In early 1997, Elie Katz called me into his office one morning. He was uncharacteristically serious with me, so I knew something was up. It was the first time he discussed his health problems with me in detail. He wanted to know if I would take over running the Registry so he could retire.
I gave him an answer on the spot – NO. I told him that I would not be very good at doing what he did. I’ve never thought I’d make a very good salesman, which was in large part what Elie did. I excelled at technical work. I was very good at working with computers, but probably not so good at dealing with people. In short, I told Elie I was the wrong man for the job; His job!
I was being totally honest with Elie. I had little interest in doing his job, and I thought I would not be very good at it. I also thought the Registry needed someone more qualified for the CEO position than I was. He never approached me about the job again. In retrospect, maybe I should have said yes. Elie eventually found another person to take over as CEO, but quite honestly, I believe I could have done a much better job than this fellow did at running the Registry. Elie’s replacement was our CEO, at least in title, for almost three years.
Most of the Registry’s revenue came directly from the National Marrow Donor Program. I believe it was in mid-1997 that we were told that the NMDP was going to change the funding structure it followed when paying it’s member registries for their services. I suspect this was in response to cutbacks that the NMDP was experiencing in the funding they received from the government, and an attempt at cost-containment. Under this new “fee-for-services” model, the Registry would, we were told, see a much lower level of funding from the NMDP. We were told to prepare for leaner times ahead.
At about the same time, Elie Katz was in declining health and was seeking an outside organization to assume control of the Registry after he stepped down from the day to day management of the Registry.
Just before he stepped down at the end of 1997, Elie Katz let several staff members go. One of them was a computer programmer that assisted me. While we were told that trimming the payroll was a necessary step to take, some of the employees expressed their anger that the layoffs were not based on seniority (ie: last hired, first fired). Rather, it seemed to some of us that the people who lost their jobs were chosen based on Elie’s personal opinion of the employees. Some employees said they thought that the funding cutback was a convenient excuse for Elie to get rid of certain employees.
I was particularly sorry to see one of my co-workers, M.M., loose her job at the end of 1997. She was one of the nicest, sweetest, most pleasant people you would ever want to meet. Completely unpretentious, and down-to-earth. Not a mean bone in her body. Unlike many of the other employees who were always rushing out of the office at quitting time, M.M. always found time to stop and chat. She would be one of the first people there in the morning, and one of the last to leave each day. She is truly a friend, and I continue to speak with her from time to time. I hope she forgives me for saying this, but because of her age, I was terribly concerned that she would have a difficult time finding other employment. Thankfully, she did find a new job, and she is still working. The breadth of her knowledge and interests is quite amazing. We would talk about everything, from computers to pets to automobile repair. She is a rare find, and I wish her well. If there’s one person I will never forgive Elie Katz for saying nasty things about, it is she.
Elie also gave up a large part of the office space we were leasing. This impacted me directly, as I lost the office I shared with the programmer that was let go. We no longer had a conference room or several other offices either. We were now operating out of a much smaller office. From that point on, I worked out of a cubicle I fashioned out of a corner of the office space that remained. I guess I was a bit upset that some of the remaining offices were given to relatively new employees while I ended up being a sort of refugee.
Elie also closed the satellite offices in Buffalo, NY, Philadelphia, PA and Boston, MA, at about the same time, although two of the employees at those offices continued to work for the Registry. One of these employees, L.P.D., worked out of her home, and I believe the other employee, S.R., worked for us on occasion, as needed for donor drives, etc.
By 1997, Elie had been in declining health for some time. That, and his advancing age was making it impossible for him to remain in day-to-day control of the Registry. I guess it was logical for him to turn to a local medical center when seeking a suitor who could take over management of the Registry. We had an existing relationship with St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey. Paterson (in Passaic County) is a few towns away from River Edge (Bergen County). The physician who ran St. Joseph’s Hematology and Oncology department, A.R., was on Elie’s Board of Directors, and was also on our payroll, serving as the Registry’s medical director. We would send our potential marrow donors to St. Josephs for physical examinations (“workups”) and in some cases, for the harvesting of their marrow, if they reached that point in the donation process.
