CLEARWATER -- Dr. William E. Hale counts the demise of the Senior Citizens Service in Clearwater as a victim of the September 11, 2001 attack by terrorists.
Hale said there was a severe downturn in income and participation after the attack.
Hale said that he and those who direct the charitable agency agonized for 15 months or so over what to do in the face of continuing expenses and "virtually no income" coming in. "We were spending $20,000 to $30,000 a month," he said.
He said that the lawsusit filed by a long-term employee against Robert Wittenberg, who was the executive director of the SCS, played no major role in the faltering of the center.
Bernice Lazar, who worked for the Senior Citizens Service for more than 18 years, filed a complaint last April in Pinellas Cirucit Court alleging assault and battery against Wittenberg.
Also named as a defendant in the suit is Senior Citizens Service.
Lazar says in her suit that Wittenberg called her into his office on October 31, 2003 and said that he was placing her on administrative leave and directed to leave the premises.
When she went to her workplace and was gathering up her belongings, Lazar alleges in the suit that Wittenberg followed her and ordered her to leave her personal belongings in the office and threatened to call the police if she attempted to take any of her things with her.
She says in the suit that Wittenberg grabbed her right hand and fingers and she protested, "You are hurting me."
The suit claims that Wittenberg's "assault and battery was intentional, without provocation and in reckless disregard of her safety."
Wittenberg, through his lawyer, has denied the allegations in his answer to the suit which is currently in the discovery process.
Lazar's husband, Jim, who died three years ago, had been the executive director of the center and was succeeded by Wittenberg, according to Lazar.
Hale said the center is in the process of trying to sell its property on Court Street to the county.
"We have a contract to sell and contract to buy," he said. "We are waiting for the county to come up with the money."
Hale said the plan now is to take income generated from the investment of its more than $3 million in principal and distribute it to other agencies for the benefit of seniors, becoming in effect a quasi-foundation.
His figures show that in the center's 2002 tax return there was revenue of $587,834, the major portion of which came from a bequest. There were expenses of $658,401, a loss of more than $70,000.
This reflected, Hale said, the trend that was happening with the center. "We are attempting to be kind and benevolent while, at the same time, move forward to a position that will ultimately benefit our community in a broader fashion," Hale said.
The closing of the center last month brought an outpouring of protest and questioning from many seniors who were using the facility and participating in its activities.
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition