The board that oversees the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging voted Wednesday to select Tasha Clark Amar as the agency’s new executive director.
Amar, currently director of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, was chosen to replace Johnny Dykes, whom the board terminated at its last meeting, on May 24.
The selection came after a tumultuous COA annual membership meeting at which three new board members were elected to open seats and three sitting members were re-elected to serve three-year terms.
The new board members are to take their seats in August.
“I hope to come in and just make the agency better than what it is,” Amar said, when contacted by telephone after the board’s vote to appoint her executive director.
Amar, the daughter of 19th Judicial District Court Judge Janice Clark, said she recognizes that she is taking over the agency’s reins at a time of turmoil.
She said she has experience working with seniors at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center and is confident she can get things back on track.
“At the end of the day, it’s about the betterment of our seniors,” Amar said. “I know how to work with them. They just want things to be done right.”
The nonprofit COA gets federal, state and local tax money to help seniors lead independent and active lives. Its programs include Meals on Wheels for the homebound; the Senior Olympics; and social activities at senior centers.
Amar’s selection as the COA’s executive director was recommended by the board’s five-member personnel committee. The panel screened applications from 44 candidates and interviewed the top eight.
Julie Cherry, who heads the personnel committee, said a contract will have to be negotiated with Amar. She said the executive director position was advertised at $75,000-plus, with the salary to be negotiated based on the person’s experience and other factors.
All board members present for Wednesday’s regular board meeting, including those who had opposed Dykes’ dismissal, voted for Amar.
Those present were: Johnny Anderson, Evert Bennett, Julie Cherry, Carolyn Fabre, Dorothy Jackson, Boyce Smith, A.J. Walls, Tara Wicker and Alfred Williams.
Board Chairman Ernest Stephens was present for the lengthy annual membership meeting that preceded the board’s regular meeting. However, he had to leave before Amar’s selection shortly after noon.
Board members Bart Lofton and the Rev. Leo Cyrus Sr. did not attend the meeting.
J. Arthur Smith III, an attorney representing Dykes, was in Baton Rouge state court later Wednesday afternoon for a hearing on a public records lawsuit against Stephens, the COA’s board chairman and acting director.
State District Judge William Morvant ordered Stephens to comply with Dykes’ May 11 public records request for documentation of any formal or informal complaints made against him.
Morvant, at the end of the hearing, said the COA either “refused or failed to respond’’ to Dykes’ valid request for records. The judge ordered the COA to pay an undetermined amount of attorney’s fees as well as a $25-a-day penalty for each day that the records are not produced.
COA attorney Jay Harris told the judge he will appeal his ruling. Dykes was represented by lawyers J. Arthur Smith III and Seth Dornier of the Smith law firm.
Dykes said he was still looking at all his options, including possibly seeking reinstatement.
Amar’s selection followed a stormy annual membership meeting at which 56 registered members of the Council on Aging voted on candidates to fill six seats on the 13-member governing board. Some candidates were nominated from the floor.
Stephens said any citizen of East Baton Rouge Parish over age 18 who registers with the COA can become a member.
The membership voted to reelect three current board members whose terms were up. They were Cyrus, Anderson and Walls.
The membership also elected three new members to open board seats, Roger Pippin, John Olin Brown and Jason Wall. The board voted to have the new members take their seats in August.
The newly elected members replace outgoing board members Wicker and Lofton and fill a third seat that had been open.
The annual meeting drew dozens of seniors, several of whom voiced concerns about how Dykes’ dismissal might affect senior citizen centers in their areas.
The discussion grew heated at times as members challenged the process the board was using to fill board seats.
The main issue was what candidates fit under what eligibility categories. A certain number of board seats are reserved for residents of the cities of Baton Rouge, Baker and Zachary, while others are at-large or are to come from public or private agencies serving the elderly.
Advocate staff writer Joe Gyan contributed to this report.