Elie signed an agreement with St. Joseph’s in late 1997 that had them taking control of the Registry. In legal terms, the agreement was embodied in a “Memorandum of Understanding” that was put together by attorneys for both organizations. You know, I’ve always wondered why lawyers are the butt of so many jokes. Now I know why (more on this later).
For Elie’s replacement, the administrator of St. Joe’s at that time, J.F.B., a Catholic Nun, had recommended a hospital administrator she knew named I.S. He most recently had held an administrative position at a hospital in Camden, New Jersey. Elie retired as C.E.O. of the Registry and turned the day-to-day responsibilities of running the Registry, including the title of C.E.O. over to I.S. as of the end of 1997. Elie however, retained the title of President, which left him in effective, if not absentee control of the Registry. It was not clear to me at the time why Elie wanted to retain control. Given his health, it was unlikely that he would ever be able to return to his former position of running the day-to-day business of the Registry. After I.S. took over day-to-day control of the Registry, there were instances when I would remind my co-workers that Elie was still in ultimate control, and that I.S. reported to Elie. My co-workers by and large, didn’t believe that Elie was still calling the shots behind the scene, but I was ultimately proven correct in this regard.
I believe putting I.S. in charge was a big mistake. I’ll be even less generous…. In my view, next to our merger with the Bergen Community Regional Blood Center, he was the worst thing that ever happened to the HLA Registry Foundation, and Elie knew it pretty early on. I.S. was our C.E.O. for almost three years. It appeared to me that I.S. had three priorities in life. They were playing golf, following his investments in the stock market, and dieting. But try to talk to him about an important decision that had to be made regarding the Registry, and he didn’t want to get involved. Other managers and staff saw the same thing in I.S. that I did; we could not get him to make any decisions. I’m not sure if he was afraid of making the wrong decision, or if it was an extreme case of empowering his managers. It was scary, because here was a boss that nobody felt comfortable bringing important issues to. He had the authority to fire you for decisions that you made. You felt a responsibility to try and involve him in things that were taking place and decisions that had to be made. I resented the situation, and it concerned me. I seriously considered a mutiny, but given the standard penalty for mutiny, I never acted. Besides, other than what I viewed as his shortcomings as an executive, I.S. was, in contrast to Elie Katz, a soft-spoken, easygoing fellow. On a human level, most of us liked him. Besides, he didn’t scream like Elie did.
During these three years it seemed, there was zero involvement in the operation of the Registry by the people at St. Joes, with a single exception; When the agreement was signed at the end of 1997, half of our Board members resigned and their seats were filled by individuals from St. Joes. Other than their representation on our Board, there was no apparent involvement, interaction or day-to-day contact between the Registry and people from the hospital, other than our referring potential donors for medical workups there. This was not what Elie had in mind when he signed the agreement with St. Joes. Perhaps there’s more to this story than meets the eye. Perhaps the people at St. Joes did not care to fight with Elie over details of running the Registry, and were just biding their time until Elie was gone from the scene. Who knows. But whether to the casual observer, or to the employees of the Registry, there was absolutely nothing to indicate that St. Joes was taking an active role in running the Registry. In the three years that I.S. was in charge, our bank account was dwindling, recruitment of donors was way down, and I guess Elie had been getting an earful from both employees and others, about what I.S. was (or was not) doing. Poor health or not, in late 2000, Elie tore up the agreement with St. Joes and eliminated (ostensibly by action of the Board) the position of C.E.O., eliminating I.S.’s job, and providing a severance package for I.S.. Elie chose to get rid of I.S. by eliminating the CEO position (and providing severance) rather than fire him due to his performance. This was because Elie was advised by his attorney that because of I.S.’s age (around 60) firing him could result in an age-discrimination lawsuit against the Registry. To my knowledge, St. Joe’s did not oppose the dissolution of their memorandum of understanding with us. Perhaps they were just glad to wash their hands of us. I simply don’t know what their position was, or whether they really cared to continue the “relationship” or not.
