[nfbmi-talk] System Seven
f.wurtzel at att.net
Wed Dec 22 21:15:41 CST 2010
Larry, thank you for inviting us to make comments.
In reading your original letter and Joe's response, it seems like Joe is
pretty much agreeing with your letter. He agrees that System 7 is broke.
He agrees that staff are afraid to make their thoughts known due to fear of
retribution. Bernie Kramer absolutely agreed with your letter and was not
dismayed by your advocacy. You definitely came out to support Karyn Silky,
along with all MCB field staff, and her efforts to do her job. In my
observation, Karyn is a fine counselor and ought to have support systems
that work. By asking Jo Ann Pilarski to work on resolving the problem, he
agrees that the Commission Board has a role in dealing with professional
management of MCB.
Given Pat's propensity for firing people like Dave and Christine with no
reason, you can see why staff is fearful of pointing out problems. This is
self-defeating for Pat in that it shields him from the needs of staff and
limits the information he has to make sound decisions. Fear, bullying and
intimidation are hallmarks of his management style and logically leads to
fear from staff. Thankfully Bernie stood up for Karyn, as the great
supervisor he is.
So, the only thing that you and Joe apparently disagree about is whether Pat
Cannon is responsible for managing the Commission. Apparently Joe has
bought into Pat's continual dodging of responsibility and denial that
anything is his fault. If he is not responsible for the agency, why is he
being paid more than $120,000 to be the Director?
Pat is very persuasive and smooth. He is a master at spin. I don't blame
Joe for buying into Pat's line. After all, Joe hasn't been around all that
long in the blindness field. Joe is a really nice guy who wants to think
the best of everyone. That is not a bad trait for a leader. However, in
this case, it is enabling Pat to continue to duck responsibility as the
wheels are falling off the agency in almost every area. If it were only the
RSA monitoring report, that would be enough for scrutiny, but, as you point
out, it is the Monitoring report, the BEP, the training Center and System
7. How much can Pat not be responsible for?
So, to me, you and Joe are in agreement and it is only the question of who
owns the mess that MCB is in where you are not in synch.
From: nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org]
On Behalf Of Larry Posont
Sent: Wednesday, December 22, 2010 9:01 PM
To: NFBofMichigan List
Subject: [nfbmi-talk] System Seven
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
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
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
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
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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