Favorite Son Fights to Lead Boys’ Home
Since the day in 1952 when he arrived as a lonely 12-year-old, Dan Hanlon’s life has revolved around LeRoy Boys’ Home in La Verne. His father had abandoned him, his mother had rejected him and he had been shunted between five foster homes. But at the boys home, