JoAnn Short, CEO of Montclair’s YMCA permitted to resign after taking home $1.5 million dollars in compensation while leaving the YMCA $8,659,028 in debts still standing*. 


Short finally reached the end of her rope with Montclair. The nearly 7-year reign for JoAnn Short as CEO of the Montclair YMCA has finally come to an end. While Short was allowed to resign, there is speculation that the Board of Directors had finally had enough of the unpopular and manipulative CEO. For many of the board members, staff, administration, rank and file members, and the community, it was like a nightmare they couldn’t wake up from.


Montclair Dispatch File Photo.
Montclair Dispatch File Photo.

The period known as the Short years were marked by frequent high-level departures both in the administration and on the Board level. Not all departures were voluntary, nor were they smooth for the YMCA. Staff morale, volunteer enthusiasm, board contributions, and tenure all suffered under Short’s lack of leadership. While Short was always careful to display her plastic “for the cameras smile and canned charm” she could not maintain the charade for long. Not long after her arrival, the well-heeled in the Montclair community began to move their financial support to other nonprofits in and around Montclair. 


Donations to the Montclair YMCA were anemic, just over $330,000 in 2016, nonprofit donations or contributions as the IRS considers them, are a strong indicator of a community’s support for its local nonprofits and more importantly here, a strong indicator of the community’s support for the CEO. 


By comparison, contributions to the Montclair Art Museum exceeded $4.231 million and the contributions to the similarly-sized Madison, NJ YMCA were nearly $1.0 million dollars for the same time period, using the most recent reports available.*


While pure donations come from many sources the vast majority, in dollars, typically come from those in the community with the greatest ability to give. The wealthy members of a community and a nonprofit’s Board of Directors are frequently one in the same, interconnected on several levels. Information exchanged about the health of a nonprofit at this level are both a courtesy and an established back-channel conduit that protects the donors. Donors do not want to hear after the fact that their donations were misused and more importantly they do not want their names connected to an entity later found guilty of malfeasance.


The remaining members of the Board of Directors at the Montclair YMCA have their work cut out for them. With an interim CEO in place, they have the immediate task of finding a more permanent CEO. Most importantly, they must rebuild the shattered morale amongst the staff and members. The YMCA “family” culture that was the backbone of the Montclair YMCA for more than a hundred years must now be rebuilt from scratch. Perhaps looking back at the Short years from some distant point in the future, this period will be seen as a civics lesson on the dangers of allowing the irreplaceable community culture to be trampled asunder.


The Montclair Dispatch will revisit this issue and we welcome readers comments with their experiences with the YMCA during the Short years.


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The author of this article is Scott Kennedy, Former Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Montclair YMCA and Publisher of The Montclair Dispatch.


*: Figures compiled from publicly available tax records.


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