Whatever your feelings about him, there is one undisputable fact. Elie Katz was a shrewd (and successful) businessman. That’s why he was able to build the Registry and keep it’s finances sound. At the time he signed the agreement with St. Joes, the Registry’s cash-on-hand was several million dollars. However, what he decided to do with that money surprised me. He formed a new non-profit foundation he called “The National HLA Fund” which was based out of his home. He obtained IRS 501(c)(3) tax exempt status for the new entity, and transferred the bulk of the Registry’s funds (several million dollars) to the new Foundation. If you’re thinking that was illegal, think again. Elie worked closely with his attorney to make sure everything was done legally. As far as I know, the IRS never questioned the transfer. Elie’s Board of Directors approved it. I never approved it (nobody asked me).
He told me his new Foundation was set up to help families with a child needing a marrow transplant to pay for the cost of testing potential donors. I’m sure what he did was legal. I’m not so sure it was morally correct. After all, whether those dollars came from a corporation or a family that made a donation to the Registry, or from funding received from the NMDP, in my mind, there was an obligation to see that those funds were used to further the mission of the Registry. Perhaps I’m wrong about this issue, but that is what I believe. I can understand Elie’s desire to retain control over the funds he amassed while running the Registry, but I question his methods.
Over the next few years, I asked Elie several times about what his new Foundation was doing, but regretfully, he was never forthcoming with any specifics. I guess he felt it was none of my business. Perhaps he was right. I tend to be very curious. Some people think I ask too many questions.
In the years after Elie Katz left the day-to-day operation of the Registry and started his National HLA Fund, another 501(c)(3) private foundation, I asked him many times about what he was accomplishing. Despite the fact that he occasionally asked me to help him with minor computer issues for the office he had in his home, he never cared to discuss with me the work that the Fund was doing, only speaking in generalities and painting a positive picture. After Elie died, I was sure I’d get the answers by looking at his organization’s tax returns and by searching the Web. I was pretty certain that all the money he moved from the Registry to his new venture must have allowed him to help many, many families.
Here’s an excerpt from a description of the National HLA Fund’s mission, which I took off of the website (no longer existing) which Elie had set up for that organization…
“The National HLA Fund is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization which offers modest financial grants to eligible individuals to help offset the cost of tissue typing of siblings for the purpose of identifying a compatible donor in the family for that particular patient.”
Another excerpt from the same website…
“The National HLA Fund can act as a repository of funds colleted [sic] in fund drives – safeguarding these monies and assuring fiscal responsibility.”
I searched for clues as to where the funds Elie transferred to his National HLA Fund might have gone, and who might have benefited from his organization. Here is what I have found to date:
Based on Web searches (and confirmed by examination of tax returns, below)…
A donation to the Meland Foundation (amount and date not disclosed), a New Jersey based organization with the following objectives stated on their website’s mission statement: “The Foundation seeks to identify and understand the hazards and adverse factors affecting the Families of America and each family member. We are concerned about the incidence of violence in America; drug abuse; and academic failure. We are concerned about the many indications that families and family members are not flourishing and are not reaching their highest potential from a physical, intellectual, and psychological point of view. As we gain more insight into the causes of these failures and more understanding into the dynamics of individual and family life, we will respond with concrete programs to promote greater individual and family well being”.
That sounds awfully broad, but certainly seems like a noble mission. I can’t figure out what in the world it has to do with providing financial support to families searching for bone marrow donors for their child. Can you?
The Meland Foundation’s activities appear to consist of providing health information to the public through two libraries. Their website lists them as the Closter Public Library, in Closter, NJ, and The Englewood Hospital’s library in Englewood, NJ. The only address I could find for the Meland Foundation was a Post Office box in Harrington Park, NJ.
