“Studies show business suffers
when a CEO is involved in the operation"
when a CEO is involved in the operation"
Training and Education Manager
Far from Priority One Credit Union's headquarters in South Pasadena, California, five members convened at the Los Angeles branch and complained loudly in the presence of other members, demanding to know "why doesn't anyone answer the phones." One of the members complains about all the "new charges and fees" the credit union has recently introduced and accuses the credit union of becoming "just like a bank." Another exclaims, "I don't even like going to your main office anymore. I go to the LAPDC."
Complaints like these have become increasingly more common even light of the fact that just a few months ago, COO, Beatrice Walker, unveiled the credit union's call center which she took full credit for designing and which she dubbed a "one-stop call center." Evidently, its not living up the the COO's hyperbole. So what happened and why is the recently launched call center failing and provoking frustrated members's to anger. What's more, it is also Ms. Walker who introduced added fees and charges that are now eliciting member complaints.
Ms. Walker arrived quietly and without fanfare to the credit union on June 1, 2009. On June 2, 2009, AVP, Rodger Smock, issued an announcement to all employees praising Ms. Walker's experience and expertise as a Chief Officer of Operations who possessed that talent to create new business, introduce new streams of income, and reduce spending. For all intents and purposes, Ms. Walker according to Mr. Smock, was the consummate executive, at least on paper. In reality, Ms. Walker like President Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. is unethical, dishonest, corrupt, manipulative and an almost complete failure as a strategist. Despite her far flung failures, she is being paid over $100,000 per year though we've yet to discover why she is being paid such a high and undeserved salary.
Before January 1, 2007, the date Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. began his appointment as President, the credit union was a thriving organization known for its helpful staff, dignified President, and quality products and services that didn't gouge members. Prior to January 1, 2007, annual employee turnover was approximated 1%. Not so since Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. became President and CEO and ushered in a period of decline.
It is the failures of President Wiggington that have forced the introduction of added fees and charges. In other words, members are paying for his bungling business decisions and misappropriation of spending and of his authority.
In an effort to reverse it's decaying public reputation, Training and Education Manager, Robert West, composed another of his absurd addresses which tried in earnest to draw attention away from the President's well-documented history of failures. Mr. West avoided all reference to the implementation of fees and charges just like those levied by banks. He never alluded to the many failed enterprises launched by the President and more recently, by the COO. He never mentioned deterioration of the credit union's once solid reputation or the denigration of employee morale.
In his address, the not-very-forthright Training and Education Manager states that one reason Priority One is different from every other credit union on earth is because it's a “financial fitness center” whose purpose is to help members “win with money” but conveniently avoids mentioning that at the end of 2009, the so-called financial fitness center ended the year more than $5 million in the negative.
THIS MONTH'S TOPIC
Because Beatrice Walker recently celebrated her one-year anniversary at Priority One, we've decided to dedicate this post almost entirely to her. We thought we'd review some of the products and services she's introduced, about her character and also provide a little information about her pre-Priority One employment.
Since her arrival, Ms. Walker has spent more than $150,000 on product and service development and another $150,000, approximately, on building a call center and remodeling of the South Pasadena and Burbank branches. As reported previously, she's also charged a $5000 laptop to the credit union. She has also been duplicitous in manipulating financial reporting practices, has used fear to subjugate employees, has ushered in a dynamic of class distinctions of "them" versus "us", has violated policies, and has earned the contempt of many staff members both in exempt and non-exempt personnel.
THE AGE OF WALKER
It was President Wiggington's vast business blunders, his voluntary immersion in embarrassing scandals, and his gross mismanagement of the credit union's finances that created the opportunity for Beatrice Walker to absorb some of his apparently, former authority over business.
Ms. Walker like the President is an opportunist. She is cunning, manipulative and has a deep disdain for rules, policies and laws. She arrived at Priority One on June 1, 2009 and by September 1, 2009, it was apparent she had won the Board's favor. In fact, the Board was smitten by her and apparently, Board Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks, became enamored with Ms. Walker's promises that she could single-handedly improve business only if President Wiggington would not interfere with her endeavors. Mrs. Harris-Brooks agreed. The President was kicked to the metaphorical curb, losing much of his business-making authority to his COO and watching as she garnered more and more of the Board's support to almost everything she proposed to do. In October 2006, Directors, O. Glen Saffold, Thomas Gathers, and Janice Irving each stated that they selected Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. as Priority One's next President because what the credit union most needed was "a Black President". How things changed in a mere three-years. The Board selected Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. because he is Black but by 2010, they were fixated by the "White", Ms. Walker, and mesmerized by her promises of forthcoming success. So where's the success she promised?
