The chairman of the Downtown Belleville YMCA’s Board of Managers has resigned in protest of the recent termination of the executive director.
Phillip Paeltz, the headmaster at the Governor French Academy, praised the work of former director William Welsh for his abilities to marshal volunteers and raise money for the organization, but his dismissal in May surprised the board and upset Paeltz because the decision was not made locally nor explained by the Gateway Region YMCA.
“He was an absolutely great local leader of a YMCA,” Paeltz said. “If I understand this correctly, Belleville no longer has a local YMCA.”
The YMCA of Southwestern Illinois, which had seven locations in the metro-east, combined with 18 locations belonging to the YMCA of Greater St. Louis to form the Gateway Region YMCA in 2015.
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The Gateway Region YMCA declined to say why Welsh was dismissed. In a statement, the organization said, “Personnel matters are considered confidential and it is the policy of the Gateway Region YMCA not to disclose information of that nature.”
Paeltz said he was going to leave his post at the next board meeting. The only problem was that he didn’t know when that would be, as the managers haven’t met since April, he said. The last monthly gathering was when Welsh was executive director.
William Welsh declined to comment.
Paeltz said that he was specifically told in May there would be no meeting that month due to the change in leadership and that other meetings were canceled. He said he was told there would be one in August but that he didn’t know for certain.
After the Gateway Region YMCA learned Paeltz spoke to the BND about the issue, Tricia Meinhold, the vice president of operations for the east district, wrote an email to several members that said, “I simply wanted to send a reminder that if you are contacted or asked any questions about those changes, to please direct those to me.”
Paeltz replied to the email: “Even though I volunteered for the Y, I did not give up my First Amendment Rights.”
Welsh’s dismissal probably did not affect the day-to-day operations of the downtown Belleville location, Paeltz said.
Paeltz added that he still hadn’t been told who the new director was as of Tuesday, but the Gateway Region YMCA informed the BND that the new director would be John Heater, who previously headed the Monroe County YMCA in Columbia and has 20 years of experience with the organization.
John Heater could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Frank Wagner, who ministers at the Menard Correctional Facility and who is one of roughly nine board members with the Downtown Belleville YMCA, said he was also upset with Welsh’s dismissal.
“It left a bad taste,” he said.
Wagner said he’s been a member of the YMCA, and that in that time, Welsh personally addressed an issue Wagner had about the safety of one section of the facility’s landscape. Wagner has been on the board for the past one and a half years, and though he’d like to get more information on Welsh’s termination, he said he was also considering resigning.