A donation of between five and ten thousand dollars to the Annapolis, Maryland based Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation, which was listed in their Winter, 2000 newsletter. This seems to be an organization that is a bit closer in focus to Elie’s Fund than the last benefactor I listed, so I think we’re getting warmer, but I don’t know if this Foundation provides assistance to families with a child that needs a bone marrow transplant.
A fund raising commitment of $10,000 to the Marrow Foundation, for an “80 Gun Salute” (a black-tie dinner) to Admiral Zumwalt (posthumously) on November 29, 2000 at “Windows On The World”, at the World Trade Center in New York City. Very nice. I’m sure everyone had a wonderful time, although I never received MY invitation. Considering that the World Trade Center was destroyed nine months later, on September 11, 2001, I guess the Dinner was held just in time. I’m not making light of the tragedy, but rather I’m simply pointing out the timing. Despite living in New York City when it was built, and in New Jersey for most of it’s existence, I had never visited the World Trade Center. Carpe Diem.
The website of the Marrow Foundation, based in Washington, DC, states the following: “The Marrow Foundation is a partner of the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP) that secures resources from the private sector to carry out the work of the NMDP”. That is very important work which I support wholeheartedly, but does it further the stated mission of the National HLA Fund?
Here’s an interesting question that popped up while I was visiting The Marrow Foundation’s website. I do not intend to imply there is anything wrong with the practice. I simply don’t understand the reasoning or the purpose. The Marrow Foundation (TMF) was created to support the work of the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP). On TMF’s website, they list the NMDP as providing a support commitment of at least $200,000 for the Admiral Zumwalt dinner I just mentioned. I understand the NMDP’s desire to honor Admiral Zumwalt and what he accomplished. I support the mission of these fine organizations, but it seems like the money is going in circles. Why donate money to a Foundation that exists to raise money for you? Could somebody please explain this to me?
As I indicated earlier, I obtained the Private Foundation Tax Returns (IRS Form 990-PF) for the National HLA Fund, for tax years 1997 thru 2001. Here is a summary of their grant activities for those years, as reported to the IRS. I have rounded all amounts greater than $1,000 to the nearest thousand.
Tax year 1997 (period ending 6/30/1998) – 6 grants
“Miscellaneous” $ 415
St. Vincent Medical Canter (no address) $ 1,000
B’nai Brith (Washington, DC) $ 3,000
NJ Camp for Blind Children (Marcella, NJ) **see LIONS $ 5,000
NJ HLA Registry Foundation (River Edge, NJ) $ 63,000
Community Blood Services (Paramus, NJ) $ 105,000
Tax year 1998 (period ending 6/30/1999) – 18 grants
Coalition For The Homeless (no address) $ 100
St. Josephs School For The Blind (Jersey City, NJ) $ 100
Holy Name Hospital (Teaneck, NJ) $ 150
Oradell Fire Department (Oradell, NJ) $ 200
LabCorp (Burlington, NJ) $ 280
Oradell Lions Club (Oradell, NJ) **see LIONS $ 305
Lions Charitable Foundation (Leonia, NJ) **see LIONS $ 550
Special Olympics (Princeton, NJ) $ 675
AAKP **see KIDNEY, below (Tampa, FL) $ 1,000
NJ Camp For Blind Children (Marcella, NJ) **see LIONS $ 1,000
Doris Cohen – Living Expenses (Bet Shemesh, Israel) $ 2,000
Borough of Oradell – Police Equipment (Oradell, NJ) $ 2,000
Charlie Chiarello – Renovations for disability (Oradell, NJ) $ 8,000
Doctors Without Borders (New York, NY) $ 10,000
The Marrow Foundation (Washington, DC) $ 14,000
New York University Medical Center (New York, NY) $ 50,000
Camp Kinderland – Playhouse renovation (Brooklyn, NY) $ 100,000
Community Blood Services (Paramus, NJ) $ 177,000
Tax year 1999 (period ending 6/30/2000) – 18 grants
