Seniors wondering why director was dismissed

Ex-director of Office on Aging also unclear of reason for boro

Staff Writer

Seniors wondering why
director was dismissed
Staff Writer

SOUTH RIVER — Several local senior citizens reacted with surprise and dismay last week when the borough’s Office on Aging director was dismissed.

The Borough Council terminated the employment of Carol May on Dec. 30 after she served in that capacity for nine years.

"We’re so sorry for Carol May," said Marian Vanek, a South River senior citizen. "I never saw anybody who did so much for the seniors."

May was employed by the borough in the position of director of the Office on Aging for nine years. Her duties in overseeing the office included planning events and organizing programs, aiding seniors in filling out forms and issuing senior identification cards.

May said she never had a problem doing her job and was given no justification for her abrupt termination.

According to May, problems may have started in November when the office’s two secretaries could not come to work due to personal reasons. May and the office’s bus driver, Tabitha Forgue, were left to handle the office alone.

"We put on a Christmas party for 210 people," May said. "Everyone seemed satisfied."

On Dec. 24, May was told she needed to meet with Mayor Robert Szegeti and the Borough Council, though it was not until Dec. 30 that she was informed of her termination.

"The mayor told me, ‘I speak for most of the council. We think we need a change,’ " May said.

May’s position is appointed annually by the mayor. May said that if she had been able to remain in the position for another year, she could have retired early with a larger pension.

"It’s very humiliating," May said of her sudden termination and the treatment that accompanied it. "It was uncalled for."

As she cleared out her belongings from the office on Dec. 31, she was observed by the borough business administrator and chief of police, May said. May expressed her surprise at this action, which she felt was unnecessary.

According to May, any backups at the office were a temporary result of a shortage of staff. May also had difficulty with limitations posed by a computer program used at the office, though all problems were corrected by December, she said.

Szegeti, who was unable to discuss the details of the termination because of its status as a personnel matter, did say that it was not a pleasant situation to deliver the termination. Szegeti said the situation was unfortunate but the council is moving forward and will discuss its plan to fill the vacancy.

"We’re always looking to better the office and expand programs. That is our hope in the near future," Szegeti said in response to concerns from senior residents. "It’s business as usual [at the Office on Aging]. We have a borough worker there answering phones. We will move on from here."

"The decisions we make are in the best interest of the community at large," said Councilwoman Linda Ejk. Ejk assured that the Office on Aging will continue to provide the same programs to area seniors. Currently, the office serves all senior citizens in South River with trips, programs and other services.

Still, many seniors are not comfortable with the situation surrounding May’s termination.

Marie Braitsch, a South River senior resident said, "I don’t know why they fired her. She was a good lady. She helps everybody out."

According to Liz Tussi, a resident of Willett Manor, a Whitehead Avenue senior apartment complex, a small group of manor residents gathered before Christmas to sign a petition that complained about the staff of the Office on Aging, naming May in particular. Tussi, who attended the meeting but left rather than sign the document, said, "The complaints that I heard certainly weren’t enough to fire someone…It’s man’s inhumanity to man."

Vanek and Braitsch also expressed their concern over the future of Forgue’s employment with the office, which they fear is also in jeopardy.

"She is so fantastic to us," Vanek said. "Tabitha is a very good and experienced driver. She bends over backwards for us."

Forgue could not be reached for comment.

May said she will not pursue the issue further and has no plans to seek another job at the moment.

"I’m going to be 65," she said, even as she maintained her dismay and confusion at the council’s action.