Post resigns as interim director of Historic Salisbury

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 15, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Saying the organization needs to move quickly to hire a new leader, David Post has resigned as interim executive director for Historic Salisbury Foundation.
With Post’s departure, two directors and one interim director have left the foundation since September 2010.
Cynthia Cole Jenkins had worked as executive director for four months when she took an extended leave of absence in July after her mother died and disagreements arose over the house she was leasing on Fulton Street.
Post, a member of the foundation board and chairman of OctoberTour, said he accepted the interim position after convincing Jenkins to take personal leave, rather than resign. His hope, Post said, was that Jenkins would return to lead the foundation once again.
“My goal was to get Cynthia back. I begged her,” he said. “I remain very good friends with her and consider her a national treasure. We should have done everything we could to get her back.”
Post, who is an attorney and certified public accountant, has been advising Jenkins in a dispute with the owner of the historic home she was leasing in Salisbury. The homeowner, Dr. Gerred Popejoy, denies Jenkins’ claim that mold in his home made her family sick.
Neither party has filed a lawsuit.
Susan Sides, president of the foundation, called Jenkins last month to ask whether she would return as director. Jenkins, who has returned to South Carolina, told the Salisbury Post she would have liked to resume her role but could not commit due to personal matters.
Sides said the foundation could not wait, and Jenkins resigned.
“Cynthia’s decision was my cue,” Post said.
He said he was not asked to resign.
Because he was serving in Jenkins’ stead until she returned, Post said when she announced she would not come back, he felt he had failed in his most important responsibility as interim director.
Also, he is not a preservationist, Post said.
“I just wasn’t the right person,” he said.
Although Sides said she had hoped Post would remain on the job temporarily while the board searches for a new director, Post said he quit because the foundation needs to hire someone immediately.
The foundation has a crucial year coming up in 2012, with its 40th anniversary as well as another OctoberTour. Post agreed to serve as this year’s OctoberTour chairman in April, which was six months too late, he said.
The foundation needs someone in place as soon as possible with two major events next year, he said.
“It’s better to start a ski jump at the top rather than three-quarters of the way down, like I did,” Post said.
He praised Barb Sorel, chairwoman for the 40th anniversary, and Christine Wilson, project manager for OctoberTour.
Sorel is a “magically capable and wonderful leader,” he said, and Wilson juggled all the moving parts for OctoberTour.
“I could not have done it without Christine,” he said. “She would put the project managers on Donald Trump’s ‘Apprentice’ to shame.”
Post said he was so far behind when he took over OctoberTour in April that all he could do was promote the event and raise money. Post said he nearly tripled the money raised during OctoberTour this year, bringing in more than $60,000 in sponsorships, although attendance at the home tour fell by about 20 percent.
To serve as more than just a ceremonial head next year, the new executive director needs to be in place soon, he said.
In the wake of Post’s resignation, Sides said the foundation’s executive committee will run the organization until trustees hire a replacement for Jenkins.
Made up of six officers and trustees, the executive committee oversaw day-to-day operations from the time former executive director Jack Thomson left in September 2010 until Jenkins started in March. A search committee, led by foundation Vice President Doug Black, will meet Friday and already has several applications, Sides said.
“We are still friends, and I’m crazy about David Post,” she said. “We knew from the beginning that David was going to fill in for us on a temporary basis and a temporary timeframe, and that came to an end.”
Sides said she hopes to have someone in place by this spring.
“We will take our time,” she said.
Post is advising Jenkins in her dispute with Popejoy over mold in the house Jenkins leased from March to July. Jenkins said the house at 402 S. Fulton St. made her, her husband and even their dog sick.
Popejoy, who leased the house to Jenkins when he moved to California, said a minimal amount of mold discovered in May was normal for that type of house. He said the Jenkins’ health problems were due to their insistence that he remove storm windows on the second floor, allowing pollen and allergens to enter the house.
Popejoy said another inspection ordered by Jenkins in June found more significant mold and standing water, caused by a clogged air conditioning drain that he said went unreported for an extended period.
The inspector advised Jenkins and her husband to move out.
Popejoy said his maintenance man fixed the problem and did “extensive remediation” to repair damage and dry out the crawl space under the house.
A two-day inspection after the remediation showed no standing water or mold, Popejoy said. The house is safe, habitable and for sale, he said.
Popejoy alleges Post has a conflict of interest representing Jenkins in the dispute because Popejoy is a member of Historic Salisbury Foundation and the house has been on OctoberTour for two of the past four years.
But Post said he does not represent Jenkins, who has not paid him, and he has never filed a lawsuit on her behalf. He said he has been doing a favor for Jenkins as a friend by advising her and wants to see both parties resolve the disagreement without litigation.
Popejoy said Post did not inform Sides or the foundation board that he was helping Jenkins, and correspondence from Post made it appear as though he represented her.
An Aug. 27 letter from Post to Popejoy is written on the letterhead of “David B. Post, Attorney and Counselor at Law.” Post refers to Cynthia and Robert Jenkins as his clients and asks Popejoy to agree to their demands.
Post, who said he never accepted a paycheck during his time as interim director, said he didn’t inform the foundation board he was advising Jenkins because there was need and no conflict of interest.
Jenkins is demanding Popejoy release her from the one-year lease, refund her security deposit ($2,200), refund half the rent she paid ($4,500) and pay half the cost of vacating the property ($2,750), for a total of $9,450. If litigation becomes necessary, Post wrote, it could hinder Popejoy’s ability to sell the house.
Popejoy argues Jenkins violated the terms of her lease by moving out seven months early and is liable for all damages to the property that needed remediation. He said she is responsible for the remaining rent, utilities and upkeep of the property until the lease expires in February 2012.
He said he has offered to split the difference each month until the house is re-leased or Jenkins’ lease ends, which would cost each party $1,400 a month. Popejoy said his cost for remediation, lost rent and upkeep is more than $20,000.
Sides said she does not believe Post had a conflict of interest.
She said it’s unfortunate and ironic that the landmark house is now the center of a dispute between two people dedicated to historic preservation. The foundation saved the pivotal house, known by many for the distinctive fountain in the front yard, from the wrecking ball in the 1970s.
The foundation moved the house from its original location on East Innes Street, where Wendy’s now stands, to its current location at the corner of Fulton and Horah streets.
“Each house will have quirks,” Sides said. “But I wouldn’t have a bit of hesitation with Dr. Popejoy putting that house on the market.”
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.