St. Josephs School For The Blind (Jersey City, NJ) $ 40
Coalition For The Homeless (no address) $ 100
Oradell Fire Department (Oradell, NJ) $ 100
“Miscellaneous” $ 197
Lions Charitable Foundation **see LIONS (Leonia, NJ) $ 450
AAKP **see KIDNEY (Tampa, FL) $ 500
Lions Eye Bank Of New Jersey **see LIONS (Springfield, NJ) $ 1,000
Doris Cohen – Living Expenses (Bet Shemesh, Israel) $ 1,000
Community Blood Services (Paramus, NJ) $ 1,000
Bergen Community Regional Blood Center (Paramus, NJ) $ 2,000
The Meland Foundation – Children’s books (Harrington Park, NJ) $ 2,000
National Kidney Foundation (New York, NY) $ 2,000
Doctors Without Borders (New York, NY) $ 2,000
LabCorp (Burlington, NJ) $ 3,000
Oradell Lions Club **see LIONS (Oradell, NJ) $ 5,000
Aplastic Anemia Foundation (Annapolis, MD) $ 16,000
NJ Camp For Blind Children **see LIONS (Marcella, NJ) $ 17,000
The Marrow Foundation (Washington, DC) $ 27,000
Tax year 1999 (period ending 6/30/2000) – 12 grants
Lions Charitable Foundation **see LIONS (Leonia, NJ) $ 100
AAKP **see KIDNEY (Tampa, FL) $ 150
Oradell Lions Club **see LIONS (Oradell, NJ) $ 155
Coalition For The Homeless (no address) $ 200
Doris Cohen – Living Expenses (Bet Shemesh, Israel) $ 700
National Kidney Foundation (New York, NY) $ 450
“Miscellaneous” $ 460
The Meland Foundation – Children’s Books (Harrington Park, NJ) $ 1,000
LabCorp (Burlington, NJ) $ 3,000
NJ Camp For The Blind **see LIONS (Marcella, NJ) $ 5,000
Community Blood Services (Paramus, NJ) $ 6,000
The Marrow Foundation (Washington, DC) $ 30,000
Tax year 2000 (period ending 6/30/2001) – 12 grants
National Kidney Foundation (New York, NY) $ 50
Lions Charitable Foundation **see LIONS (Leonia, NJ) $ 100
AAKP **see KIDNEY (Tampa, FL) $ 100
The Meland Foundation – Children’s Books (Harrington Park, NJ) $ 100
St. Josephs School For The Blind (Jersey City, NJ) $ 150
Oradell Lions Club **see LIONS (Oradell, NJ) $ 200
Coalition For The Homeless (no address) $ 200
Oradell Fire Department (Oradell, NJ) $ 250
“Miscellaneous” $ 585
NJ Camp For The Blind **see LIONS (Marcella, NJ) $ 10,000
The Marrow Foundation (Washington, DC) $ 16,000
Bergen Community Regional Blood Center (Paramus, NJ) $ 32,000
** LIONS – Elie Katz had been a member of the Oradell, NJ Lions Club for many years.
The camp in Marcella, NJ is supported by the Lions Club.
** KIDNEY – Although not listed on the tax return, “AAKP” appears to be the American
Association of Kidney Patients, which would have been a cause pertinent
to Elie Katz’s personal life.
A review of these grants gives a feel for Elie Katz’s interests. Certainly, the biggest recipient of his largess by far was the Bergen Community Regional Blood Center, aka Community Blood Services, receiving grants totaling nearly a third of a million dollars. It’s little wonder why they named one of their programs in his honor. The National Marrow Donor Program, via The Marrow Foundation, was also a top recipient. The Lions Club and the programs they supported were also among Elie’s favorite causes. I have no idea why a Jewish day camp in Brooklyn, NY, was the beneficiary of such a generous gift for a playhouse (actually, it appears that the Brooklyn address is probably their office, with the camp itself being located in Massachusetts). I thought that the Israeli woman who received several grants for living expenses, and the Oradell man who received a grant for home renovations were interesting ones. I was not able to identify any families who might have received support to assist them in testing family members for HLA compatibility with a child needing a bone marrow transplant. Perhaps the few dollars listed as “miscellaneous” or as “LabCorp” went towards paying for testing of family members, although the dollar amounts are insignificant when compared to the other grants. That was the supposed reason for Elie creating the Fund, at least according to what I and my co-workers at the HLA Registry Foundation were told.
