On May 25, 2016 Disability Network West Michigan Board President Joe Doyle made a verbal commitment to engage in dialogue via email with members of Peer Action Alliance – if we left their Board Meeting before their funders arrived.
Disability Network West Michigan (Muskegon’s Center for Independent Living or CIL) is required to conduct open Board Meetings by Michigan’s Standards & Assurances, but has closed all meetings to the public for the past twenty months.
Because the presence of advocates can no longer be tolerated by Disability Network West Michigan, Mr. Doyle agreed that discussion should occur via email. We replied that we have been attempting to email Executive Director Tamera Collier for a year and a half without any response. He promised it would be different this time.
He broke that promise. DNWM’s Board Meetings remain closed to the public and repeated requests to open dialogue have gone totally unanswered for three months. Muskegon’s Center for Independent Living is once again unreachable for dialogue.
Mr. Doyle is a prominent member of our community and many Muskegonites will be scratching their heads, wondering what could motivate him to exclude members of the disability community from participating in the conversation surrounding our Center for Independent Living.
Unfortunately, it has come to light that Mr. Doyle has a long history funneling taxpayer dollars to subminimum wage employers. Mr. Doyle worked at Goodwill Industries of West Michigan as the “Workforce Development Director,” which means that he worked to convince local and state governments to direct public funding streams toward subminimum wage employment for people with disabilities.
It has also come to light that DNWM’s Vice President, Sandra Baker, is the owner / operator of a segregated group home called Gracious Grounds and that Executive Director Tamera Collier is a former Behavioral Therapist at Hope Network Sheltered Workshop.
This new information aligns perfectly with Disability Network West Michigan’s new partnership with the businesses financially exploiting the disability community through sheltered work and subminimum wage “jobs”. It now makes perfect sense why our CIL is advocating for more segregated housing, instead of doing its job to ensure people with disabilities have access to the services and supports we need to live in our own homes and in our communities.
CILs are required by law to be directed and staffed by the local disability community – a concept known as consumer control. Yet, Mr. Doyle, Ms. Baker, and Ms. Collier are not people with significant disabilities, and their interests (financial and otherwise) are in direct conflict with the mission of a Center for Independent Living.
No wonder our CIL is not functioning as a CIL. There isn’t a single consumer to be found anywhere on its leadership team! No wonder they can’t talk to their own consumers. It is now evident why they can’t appoint people with significant disabilities to their Board: input from the disability community would certainly interfere with their agenda to support discriminatory workplaces and segregated housing.
You can contact Disability Network West Michigan President Joe Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org; Vice President Sandra Baker at email@example.com; and Executive Director Tamera Collier at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disability Network West Michigan has refused our offer to participate in mediation paid at our own expense. We’re not going to allow $1 million+ earmarked for Muskegon’s disability community to continue to be thrown into the garbage annually. Disability Network West Michigan must return control of our Center for Independent Living to the disability community.
No more excuses.