Inarguable, Beatrice Walker arrived at a credit union inundated in problems borne out of President Wiggington's incompetence and abhorrent behaviors. That was outside of control and posed a daunting challenge.
However, Ms. Walker became blindsided by her aspirations to displace the inept President and by her inability to develop products and services meeting the needs and wants of Priority One's demographically diverse marketplaces. And though the credit union's losing streak throughout 2009 which ended with more than $5 million in loses was caused by the President's and Board of Director's deficient business decisions, in 2010, we've seen absolutely that attests to Ms. Walker's profound experience and expertise in business development, streamlining, and marketing. On the contrary, what we see is an officer who indulges in spending vast amounts of monies on projects which have yet to pan out. Her unbridled spending is overshadowed by her fascination with malicious gossip and boasting and like the President, a constant need to boast about her alleged superior abilities. It seems Ms. Walker has drank too much of the President's Kool-Aid.
Ms. Walker’s authority is fully empowered by Board Chair, Diedra Harris-Brooks. We've recently learned that Ms Walker is quite proud of her influence over the Board Chair, knowing that Mrs. Harris-Brooks accepts everything she says at face value and without evidence. Ms. Walker is also aware that not one of the Directors understands the credit union's financial reports. There ignorance has provided her with an advantage over the governing body.
Though the success of any of Ms. Walker's products or services is yet to be seen, her greatest impact has been in terminating employees. In 2009, she terminated four employees because she determined they were unnecessary. In inearly 2010, she ordered more terminations including the termination of an AVP, a policy witer and a BSA Specialist though the reason for the second wave of termination is that she believed these persons to be the blogger, bloggers, and friends of the bloggers. It's like the Salem Witch Trials except without witches, a fair trial or evidence. And we thought it was only the President who suffered from delusions of persecution.
A NOT SO MYSTERIOUS COO
On www.naymz.com, Ms. Walker describes herself as the “COO @ Priority One Credit Union” and "responsible for the day-to-day operations of the credit union". Ms. Walker is being too modest. She is much more than your average run-a-the-mill COO. In her profile she alleges she began her employment at Priority One on July 1, 2009. This is untrue. We might have relegated the error of her start date to mere ignorance, but she also provides July 1, 2009 on her LinkedIn, Konnects, and Xing accounts. So why lie? Her actual and correct start date of employment was June 1, 2009.
This past June 1st, she told several employees that she was celebrating her one-year anniversary. So was her first day of employment at the credit union on June 1, 2009 or July 1, 2009? In fact, on June 3, 2009, we called her former employer, Electricore, Inc. in Santa Clarita and were told "She just quite last week without giving a notice." Apparently, she didn't provide the customary courtesy notice of two-weeks.
In her LinkedIn account she says she accepts consulting offers, new ventures and requests for her expertise and business deals. Considering her polarizing management style, her inability to create cohesive working relationship with staff, her inability to create equitable solutions, her preoccupation with malicious gossip, her excessive spending habits and failure to develop products and services that achieve their intended goals and we'd have to decline her invitation to contact her regarding any business-related dealings.
THE STORY OF HER ARRIVAL
Starting in August 2009, President Wiggington went about the South Pasadena branch exerting tremendous effort in letting employees know that he never met Beatrice Walker before her arrival at the credit union on June 1, 2009.
During one of the all-staff quarterly meetings, Ms. Walker stood before employees and said that a few months earlier, she found an ad in a newspaper seeking a COO. "I responded to the ad, got interviewed by the Board and got hired and that's how I got here. I met the President, for the first time, on the day I started working here."
Clearly, the President and COO entered into a campaign to ensure that employees became aware of the circumstances which led to Ms. Waker's hiring and placing immense emphasis that the two had never met prior to June 1, 2009. It was a lie.
Like Ms. Walker's fictitious story accusing some invisible group of employees of spreading rumors that she embezzled money while employed by Honda Federal Credit Union, her story of how she learned that the credit union was hoping to hire a COO, was another elaborate and frankly, disturbing lie, bringing attention to Ms. Walker's emotional motivations.
In 2008, three employees went to Applebee's restaurant located at 21 E. Main Street in the city of Alhambra, California. As they approached the entrance of the establishment, they observed President Wiggington leaving the restaurant with Beatrice Walker, though at the time, they did not know who she was.
Inexplicably, the employees ran and hid behind a parked car and watched as the President and Ms. Walker crossed the driveway, laughing loudly and clearly, knowing one another. OBVIOUSLY, the two knew each other long before Ms. Walker's arrival at the credit union on June 1, 2009.