It is interesting to note that for a number of the tax years for which I obtained tax returns, the National HLA Fund’s operating expenses (excluding grants) far outstripped the grants they were making, with operating expenses, including salaries, being more than twice as much as their grant activity. For one year, even M.K.’s compensation alone had exceeded the grants they made. I think any watchdog agency that oversees the operation of charitable organizations would have a problem with that.
At the end of tax year 2001 (June, 2002), the remaining assets of the National HLA Fund were $450,000. I did not obtain the tax returns for subsequent years, so I do not know the disposition of those funds. Elie Katz died in August of 2003.
If I locate other recipients of grants from Elie Katz’s National HLA Fund, I will include that information here. If you received a grant or know someone who did, please let me know about it. I would like to include the information here.
Until 2001, the President of the United States earned $200,000 a year. The president has a real tough job, and I think most Americans would agree that he earns his salary. Until 1998, as reported on the Registry’s IRS filings, Elie Katz was taking home $150,000 a year. When the Registry was dissolved, he took another $300,000 as a severance package. When he started the National HLA Fund, which was run out of his home, his wife M.K. had the title of President of that organization. She was eventually paid a six-figure salary by that non-profit, according to documents they filed with the IRS. While I’m not certain, I don’t think there were any employees at Elie’s HLA Fund, other than M.K. herself! I will leave it to the reader to decide if those salaries were warranted, based on the size of the organizations, the number of employees and the work done by the individuals. If you were solicited for a donation by the Registry or the National HLA Fund, and you wrote out a check to help support their work, would you be comfortable with those salaries? How much do you earn? Having trouble making ends meet? Maybe you should start your own non-profit organization. It pays very well, at least for those at the top. Maybe the term “non-profit” is misleading.
Personally, I thought those salaries were excessive. That is, until I saw the tax returns filed with the IRS by the Bergen Community Regional Blood Center. I refer the reader to the Blood Center or the IRS, for an examination of their latest tax return. Their CEO’s salary makes Elie Katz look like a welfare case. I’m guessing that their CEO, D.T., must be extremely qualified and competent, despite how I was treated. However, I find it hard to believe that the Board can’t find a very qualified person who would take the job for much, much less. How can they ask the public to support their charitable organization by making a donation, and still keep a straight face?
I wonder if these huge salaries are the norm in the “non-profit” world. What in the world are the Boards of all these charities thinking? We’re not talking General Motors or IBM or AT&T here. These are small organizations that are asking the public for financial support. The HLA Registry had under 20 employees. I believe the Blood Center has between 100 and 200 employees. The National HLA Fund, I believe, had no employees other than Elie’s wife. It’s perfectly legal for a non-profit to pay huge salaries, but is it right? You be the judge.
Addendum to Charity Cases (March, 2006)
Well apparently, greed is alive and well in the USA (not that I had very much doubt). I just read a Washington Post article printed in the Newark Star-Ledger (March 5, 2006), that discussed the severance packages the American Red Cross has been giving to it’s executives. According to the article, their former Chief Executive, Marsha Evans, who resigned last December after “loosing the confidence of their Board”, received a severance package exceeding three-quarters of a million dollars. Not to be outdone, their previous CEO, Bernadine Healy, who was forced out in 2001, received a severance package of nearly two million dollars. TWO MILLION DOLLARS? Most American workers won’t earn that much in their entire life, yet those are exactly the people the American Red Cross hopes will support their organization. What type of severance package do they offer executives whose performance they are pleased with? It certainly makes you wonder what the primary mission of the Red Cross may be. What did the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance (www.give.org), which examines charities, have to say about this? Their reaction was that Marsha Evans’ severance package “was not unusual”. Is this country great, or what?
