Ex-director shouldn’t be let back in

As I prepare to leave the position of director of the Saranac Lake Adult Center, I regret that the efforts of many over the past several months may not have been enough to ensure the long-term viability of the center as a whole. Great strides had been made in improving relations between the center’s local board and the Association of Senior Citizens in Franklin County that is responsible for providing the director and kitchen staff, kitchen equipment and food as well as the expertise in government program assistance.

With the recent vote by the adult center board which overturned their decision to ban the former director from the premises, under pressure from the towns of Harrietstown and North Elba, the future of this symbiotic relationship is at risk. If they didn’t lift the ban, they’d risk losing the funding of at least $18,000 per year. By lifting the ban, they now risk losing all that the association provides. What should have been a routine course of business last October when the association fired the previous director has become a nightmare for those directly involved. An employer has the right to fire an employee for cause, but they are not allowed to cite the reasons publicly unless that employee gives their permission. The town of Harrietstown itself has recently been in a similar situation by resisting public pressure to reveal why it canceled the contract of the Lake Clear airport cafe’s prior operator. We presume, as elected officials, they were acting in the best interests of the public. One would hope that they would afford that same courtesy to the adult center board.

The group that will claim responsibility for returning the former director to the center got the attention of these same elected officials by focusing on the word “banning.” Standard operating procedure when an employee is fired is they are asked to leave immediately, to relinquish all keys and not to return. With this “symbiotic” relationship, all the association could do was hope the adult center board would follow suit and ensure that this person didn’t return. Finally, after several weeks, in effect the board fired her, too. The word banning was used, and this group has turned that into a discrimination case. This is about one person who is not being singled out because of race, age, gender or religious beliefs, but because of job performance. It’s not about discrimination. It should be noted that the services provided by the association will continue no matter the outcome of this internal situation, although it’s hard to imagine a more appropriate physical space than the adult center. And a final question: If the association relocates and the adult center becomes a social club, will the towns provide funding to it then?

Jennifer Grisi is director of the Saranac Lake Adult Center.