Black Expo employees lodge complaints against CEO

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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.


  • Work Ethic
    I agree with Shawn. When I first read the allegations, my first thought was perhaps she has a work ethic and they do not.
  • Work Ethic
    When I first read the allegations, my first thought was perhaps she has a work ethic and they do not. Some employees get angry when they are told to do real work.
  • Work Ethic
    I agree with Shawn. When I first read the allegations, my first thought was perhaps she has a work ethic and they do not.
  • Truly Laughable
    As someone who has worked closely with IBE through the years and has watched as leadership has changed hands from the inside, those who signed and are disgruntled are that way because Tanya has come in ans shaken things up. People like to say attendance has fallen off and would like to blame that on Ms. Bell. The TRUTH of the matter is that attendance was already declining because of the mishandlings from the 2 years previous!! SEVERAL VENDORS and participants from years past chose not to participate last year because of things that were done previously, not because of the actions of Ms. Bell. Several of the employess were lax and have been lax and downright "diva-fied" FOR YEARS!! Ms. Bell has put a serious crimp in their continually declining "status quo" and YES THEY ARE UPSET!!! GOOD FOR HER!!!!

    Get them off their collective rear ends and do things THE RIGHT WAY!! Rev Williams is looking down on that staff shaking his head. Let Ms. Bell get things back on track and be progressive in her movement of the legacy!!
  • Get your facts straight
    IBE "SUMMER CELEBRATION" does NOT take place twice a year. It IS called a SUMMER Celebration for a reason. There is another event in the fall that although IBE does participate in, it is NOT an IBE event.
  • Time For Change
    Agreed the Black Expo events have declined in attendance and positive impact on it's target audience.

    They need to downsize like the Indy 500 from it's previous month of May schedule.

    The Black Expo is simply not large enough to take two to three prime summer weeks out of the cities convention calendar.

    Additionally the event needs to get with the times and become more about Cosby/Williams/Obama self empowerment and no more Jackson/Sharpton victimhood message.

  • The whole city should complain
    and IBE should be completely dropped-particularly two times a year! Talk about overdoing something---------
    • IBE's Continued Dysfunction
      As a business owner who has tried to work with IBE in the past, I am not surprised my these developments. Staff does not return phone calls, reneges on promises and is unresponsive when networking opportunities are presented. Unprofessional behavior is endemic of poor leadership. Considering the many sponsorship and business opportunities available to IBE, it is an abject failure. An unwillingness to take ownership of event related violence and a serious lack of visible community outreach are reflected by continued declining attendance despite a huge demographic for their events.

      I found Ms. Bell to be terse in our meetings and somewhat unwelcoming in my efforts to work with them and provide revenue and exposure for the Summer Celebration.

      However, the Executive Director of the Circle City Classic, Marc Williams introduced himself to me and was very interested in working together, but resigned after only 4 months in the position. Some people thought he was arrogant. I thought he was proactive.

      IBE has a continued perception amongst my business associates as closed minded and lacking in progressive measures. The notion that 17 out of 20 (Indianapolis Star article says there are 18 employees) employees sign a letter of complaint and the Board hires a "consultant" to work with Ms. Bell on her interpersonal skills is a joke.

      As Spike Lee says at the end of School Daze..."Wake Up!"
    • Serously?
      Did she make them put in a full days work?

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