I don’t know about you, but after the next hurricane, earthquake or tsunami, when the American Red Cross begs for donations, you won’t see me rushing to send them my money. My suggestion is that you give directly to people affected by a disaster, not to an organization that, in my opinion, may have lost sight of its mission. Once again, a good reason why you should be a responsible donor and check an organization’s track record before you support them with your hard-earned money. Personally, I think the Internal Revenue Service should conduct a periodic formal review of each exempt organization’s continued eligibility for tax-exempt status. The salaries, benefits and other compensation they provide their directors should be considered, among other factors, in deciding whether to continue their tax-exempt status. Perhaps that will encourage fiduciary responsibility by boards of directors.
There was a web of relationships between the HLA Registry Foundation, St. Josephs Hospital, and Bergen Community Regional Blood Center, with a handful of people appearing in management and holding positions on the Boards of each of the organizations. In addition to running the HLA Registry Foundation, Elie Katz was on the Board of Directors of the Bergen Community Regional Blood Center, as was A.R., the physician from St. Josephs Hospital in Paterson, NJ. Then there is J.F.B, the former CEO of St. Josephs Hospital, who is on the Board of Trustees of the Blood Center. As I mentioned earlier, I.S., who became Elie Katz’s replacement when Elie resigned as CEO, was recommended for the job by J.F.B. Also noteworthy is the fact that the Blood Center’s CEO, D.T., who was an employee of St. Joseph’s Hospital at the time, was on the Board of the HLA Registry Foundation during the time that we had the agreement in place with the hospital. If D.T. was still on the HLA Registry’s Board when the vote was taken on whether the Registry would be taken over by the Blood Center, I would venture to guess that he would have had to abstain from voting, because of the conflict of interest.
I guess all this reciprocity existing between the Boards and the Management of these three organizations isn’t all that surprising, given the persons involved, the similar interests of the organizations, and their geographic proximity to one another.
A year or two before the Registry was taken over by the Blood Center, they named their new umbilical cord blood (stem cell) program in Elie Katz’s honor. Why? I’m not certain. Perhaps they were impressed with the work he had done at the Registry or on their Board. Perhaps it was an acknowledgment of donations Elie made from the Registry and his National HLA Fund to the Blood Center. Perhaps Elie had already promised them that he would turn over the Registry to them, and this was their way of saying “Thank You”. The Blood Center even held a gala Dinner honoring Elie Katz at the Sheraton Crossroads Hotel in Mahwah, New Jersey.
As far as I know, no money changed hands when the assets of the Registry were handed over to the Bergen Community Regional Blood Center. Our Board of Directors resigned, Elie Katz resigned (but not without getting his final reward). The Registry was dissolved, the donor files, computers, office equipment, and all other assets were given away to the Blood Center.
During his negotiations (thru the attorneys for both sides), Elie attempted to secure employment contracts from the Blood Center for just three of his employees. Perhaps he wasn’t comfortable with their promises of jobs for all of the Registry’s employees. The Blood Center’s CEO, D.T., told Elie that he was the only Blood Center employee that had an employment contract, and he refused to provide employment contracts for any of the Registry’s employees. Elie withdrew his demand for employment contracts, which I believe he would have been able to get, had he insisted. If they wouldn’t provide employment guarantees for even a few of the Registry’s employees, Elie should have told the Blood Center to take a hike. Instead, what he got written into the agreement wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. Basically, it said “We’ll take all of your employees, but we can get rid of any of them at any time for any reason we deem necessary”.
Elie Katz getting the short end of the stick? Think again.
Another item that was discussed during the merger negotiations was that Elie Katz wanted to be given the remainder of the money that the Registry had in the bank, which amounted to several hundred thousand dollars, upon the transfer of the Registry to the Blood Center. It was to be classified as a severance package. Apparently, D.T. was uncomfortable with this arrangement, and suggested that the Blood Center would have no problem with the Registry’s Board of Directors providing the severance money to Elie before ownership changed hands. That’s exactly what they did. Not bad, Elie. I hope you remembered to send Thank You cards to all the people who donated their hard-earned money to the Registry over the years, believing they were helping to pay for laboratory testing of new marrow donors.
