By Lincoln DePradine
Exactly two weeks after Sharon Shelton was publicly recognized at the annual general meeting of Tropicana Community Services (TCS) with a 30-year long-service award, she has been fired as executive director of the organization.
It’s a move that’s said to have “stunned’’ and “frightened’’ staff employed at the agency’s head office on Huntingwood Drive, as well as at its daycare facilities in Scarborough and at the Tropicana Employment Centre (TEC) on Consumers Road in North York.
The Caribbean Camera understands that Shelton was summoned to a meeting on July 11 last at TEC with members of the board of directors of TCS, which recently installed Trinidad-born Carol Comissiong as its new president.
Shelton was told of plans by TCS “to move in a new direction” and informed of her immediate dismissal.
The organization’s finances have been a source of concern in recent years and were discussed in some detail at last month’s annual “Tropicana implemented operational measures to ensure that we had a better financial year than the previous one,’’ Shelton said in her report to last month’s annual general meeting.
“This took the form of tightening spending, non-replacement of staff on leaves of absence, and introduction of new programs.’’
Shelton, who was expected to return to TCS earlier this week to retrieve her personal belongings from her former office, has declined to comment on the circumstances of her firing.
“I am not prepared to speak on the issue at this time,’’ she told the Caribbean Camera.
TCS staff was said to have been cautioned by the board about breaching confidence, and urged not to respond to enquiries from the media.
However, sources close to Tropicana have admitted that the organization’s financial situation is “very tenuous.”
However, they describe the sudden dismissal of Shelton as “draconian’’, saying there appears to be “a lack of understanding by the board, led by the new president, on the fundraising constraints faced by non-profit social service agencies such as Tropicana, and the way money is raised by for-profit corporations in the private sector’’.
Comissiong, with professional training and certification in accounting and business administration, has been a director of Tropicana since 2015.
She worked with IBM in Trinidad and Canada. .
An “organizational announcement’’, from directors to TCS staff, posed eleven questions and provided answers to them.
“A change in funding approach and leadership are some of the means the board plans to address the funding challenges currently experienced by Tropicana Community Services Organization,’’ the announcement reads.
“We need to find new channels of funding. Traditional not-for-profit marketing and communications efforts have proven less effective in attracting new members, or support or promote the organization. We must engage in the places our supporters are interacting and in ways that are meaningful to them. The organization plans to be more outbound, increase networks, work more closely with donors and stakeholders and show that its members are change agents.’’
Staff were asked to exercise patience “and keep an open mind. We do want to make sure that you understand that we need change to go forward and grow’’.
Nimo Abdulkadir Jama, who headed TEC, has relocated to the TCS Scarborough headquarters with her appointment as interim executive director.
The organization’s board of directors says it’s “committed to exploring and evaluating possibilities and opportunities that will put Tropicana Community Services on a path for progress. We will be in a period of transition and we will take the necessary time to decide on a permanent executive director that best suits the needs of the organization’’.
Founded in 1980, Tropicana established formal links with the United Way of Greater Toronto in 1984. It is the first organization from Toronto’s Black and Caribbean community to become a United Way member-agency.
Below pictures of Sharon Shelton and Carol Comissiong (with spectacles)