JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Five of the six executive committee board members of the Clara White Mission resigned on Friday morning, pointing to dissatisfaction with the nonprofit’s CEO, Ju’Coby Pitman, over her procrastination and lack of transparency, especially over an outbreak of COVID-19 at the mission earlier this summer.
“The board was not informed of the most recent COVID outbreak, even after two individuals had been hospitalized, several employees had tested positive and the mission had been shut down,” resigning board members wrote.
There are 20 total board members for the mission with six on the executive board members.
A letter obtained from Chairman Michelle Paul and signed by “resigning members of the Clara White Mission Executive Board” claimed that Pitman did not inform the board of several employees testing positive for COVID-19 until four days after it happened. Two staff members were hospitalized, including Pitman herself. The mission’s longtime chef, Keith Smith, died with the virus last month.
“Eartha white was a woman who never thought of her own personal advancement but instead focused on how she would improve the lives of those less fortunate than herself. The resigning members of the executive board of the Clara White Mission were honored to collectively use their talents in hopes of furthering the great work of Eartha White,” the letter reads. “The resigning members of the executive board no longer felt they could fulfill their duties given the constant adversarial relationship with the CEO. When we can no longer protect the legacy of the honorable, it is time for us to leave.”
Pitman, who is also a member of Jacksonville City Council, told News4Jax she didn’t want to talk about the resignations and referred us to the mission’s office.
Dinah Mason, first vice president of the board of directors, said in a statement that she thanked the departing board members for their service and said the resignations have not hampered the work of the Clara White Mission.
“We respect the decision of each executive member and wish them well. The board is sovereign and has the task of continuing to raise funds for our programs,” Mason said. “We continue to mourn the loss of our head chef, Keith Smith, who died as a result of COVID-19. We support our President/CEO, Ju’Coby Pittman, as she continues to recover from being hospitalized (from June 26-Aug. 6) due to complications from COVID-19. We are dedicated to the community in the fight against coronavirus. We are offering free vaccinations every Wednesday.”
Among two dozen pages of documentation of internal communications the mission’s public relations firm supplied to News4Jax, one letter signed by three top staff members said that while Pitman was in the hospital, they were “demeaned, threatened and excluded” by executive committee board members, yet they continue to show up for work.
“We worked under immense stress, both from the effects of what was happening to the staff, the clients and how we were being treated,” they wrote. “Anyone who does not put the Clara White Mission first should have no affiliation with this organization. It is not about power, it is not about control, it is about service.”
Pittman and other leaders with the Clara White Mission plan to a hold news conference at 4:15 p.m. Sunday to address the resignations.