What were you doing on July 15, 2002? At the HLA Registry Foundation, we were becoming employees of the Bergen Community Regional Blood Center. Not to worry; We were told nothing was going to change. Some of us might have even believed that.
Here’s something to ponder... Most people don’t die suddenly. Rather, experience a slow decline that is marked by a string of less significant events. For instance… They gradually grow weaker. They loose their mobility. Bones break. Memory begins to fail. Organs deteriorate or fail. They loose their faculties. They stop eating. They need oxygen. Often, it is a cascading series of events that brings death. The little things that happen are probably just as significant to a patient’s outcome as the major events, perhaps in the aggregate, even more so. As I previously mentioned, during the downsizing of the Registry in late 1997, one of the casualties was the loss of my office. In retrospect, this was a real bad sign. If you loose your office, get moved into a smaller office, have to start sharing your office, etc., be concerned. Be very concerned.
Another concern was one that I expressed to D.D., who was our Bookkeeper turned Chief Operating Officer (when I.S.’s position as CEO was eliminated) turned Registry Director upon merging with the Blood Center. Around the time of the merger, I told D.D. that when I.S. was our CEO, we did not have anywhere near the same level of communication and access to him as we did with Elie Katz. I was concerned that we wouldn’t have access to D.T., the Blood Center’s CEO. I remember exactly where I was standing when I asked the question, and I remember D.D’s reply to me verbatim. “He has an open-door policy - He is very accessible”, I was told. As I soon learned, nothing could have been further from the truth. Nothing.
Shortly after the Registry became part of the Blood Center, those of us at the Registry that had company credit cards were told they were being cancelled, and that only the CEO had a company credit card. My credit card was used to buy supplies and services for the Registry, so I thought it would pose a problem for some of the essentials I would purchase by credit card. My concern was unnecessary.
Shortly after that, I was told that I now reported to the person at the Blood Center that had roughly the same title as I did at the Registry. Did the Blood Center’s Human Resources department call me in or send me a letter to let me know? No. Did The CEO at the Blood Center give me a call to explain the decision? No. They simply had someone at the Registry pass along the message. I wasn’t a recent hire. I wasn’t a low-level employee. I was a department manager, and I had the most seniority of all the Registry’s employees; I was at the Registry for 16 years. By contrast, the person I was told I now report to at the Blood Center had been hired about one year ago. Even D.T., the Blood Center CEO had only been there for about a year. I asked if I was still the Manager of Information Systems. Nobody knew. However, since it appeared that I wasn’t a Manager any longer, I guess I wasn’t authorized to make purchases any longer either. Why would I need a credit card? See, I was worried needlessly.
If Management of your company doesn’t see fit to communicate personnel decisions that will directly affect you in a face-to-face fashion, but rather chooses to communicate indirectly, whether by a third party, or by a voice mail message, etc., this is another bad sign. In my opinion, it also doesn’t say much about the integrity of top management.
For the first few months after the merger, I had little contact with the people at the Blood Center. There were a couple of phone calls, and I visited their building once for a tour, and once for their annual staff meeting.
When I was notified that they were planning some changes involving things like e-mail addresses and our Website, I wrote a memo outlining my concerns. I reminded them that the merger agreement stipulated that the Blood Center was to continue operating the Registry as the “HLA Registry” for a period of at least five years. It appeared to me that their intended changes would result in that identity being lost, at least as far as electronic interaction with the public was concerned. While I never got any feedback to my memo, I suspect that the Management at the Blood Center might have considered me to be a “whistle blower”, based on what soon followed.
Shortly thereafter, I was notified by the Blood Center that they felt that they didn’t need an IT Manager at the Registry. I was told that they decided they could handle the IT support function from their offices, and that they planned on phasing out my position at the Registry.
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