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Tapestry Health rebuilds board after resignations

NORTHAMPTON — Acting on an auditor’s recommendations, Tapestry Health’s board has appointed new members with financial expertise as the cash-strapped organization fills a void left by a mass resignation this year.

A certified public accountant and others who work in medicine and the banking and insurance industries have joined the nonprofit group in recent months, bringing it back to nearly a dozen board members.

Several of the new members are serving on the board’s finance committee to enable Tapestry to stabilize its finances with the help of consultants and a three-year recovery plan developed by management. The agency has posted surpluses during the past several years but remains in debt. Its most recent audit flagged areas needing improvement in its financial affairs and board oversight.

“We’re also hoping to bring in more board members to better represent the area we serve,” said Satu Zoller, board chairwoman.

Founded in 1973 by Leslie Tarr Laurie, Tapestry Health operates on an approximately $6 million budget, employs 120 people and provides health and family planning services across western Massachusetts. The agency initially focused on women’s reproductive health but evolved into a regional, community-based health care organization that runs eight health centers and needle exchange and nutrition programs, as well as breast and cervical cancer screenings, sexual health exams, counseling, outreach education and insurance enrollment programs.

In late January, the agency announced Laurie was resigning after the Gazette inquired about her status. The resignation of six former board members, some of whom were founding members and had served at the agency for decades, followed.

The six later told the Gazette they quit when Laurie resigned over austerity measures planned by the board and in response to “a radical change in the board operations and governance, and as an expression of our desire not to be complicit in a proposed agency budget that we viewed as unnecessarily austere.”

The group that resigned said remaining board members and interim CEO and Chief Financial Officer Sudhakar Vamathevan rejected alternatives to staff cuts and cost-saving measures they had put forward.

Vamathevan declined to comment Thursday, saying he has been instructed by the current board not to speak with the news media. Laurie has not responded to requests by phone and email for an interview.

Dr. Sam Topal, the founding medical director of Tapestry Health when it was known as the Family Planning Council of Western Massachusetts, was among those who resigned from the board. He declined to comment for this story other than to say he wishes the best for the organization.

“I support Tapestry wholeheartedly and support its mission and I want it to do well,” Topal said. “They were good people who left. Dedicated.”

New members

Among the members appointed to Tapestry’s board in the past few months are Dorian Gregory, a certified public accountant with expertise in internal control reviews and audit quality assurance, and Jeremy Melton, a vice president for compliance and Community Reinvestment Act manager at Florence Savings Bank.

Dr. Jane R. Cross, a pediatrician in Holyoke, and Jack Stone, a former Tapestry board member who works in the insurance industry, have joined the board. Janice M. Albano, an associate treasurer at Mount Holyoke College, joined the board in December and serves as its treasurer. As the new directors get oriented, Zoller said the board also is revising its bylaws, which hadn’t been reviewed in many years. It has created a new governance committee and the board is also setting term limits for officers, which didn’t previously exist.

“We thought it would be a good idea,” said Zoller, who is only the third board president at Tapestry in its 40-year history.

She added, “We really want to be more transparent and open.”

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.

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