Is Ms. Walker the well-honed strategist described in AVP, Rodger Smock's, June 2, 2009 memorandum? Here are some of the enterprises commissioned by Ms. Walker since her arrival at Priority One.
THE CALL CENTER
The call center was borne out of the failure caused by the President's $600,000 phone system which he purchased in 2008 and which was serve in lieu of a call enter. Unfortunately, the phone system has been marred by constant technical problems and has contributed to the credit union's amassing member services issues.
Ms. Walker began constructing the credit union's call center in late 2009. She made certain employees of all branches knew she was building a "one-stop call center" that would resolve all of the credit union's member service issues. Staff of the center would not only answer phones but also open new loan applications, transfer funds between member accounts, mail out membership applications, and answer a myriad of questions about products and services.
To date, Ms. Walker's highly advertised call center has proven it is not a one-stop center. What's more, by diverting all calls to the center, member service issues have actually increased. The center has proven to be cumbersome and ineffective and as a result, members frequently complain of having to wait on the phone 10-15-20 and sometimes 25 minutes, before their calls are answered.
Members are also complaining that Call Center representatives are inattentive and seem more concerned with cross-selling loans than they are listening to member concerns. They also allege that representatives are rushing them of the phone. So where's the "personal touch" Ms. Walker said her call center would provide to members?
But the call center isn't the only department plagued by service issues. On June 23rd, two members called a branch and complained that their voicemails were left with Credit Resolutions were never responded to, though the department's recorded message assures calls that voicemail messages will be responded to "within 24 hours."
AN OBSESSION WITH TITLES
COO, Beatrice Walker is an officer obsessed with titles. Since her arrival, she has created new spiffier titles which she grants to employees who are her cohorts.
DIRECTOR OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Two months ago, the COO changed the title of her confidant, Director of Credit Resolutions, Yvonne Boutte, to Director of Project Management. The COO didn't announce the change in title to employees though the new title began to suddenly appear in emails sent by Mrs. Boutte. So what is a Director of Project Management? Was the appointment of the new title accompanied by an increase in salary? What motivated the change in title? How will the new title help improve business? What we have noticed is that she continues to oversee credit resolutions with apparently no changes to her assigned responsibilities.
Approximately three months ago, the COO introduced Financial Planner, Saeid Raad, formerly of FOCUS ONE Community Credit Union, to the Board of Directors. She easily convinced the Board that Mr. Raad would make an excellent interim CFO while the credit union searched for a permanent CFO to fill the position vacated by Manny Gaitmaitan at the end of December 2009. So the Board agreed to hire Mr. Raad the Financial Planner to serve in the capacity of temporary interim CFO at a salary in excess of $100,000 per year.
A selling point made by Ms. Walker was that Mr. Raad would be fully cooperative and flexible with following the Board's and President's directions regarding financial reporting. Is hiring a temporary CFO who is being paid in excess of $100,000 per year yet another example of how Charles R. Wiggington, Sr. is "streamling" and "working smarter"?
This past January, Ms. Walker transferred Redlands Branch Manager, Joseph Garcia, aka as JG and JJ, to South Pasadena to serve as the temporary and interim Call Center Supervisor until a permanent supervisor was hired.
Two weeks following his arrival, the credit union announced that Mr. Garcia had accepted an offer to become the credit union's new Call Center Supervisor.
Four weeks later, Ms. Walker added the titles of Real Estate Loan and Consumer Loan Manager to his title and 10 days later, added the title of Credit Manager.
Mr. Garcia had no prior experience as a call center supervisor, as a real estate or consumer loan processor or officer or as a credit manager. His many titles were granted by Ms. Walker only because he is her confidant.
What's more, starting July 7, 2010, he will begin serving in the capacity of Interim Burbank Branch Manager. According to Ms. Walker, he will only serve in the capacity of Interim Burbank Branch Manager for about two-weeks. If this were true, then why assign the title of Interim Burbank Branch Manager to Mr. Garcia's burgeoning heap of titles?
Mr. Garcia was hired as South Pasadena's security guard. Mr. Garcia's apparent talent is pandering to supervisors. Though inexperienced, he was hired as a teller. He was quickly afterwards promoted to the post of FSR by Branch Manager, Gema Pleitez.
When the call center went online, he quickly became one of its representatives. Within a few weeks, Joseph Garcia promoted Mr. Garcia to the post of Call Center Lead by passing other more senior and more experienced employees.
Director of Project Management, Yvonne Boutte described him as a "kiss ass" and Ms. Walker replied, "I like it that way." She forgot to add that pandering is a quality she utilizes in determining who will receive one of her shiny new but meaningless titles.
