PEPPERELL — Seniors who followed Selectman Michael Green’s advice last week to take their concerns about the firing of a Senior Center kitchen supervisor to the Council on Aging were met with little resolution.
A group of about 40 frustrated seniors attended Tuesday’s Council on Aging meeting to protest the firing.
Last Wednesday, the Board of Selectmen voted to uphold Senior Center Director Marcia Zaniboni’s decision to fire the kitchen supervisor. They said that Zaniboni was within her rights in firing an employee without notice or public hearing within the first six months of employment, and that she had followed the proper procedure in firing the employee.
At the COA meeting, seniors said they were concerned about what they see as Zaniboni’s overreach and mismanagement of the Senior Center.
Zaniboni announced at the beginning of the meeting that public comment was the last item on the agenda, and that the meeting would adjourn promptly at 6:45 p.m., as some COA members had other meetings to attend at 7 p.m.
Zaniboni said that both she and the COA made their decisions with the best interests of the seniors in mind.
“Advocacy for an individual is different from advocacy for seniors in general,” Zaniboni said.
As time began to run low, COA member Virgina Malouin asked to skip to the public comment period of the agenda so that attendees could voice their complaints before time ran out.
“There’s many people here, so I think we should take them seriously,” Malouin said.
When others on the council said they would go ahead with the agenda as planned, about 12 seniors stood up and walked out.
Bill Daley, President of the Friends of Pepperell Seniors, walked out before eventually returning to the meeting.
“These people are going to sit there and run that meeting. It was effectively a filibuster,” Daley said in the hallway.
He said that he thinks the COA board has been largely unresponsive to the concerns of the seniors, despite the fact that the Friends work hard to volunteer at and contribute to the Senior Center.
“We have given, so far this year, $5,600 that we’ve raised through raffles, yard sales. We also prepare and pay for meals at St. Patrick’s Day and Thanksgiving. Most of the people who do that work are volunteers and members of the Friends,” Daley said.
After Daley returned to the meeting, the COA allowed five minutes for public comment before adjourning.
Daley presented the COA with a letter stating that he was unhappy with Zaniboni’s leadership style.
His comments to the COA were short.
“I have just seen democracy in action and I want to thank you,” he said. “If you don’t think you have a problem with your volunteers, watch what happens.”