Former staff react to big resignation at OCA

Former OCA staff members involved in writing open letter respond to resignation of executive director Rita Pin Ahrens amid controversy

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Rita Pin Ahrens resigns from OCA
Facebook photo

Facebook photo of outgoing OCA executive director Rita Pin Ahrens

By Sonia Tam, AsAmNews Intern

Former OCA employees who demanded change at OCA are responding to Executive Director Rita Pin Ahrens’ resignation.

Ahrens’ sudden decision comes shortly after current and former OCA staff members wrote an open letter to the organization alleging a toxic work environment and an undue influence of corporate sponsors.

Although the open letter raised concerns about OCA’s leadership, former OCA staff are unsure that Ahrens’ resignation will help to bring about meaningful change.

Maddie Schumacher, former Senior Policy and Advocacy Associate at OCA, says that Ahrens’ resignation may be a cause for more concern.

The open letter from OCA community members demanded that Ken Lee step down from his position as CEO. However, OCA stated in its announcement of Ahrens’ resignation that Lee “will continue to lead the day-to-day operations of OCA.”

“I am increasingly concerned about the welfare of staff and OCA’s mission given that CEO Ken Lee is now even more directly in charge,” Schumacher said to AsAmNews. “Many of the concerns we raised in the letter are directly attributed to Ken Lee, his reluctance to advocate for staff, and his conflicts of interest.”

Schumacher also expressed concern that Lee will be in this position of leadership over OCA during the organization’s Executive Council elections in October.

Additionally, former OCA staff are still hoping for more transparency from the organization.

“OCA absolutely must be transparent and communicative about the measures it’s taking,” said an anonymous former employee. “It’s because their decisions have been made behind an opaque veil so far that such things haven’t come to light.”

Schumacher, who took part in writing the open letter, says that OCA and its Task Force — which was created to address the letter’s demands — have yet to reach out to them.

“While I respect their process, the letter signers and broader OCA community need transparency and communication in order to maintain trust in the organization.”

They hope that OCA will make an effort to collaborate and communicate with some of the letter signers to effectively address the demands of its community members.

As for Ahrens’ resignation, the former staff members send their regards to Ahrens.

“We wish Rita and her awesome kids the best for the upcoming virtual school year,” Schumacher said.

“I also wish Rita the best with her post-OCA journey,” added the anonymous former employee.

AsAmNews also reached out to OCA last week for comment, but the agency told us it did not respond because our requests went into their spam folder. On Wednesday, we again requested comment, but have yet to hear back.

In the announcement of Ahren’s departure effective September 4, Ahrens said “Though this was a difficult decision to make, I remain committed to the community and will continue to be a friend of OCA as we collectively work to address the challenges that our community faces from our unique spaces of engagement.”

“We are very sorry to see Rita’s departure for family reasons,” said Sharon M. Wong, OCA National President. “As a mom to a seven-year old, I clearly understand where she places her priority at this time and I support her decision completely.”

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Corky, Ken Lee is the force behind OCA- he created the Chairmanship for himself as the decision maker due to the $1M he originally loaned to purchase the OCA Building along with George Cha’s $1 Million. The loan was for 10 years and I believe these $2M loan was refinanced and paid back per contractual agreement.

    George Cha died before the loan was paid back but George Cha was very amendable to extend the loan when I spoke with him on alternatives to OCA National’s financial plans. At that time he wasn’t sure about Ken Lee’s position but Ken Lee was a dedicated OCA-er but Ken is an in charge guy and most of OCA National’s Executive Council would be reluctant to bud heads with him.
    I am not sure why OCA needed a Chairman which is not an elected position in a 501c3 but the elected President used to
    manage with the EC who hires the executive director.

    I am not sure the membership knows if the Chair is a paid position or not or travel expenses paid by OCA, etc. Is the Chairman’s position a life long position?

    Ken’s Chairmanship was an expected and strange insertion into the OCA organization in that he is there for life and obviously with his loan to OCA there is the appearance of a conflict of interest.

    Its been almost 7-8 years of Ken Lee’s stepping into OCA’s administration, policies and everything. Whether OCA benefits or not from his Chairmanship management is not clear to membership & the current open letter from former staff members are of the serious concerns not only to membership but corporate sponsorships and the perception from all over as to “What is really going on at OCA?”

    Its no doubt an imbalance exists between Ken Lee’s power/ management style and the EC who may depend/ rely/ weakened by the removal of day to day power of the President who might have little say in the administration of OCA.

    One wonders if the OCA membership can effect any structural changes to the current aberration of power and control by one individual – its Chairman.

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