Ms. Walker's obsession with titles is disturbing. It's ultimately an empty, meaningless gesture that relegates embellished monikers to staff who are favored versus staff who are competent. Then again, isn't this how Charles R. Wiggington. Sr. was selected as successor to the highly respected, William E. Harris?
Introduced by Ms. Walker in late 2009, Priority Pay is the credit union's version of a Payday Loan. The cost to develop and implement Priority Pay was $50,000, but Ms. Walker never conducted the usual types of studies that would have determine whether or not Priority Pay is something members want and need. The less than warm response has quickly branded Priority Pay an utter failure. Members have disclosed that the product is intrusive and provides the credit union with insight into their personal banking choices.
We believe the product was a good idea in theory but Ms. Walker's lack of responsible planning has surely relegated this to the stack of failed enterprises entered into by the credit union. What Ms. Walker never mentioned that when a person obtained a loan via Priority Pay, they are automatically entered into a monthly program which debits $59 each month from their checking account.
Ms. Walker's announcement of the product proved an utter fiasco. In 2009, chronically inept AVP, Rodger Smock, disclosed the product would have a "soft opening" and not be advertised to all members with invitations to apply for Priority Pay, only be mailed to members whose account histories show that they obtain payday loans.
Invitations were mailed by Ms. Walker forgot to ensure that these were accompanied by Fee schedules. We give Ms. Walker's well-intentioned but poorly executive product an "F".
Courtesy Pay is one of the first products introduced by Beatrice Walker. Courtesy Pay is nothing more than overdraft protection and charges a flat fee when used, irrelevant of the overdraft amount.
The only reason why Ms. Waker introduced the product was to generate income from fees incurred each time Courtesy Pay is used. The product is intended as a solution to the cycle of losses caused by President Wiggington's horrendous business decisions which have left the credit union in a state of perpetual losses.
And though the program is producing sorely needed money, it is also forcing more and more delinquencies and deferring increased numbers of members to collection proceedings. So is this how Priority One proves it is a Financial Fitness Center or that it possesses the ability to help members and employees "win with money"?
Ms. Walker was also to send letters to all members, inviting them to enroll in Courtesy Pay but just before the product was launched, she ordered the Member Services Department to enroll all active members in Courtesy Pay. Not surprisingly, since implementation of Courtesy Pay, member complaints and account closures have escalated. Inarguably, there is nothing courteous about Courtesy Pay.
Skip-a-Pay is another product plagiarized by Ms. Walker from an associate in the credit union industry. As we've mentioned in past posts, she has never developed an original product, choosing instead to call associates throughout the industry and borrowing their ideas. And though this is a common practice in many industries, her chronic failure is not engaging Priority One's marketplaces to verify if what she is planning to implement is something wanted and needed by the communities served by Priority One. She evidently has the same comprehension of marketing as does President Wiggington and AVP, Rodger Smock.
Skip-a-Pay allows members to skip a loan payment without adversely affecting their credit rating. The payment is not actually skipped but deferred. This means that the term of the loan agreement is renegotiated and extended by one month.
According to MyCreditUnion.Gov, Skip-a-Pay may offer convenience and "a sense of temporary relief, it can be an expensive alternative." The reason why Skip-a-Pay will prove costly to any member, is:
- The credit union continues to charge interest on the month where payment is "skipped"
- Skip-a-Pay requires renegotiation of a loan agreement and adds a month to the term of the loan for each Skip-a-Pay incident
- The credit union charges a $25 processing fee for all Skip-a-Pay applications
All things considered, Skip-a-Pay is an expensive product to all members and increases debt. The credit union invites members to apply for Skip-a-Pay and use the money, to take a vacation or buy something they might not otherwise afford. If a person's monthly loan payment is $80, we doubt they can use that amount to take a trip.
THE YING & THE YANG
In 2009, Ms. Walker fired four employees she said were unnecessary and promised to lay-off more employees to offset Priority One's expenses.
However, a few months following her ordered lay-offs, she planned the hiring of Saeid Raad at a cost of $100,000 per year.
She also implemented a plot against the IT Supervisor because he had discovered and challenged her for charging a $5000 laptop without first consulting with him as required under credit union policy. Infuriated, she hired her friend, Randy McBride as the IT Manager, placing him above the IT Supervisor. Within a few weeks following Mr. McBride's arrival the IT Supervisor was terminated using fraudulent accusations that he violated credit union policy.
