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Published: Friday, 10/29/2004

11 advisory panelists quit center for elderly

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

All 11 members of the Defiance County Senior Center Advisory Board resigned Wednesday, feeling, according to their president, that it was futile for them to work with the county commissioners, who had stunned them by firing the senior center director for mismanagement.

"They didn't listen to us," said Dolores Ruggles, who had been president of the senior center board since the mid-1990s. "They didn't keep us informed. They made our board absolutely useless."

Ms. Ruggles said the commissioners' decision to fire former senior center director Diana Mayer in June "came out of the blue."

This month, a state audit of the senior center found more than $40,000 was spent improperly while Ms. Mayer was director. Center employees and various area residents who were not seniors received food and other benefits paid for with government funds earmarked for specific types of aid to seniors, according to the audit and other reports.

David Williams, who is Defiance city law director and the police prosecutor for Defiance Municipal Court, said yesterday he is looking for a prosecutor from outside the county to review the five-inch thick audit file and consider charges in what officials have called a Robin Hood case.

Ms. Mayer is on Tuesday's ballot as a write-in candidate for county commissioner, running against Thomas Kime, one of the commission members who fired her.

Mr. Kime said the commissioners will appoint a new senior center board soon.

The board members' duties are limited to advising the senior center director and making recommendations and reporting concerns to the commissioners. But Mr. Kime said that in his 3 1/2 years as a commissioner, he does not recall any advisory board member contacting him until the commissioners terminated Ms. Mayer.

Ms. Ruggles said Mr. Kime was rude to advisory board members when they went to a commissioners' meeting to protest the termination.

"As president, I knew the day-to-day operations," she said, adding that the advisory board met monthly to go over the number of meals prepared by the center and to discuss its services. Advisory board members were involved, for instance, in recommending which type of bus the center should buy the last time it made such a purchase, she said.

Ten of the 11 board members signed a resignation letter, effective immediately, on Wednesday that they submitted to the county commissioners. Ms. Ruggles said a board member who was absent told her that he quit as well.

Mr. Kime said the commissioners had the advisory board meeting on their schedule, but none attended because of other obligations.

"I can't tell you how bad I feel about this," Ms. Ruggles said of the chain of events at the senior center this year.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:

jschmucker@theblade.com

or 419-337-7780.



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