: president.nfb.mi at gmail.com
Subject: RE: System 7 issues
Is this another case of Manager's making decisions WITHOUT ANY INPUT OF STAFF? I can't even count the number of times we have just
shoved stuff down the chain, (in our case the West Region) to Field Staff and Administrative Support. What affect does this have on
the overall push down to us; to increase Competitive Closures?
There most surely is POLITIC with this latest decision to revamp System 7? It must have to do with funding to LIBERA? Appease
RSA? Does anyone hear, or read of staff and administrative support input to the latest from Libera? Does anyone care about this
Staff; BUT, particularly here in the West Region? Kisiel and I do! Some of the West Staff may not agree with me; and that's OK.
How much more can this agency from Commissioner's, right down thru the "THE CHAIN OF COMMAND" ask of this Staff? For one time can we
be straight and honest to the hardest worker's we have? OK; worker's may not be a good title but is this how MANAGEMENT sees it's
front line employees
? Sherry Gordon, Lisa Kisiel and the writer have always tried to put our STAFF first. We tried but maybe never enough, to stand
up to what we felt was right? I always lived with FEAR, i.e., what can "they" do to me? And, I am a former Colonel in the United
I have sat by for many days now; first thinking WHAT CAN THEY DO TO ME if I respond In good conscience I have to! I have the
highest of respect for the professionalism that Karyn Silky and ALL STAFF of this agency bring to the table. For so many years I
supported the Director's approach which began upon arrival in 1999. As a Manager I became a learning person as was suggested to me,
not by my Boss then; but the Director. Eleven years ago I honored that attempt.
It pains me to see after these eleven years, that I have to ask; have we made any progress
? THIS IS A BURNED OUT FIELD STAFF in the West Region.
BERNIE P. KRAMER
West Region Manager
Michigan Commission For The Blind
350 Ottawa NW
Grand Rapids, MI
Subject: System 7 issues
First, thanks for being patient with all of us as we struggle through this mess. My comments below are not directed toward you,
please know that.
My first question is why can't we be allowed to view all consumers who are in the System? I needed to check to see if someone from
the other side of the state was currently open etc. for a new referral that came in with the same first and last name, and I was not
able to view any case information because I wasn't assigned to the case. If the response is that the counselor assigned to the case
must change it, then this is just not acceptable. What if the counselor/teacher doesn't do it in a timely fashion? What if the
person assigned to the case has retired? Doesn't Libra understand how this complicates service delivery for consumers? Not
everyone sits at their desk 8-10 hours per day - most, if not all of us, are out in the field for the majority of the week.
Secondly - why can't our support staff be able to do IPE amendments for counselors/teachers? Apparently the counselor/teacher
assigned to the case must do the IPE amendment, approve it then our support staff can follow through and do an authorization.
Again, this is not allowing us to do our jobs in a timely manner. It's not that support staff are actually writing the auth - it's
that some of us might call/email in a request to have support staff input the information into system, with all the particulars,
when we can't access or get to the system for various reasons like being on the road. If timely service delivery is being asked of
staff, this problem does not make it very feasible. It's insane that all of the methods we used to have in the old version aren't
The new requirement to go into the IPE and Amendments and date when services were rendered and the outcomes is also a huge issue.
How are we supposed to know when this has been done if we didn't have the case when original services were planned? This process
does not make our system "efficient" - it is taking an incredible amount of time for staff to even do a simple IPE amendment. Case
note entries should document that services were rendered. Sounds to me like someone doesn't want to review case files to get this
information and want a "quick fix".
I'm concerned that management does not have a full grasp on how difficult this "upgrade" has made our jobs. I would suggest that
those supervisors without case loads sit down and try to muddle through this mess and get things done in a timely fashion. I mean
actually try to write an IPE amendment, try to print one out and see what happens, try to do an authorization, add a new consumer,
try to find an existing consumer etc. . . and do this without having all the rights that you likely would have. The upgrade is
not acting like it did in training nor is it working like it did during the testing phase. I'm appalled that there doesn't seem to
be an upper management statement being made to Libra about the urgency of fixing these issues if not taking us back to the old way
of doing things. If it is being done on the Director or upper management level, it would be nice for staff to know that this is
happening - communicate with us on what is being asked to be fixed or corrected,
let us know that you are all supporting our concerns. I know that I am speaking for most if not all of my colleagues when I say
that we are fed up, tired and angry with what has been occurring.
My last issue is huge and has been asked of Libera already, but is creating a serious problem - staff (all staff) must be able to
plan and do authorizations from the appropriate accounting codes. Can't anyone see that when authorizations are being done, they
are being pulled from AARA funds versus VR because it can't be changed? What about YLV students - what if they are VR and we need
to do both YLV authorization as well as a VR service? It won't let you do this. Why are we being required to do ILOB plans when
only IL was supposed to have plans. While I'm on it, what is the definition of an IL consumer versus a homemaker? When do we serve
someone as IL and not VR homemaker? This question was asked during the testing phase of the upgrade when we learned there would be
a split in the funding for IL/ILOB. That was months ago. How can you implement a new approach to fund and serve IL/ILOB without
defining for us what that means? Leamon, you must address this issue because there will be and possibly are consumers out there not
getting services through general IL who have the right to services and/or are being put in the wrong program.
This "upgrade" is not an upgrade - it is a completely new system. Upgrades only fix minor issues - not create disasters. I feel
sorry for whoever will be in charge of gathering financial data at the end of Fiscal 2011 because the way things are going, nothing
will be accurate.
My appeal to all staff who are trying to use this system is this - if you are struggling with all of these issues, let management
know directly via email or phone calls. Specific issues must be identified to them and how it is impacting your job, how long it is
taking to do tasks (literally track the time) is absolutely necessary in order for users of the system to get our point across.
I might be putting my neck on the line sending this, but frankly, I don't care anymore. Karyn
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