Letter to AIA East Bay Membership

December 10, 2018

Message from the President of the Board, Mark B. Steppan, AIA, CSI, NCARB, and the Board of Directors to the full membership of the East Bay Chapter of the AIA.

We desire to provide our membership with a further update on the current chapter situation.  For those of you that might not be aware, Sidney Sweeney, our Executive Director for the last 15 years, resigned from the chapter in September. Since that time the Board has been engaged in the involved effort of learning how the chapter is run and performs, what needs to be accomplished daily/monthly in Sidney’s absence, what needs to be immediately handled, and how best to keep the remaining staff employed.

We spent the best part of a month learning more about the chapter and trying to investigate a few important issues, which will be discussed further here, while concurrently preparing a job description for the Executive Director search. An effort was also made to reach out to AIACC to solicit their assistance in determining the critical first steps to respond to this situation. A meeting was held, in person, with Nicki Dennis Stephens, EVP AIACC, and Paul Welch, past president AIACC, to discuss the situation including suggested first steps as well as discussing financial aspects/concerns of the chapter. Additional communications are ongoing and we can report that AIACC is being very helpful and is providing financial review assistance.

While our desire has always been to keep the membership informed regarding our progress, we felt that the initial time spent learning about the chapter was best spent with members of the Board taking the lead to learn what we could. Our intention has always been to provide transparency in these matters. A major component of our efforts which has hindered or slowed down our ability to be transparent, and directly involve membership, has been our need to learn about potential tax and non-profit status issues that were brought to our attention during the past year by Sidney. We were informed that there were issues regarding potentially incorrect payment of past taxes, based on misdirection from an accounting consultant, that could lead to financial penalties and difficulties maintaining our non-profit status. We tried to track down existing communications regarding these issues, so we could take them to their proper conclusion, but were unable to find such important information/background data. Progress down this road had not been made during the year, of which we were unaware, and thus we are starting at ground zero. AIACC is also helping us navigate through these issues and assisting with communications with the IRS and the Franchise Tax Board.

Due to the potentially critical nature of these two issues, we had temporarily delayed the actual ED search process. Therefore, we were not able to provide an update to the membership as we tried to determine our next steps. We have now finalized the ED job description and it is making its way to advertisement, through the additional AIACC efforts of Nicki Stephens, to appropriate organizations and groups/boards to hopefully provide responses from experienced potential candidates.

Additional staffing issues plagued us through October and November as well. In late October Angela, the part time staff person helping with administration and financial aspects of the chapter, gave two weeks’ notice. This past week we learned that Shanel Scholz, our longtime Communications and Events Coordinator has given notice. She will remain with the chapter through the end of 2018. Shanel has only just been able to physically be in the chapter office as she recovers from a broken ankle, which she suffered less than two weeks after Sidney left. These three staff situations combined within a 3-month window are making the task of keeping the chapter office running smoothly, and remaining viable and active, a challenge for all of us. With all of these situations happening simultaneously, the Board has been trying to move things forward to a reasonable point so that we can communicate with the membership about what has been occurring. However, based on feedback we are receiving, we have decided it is critical to communicate more directly and openly to our membership in an effort to keep everyone informed. We also would like to solicit suggestions and help from membership. Clearly this situation is out of the norm for any chapter and requires significant time investment for the Board as well requiring many decisions to be made.

Now the chapter needs both a new ED and a new Communications/Event Coordinator. At this time, we are also considering a part time staff person, starting immediately, to help in the transition to a more permanent situation. We feel that we can now request feedback and help from chapter membership in fulfilling current needs and assistance.

The next event on the chapters’ calendar is the Member Appreciation Party on Thursday December 13th from 6pm – 8:30pm as noted on the website. We are suggesting a modification to the usual process at the beginning of the event to hold a town hall/forum where the Board can again briefly explain the situation and where events are leading all of us. We will then open the floor up to a Q&A session for the members to ask questions and/or provide suggestions or voice concerns which we can respond to. This forum time will take up the first 30 minutes of the party. Then we can all mingle, joke, eat some tasty food and enjoy each other’s company.

We, the Board, greatly appreciate all the membership’s patience and understanding as we all navigate through these unknown waters. Please feel free to communicate with the Board or chapter in general by emailing info@aiaeb.org.


Mark B. Steppan, AIA, CSI, NCARB, President
Devi Dutta-Choudhury, AIA, President Elect
Kim-Van Truong, AIA, Secretary/Treasurer
Winston Win, AIA, Past President
Rudolph Widmann, AIA, Director
Matthew Taecker, AIA, Director
Jeremy Hoffman, Assoc. AIA, Associate Director
Daniel Morales, Assoc. AIA, Associate Director

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