Responding to persistent criticism of its operation from a small cadre of citizens, the Key Biscayne Community Foundation on Monday terminated its contractual relationship with the Village.
The email to Village Manager Steve Williamson came from KBCF’s Executive Director Melissa White, who said the decision was made “after much consideration.”
White said the foundation would work “over the next few months” to hand over it’s work to the village, adding that it will “not do any fee for service work for the village in the next fiscal year.”
Williamson called this a “sad day for the village.”
The Foundation, which has been working with the Village under an annual $125,000 contract for five years, has provided popular services for the Village including operation of the FreeBee on-demand ride service, access to COVID vaccinations and services to homebound seniors during the pandemic, among other services.
“We’ve enjoyed working with the Village to serve our community,” Dr. Jorge Mendía, a member of the KBCF Board of Directors, told Islander News Monday evening. “But the distractions of the last two years have made our ability to carry out the Foundation’s mission of community service more challenging.”
Mendía noted that the Foundation worked closely with the Village for years before the relationship became a contractual relationship five years ago. It will end its working relationship with the Village on Oct. 1.
As a result of growing criticism of its leader and the Foundation’s operation, Mendia said the board “decided this was a good time to end the fee-for-service relationship.”
“That does not mean that we will not support the Village in all its efforts on behalf of our community,” added Mendía.
In her letter to WIlliamson, Melissa White said, “The consistent barrage of false information in an orchestrated smear campaign promoted by a small group in our community has irreparably damaged the Foundation.”
None of the critics’ names were cited by White or Mendia, but the Foundation’s budget has recently been questioned by Village Council members Luis Lauredo and Ignacio Segurola. Others in the community have used social media platforms and ads in Islander News to question, without any evidence, the Foundation’s financial transparency.
“As your foundation, we will continue to do great work to help the community at large. It is a new chapter for the KBCF with new opportunities,” Mendia told Islander News, adding that the move will provide the KBCF with the ability to continue engaging in “many important endeavors” without the distractions from local critics diverting the Foundation’s focus and energy away from its core mission.
Williamson said, “It’s discouraging when people who want to do the work to move the community forward, have to take a step back,” adding that he wishes everyone would get that “Village feel and realize this is an amazing community.