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Tenant Resource Center should revisit firing of Brenda Konkel, supporters say

November 3, 2018 GMT

Supporters of longtime Tenant Resource Center director Brenda Konkel, who was fired a week ago, are urging the board of directors to hold a special meeting to revisit its decision.

Konkel, a former Madison City Council member who announced earlier this year that she is running for mayor, has been with the center since 1991 and had been its executive director since 1995. She has said she will appeal the board’s decision and has until Monday to formally do so. She has declined to release the board’s termination letter in advance of an appeal process.

The TRC board is declining further comment given the expected appeal and will not consider a special meeting until after an appeal is decided to ensure personnel matters are followed under the organization’s bylaws, board member Jordan Krieger said.

The board has appointed Sterling Lynk as acting executive director.

Heidi Wegleitner, an attorney, Dane County supervisor, former TRC board president, and Konkel’s mayoral campaign manager, delivered letters Monday and Friday signed by supporters voicing “shocking opposition” to the firing and backing an effort by the TRC’s membership to have a special meeting. Membership includes the board, employees, and anyone who volunteers more than five hours for a current or following fiscal year.

“We are deeply concerned by your lack of understanding of TRC programs and services and the role that Brenda plays in TRC’S success,” the petition says. “It’s not just that you fired Brenda. It’s that you fired Brenda without consulting staff and TRC membership and without considering the impact on TRC client services and newly acquired funding.

“Your abrupt decision does not seem consistent with your fiduciary duties to the TRC and requires more deliberation and engagement with TRC members,” the letter states.

The letter Friday updated the number of people signed onto the petition, which now totals 181 supporters including 10 former TRC board members -- among those three former presidents, a vice president and treasurer, 10 current or former staff, six current or former volunteers and several longtime donors. The petition is also signed by Ald. Ledell Zellers, 2nd District, county clerk Scott McDonell, directors of at least two nonprofits, several attorneys, and dozens of community activists.

The Tenant Resource Center has been operating in the city since 1980, answering legal questions for tenants and landlords and providing services to people who are homeless and those facing homelessness.