Ms. Walker is not trying to reduce spending. To the contrary, she is using credit union funds like her own private piggy bank and forcing the credit union into a cycle of unnecessary and exorbitant spending.
TALKING THE WALK - WALKER STYLE
This past February, Beatrice Walker began implementing numerous changes to various departments, including the credit union's Business Development Department.
One might have assumed that Rodger Smock, the Director over Human Resources, would have been more intimately familiar with state law. If an employee works overtime, they must be paid overtime irrelevant of a business' financial limitations. According to state law:
In California, the general overtime provisions are that a nonexempt employee 18 years of age or older, or any minor employee 16 or 17 years of age who is not required by law to attend school and is not otherwise prohibited by law from engaging in the subject work, shall not be employed more than eight hours in any workday or more than 40 hours in any workweek unless he or she receives one and one-half times his or her regular rate of pay for all hours worked over eight hours in any workday and over 40 hours in the workweek. Eight hours of labor constitutes a day's work, and employment beyond eight hours in any workday or more than six days in any workweek is permissible provided the employee is compensated for the overtime at not less than:
- One and one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of eight hours up to and including 12 hours in any workday, and for the first eight hours worked on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek; and
- Double the employee's regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 12 hours in any workday and for all hours worked in excess of eight on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek.
Employees who have questions regarding the legality of Ms. Walker's and Mr. Smock's latest directives should contact the California Department of Industrial Relations or if necessary, file a complaint at http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/howtofilewageclaim.htm. .
We also conducted a search to verify how the state classifies sales personnel and obtained the following information:
Primary duty of making sales; or of obtaining orders or contracts for services or for the use of facilities for which a consideration will be paid by the client or customer, and ...
- Be at least 18 years of age or older.
- Usually work away from the employer's place of business, selling tangible or intangible items.
- More than 50% of the time they are performing these outside sales duties. Work under Wage Orders (Professional, Technical, Clerical, Mechanical and Similar Occupations) or 7 (Mercantile Industry).
- You are not considered an outside salesman if you make sales by mail, telephone, or the Internet or if you work from your home or your employer's office.
Priority One's Business Development staff spends more than 50% and more of their time working in the field. So why did Ms. Walker violate state law and reclassify the entire team from exempt to non-exempt status? If you have questions regarding your status or the payment of overtime, please contact a labor overtime lawyer at (888)OVERTIME.
A SELF-PROCLAIMS SALESMAN
According to Ms. Walker and her lackey, AVP, Rodger Smock, restructuring of the Business Development team was fueled by the team's failure to produce the level of new business needed to offset the credit union's looming monthly overhead. So hos is converting exempt employees to non-exempt status going to increase the development of new business?
During meetings with branch managers Ms. Walker has said she wishes to eliminate the entire business development team and has increased their monthly sales quotas. She has said that if they fail to satisfy their monthly quotas, then she legally can terminate their employment. She has also said that the amount of new business brought in by each team member fails to justify their "high salaries."
The team earns between $25,000 and $50,000 per year whereas Ms. Walker is paid more than $100,000 per year as is AVP, Rodger Smock. The President earns more than $150,000 per year. In view of their chronic strategical failures, are their three salaries justified?
Ms. Walker has also boasted that she can get more business on her own and without assistance than the entire business development team combined. She can't even introduce products that achieve the amount of profit she promised, how then does she possess the talent to generate more new business than the 5-person team? We think Fräulein Walker is suffering from delusions of grandeur.
She's going to have to do a lot better than installing window treatments, new carpeting and umbrellas in the employee patio, to prove she's worth her $100,000 plus annual salary. The fact is, Beatrice Walker shares the same inability as does Charles R. Wiggington,. Sr. to create anything that reaps real profit. She's failed as a strategist and she's been a deterrant to employee morale. In the end, all we can say is -
"WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR MS. WALKER? THERE’S THE DOOR – GO GET THE BUSINESS GIRL!
In a nut shell, Beatrice Walker is a failure, corrupt and a chronic liar. Her strategical planning has added tremendous debt to the credit union. What's more, none of her plagiarized ideas have created the level of new business she promised they would produce.
A few months ago, she conceded that the challenges she faces are many and in her words, “This better work out, where else can I go where I get paid as much.” So what has Beatrice Walker done in the past year to justify her more than $100,000 a year salary?
Her only real achievement has been fooling the credit union's ignorant Board who have increased her authority and are blindly trusting everything she promises will be achieved by her plagiarized ideas.
There is nothing more dangerous than a person who believes their opinions are above-reproach and who are driven by fear, pride, and ignorance. In the end, they will only destroy everything in their path to ensure preservation of what they believe to be true.