Leadership and Employees and Indiana Black Expo and Employee Retention and Workplace Issues and Diversity

Black Expo employees lodge complaints against CEO

June 3, 2011

An outside consultant has been brought in to help improve relations between staff members of Indiana Black Expo Inc. and the organization’s CEO, the not-for-profit disclosed Friday morning.

The decision came in response to a May 6 letter to IBE directors in which employees voiced concerns about the leadership of president and CEO Tanya Bell, who has been at the helm of the organization since early 2008. The letter said "some staff members" have witnessed Bell "changing figures in various financial documents."

Seventeen members out of a staff of about 20 signed the letter, complaining that Bell has created a hostile work environment that includes employees being “disrespected, disregarded and demeaned.” They called Bell "the perfect example of a bully" who "intimidates several staff members with overly aggressive, rude remarks."

As president of Black Expo, Bell oversees Summer Celebration and Circle City Classic, which together generate roughly $40 million in spending for the city of Indianapolis.

Employees who signed the letter to the directors include Perry Hines, chief operating officer; Colleen Heeter, vice president of development and advancement; and Elizabeth Hart, director of communications and public relations.

The letter said Bell "repeatedly changes her mind on various projects for which staff has invested considerable time and effort."  Staff members expressed "deep concern" about this year's Summer Celebration, which runs July 7-17. Last year's event saw a significant drop in attendance, the letter said.

The prepared statement issued by the staff on Friday said, "We collectively voiced our concerns to the board of directors, and an outside consultant has been brought to the table to assess the situation and provide assistance with employee relations. A process has been started and an action plan is being established to move forward.”

Bell did not immediately respond to a phone message left Friday afternoon.

Bell succeeded Joyce Rogers, who left for a position at Ivy Tech Community College in 2007. Bell, who received her undergraduate degree from Indiana State University and her law degree from the Indiana University School of Law, had been assistant general counsel at Community Health Network before taking the IBE job.


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