PEPPERELL -- About 20 seniors who use the Senior Center gathered at Monday night's selectmen meeting to denounce the unexpected firing of a cook last week that they claim represents mismanagement of the center.
"There's a lot of disgruntled people at the Senior Center," said Phillip Durno, as many others in attendance nodded.
Durno said Verdell Roberts, who was appointed as the Senior Center's head chef about six months ago, was fired without notice on Thursday, Aug. 15.
"She had no notice, no written complaints, no warning," Durno said.
Durno said her release was a shock, as Roberts' cooking was so popular that during her tenure, attendance at the center's lunches increased from two to three people to 45-65 people.
President of the Friends of the Pepperell Seniors, Bill Daley, said the reason for the firing was unclear.
"You don't fire someone without some kind of aggressive discipline record. For this to come out of the blue was very shocking," Daley said.
Daley said the seniors' displeasure ranges beyond Roberts' firing to the atmosphere of the Senior Center under Director Marcia Zaniboni.
"Most of the people down there are intimidated. The atmosphere there is palpable," he said.
He said many seniors have said they don't want to spend time at the Senior Center under current management.
"I hate to see anything that was working so well go down the tube. You're going to wind up with a big building that's empty," Daley said.
Selectman Michael Green said the board needed to look further into the complaints before taking any action.
"Obviously, this is a concern. We've heard from one side. We do need to hear from the other side," Green said.
He said the board would talk with Zaniboni and look into the reason for the firing before deciding on next steps.
Zaniboni, who was not present at the meeting, declined to comment on the issue.
Follow Chelsea Feinstein at facebook.com/ChelseaEstelleFeinstein or on Twitter or Tout @CEFeinstein.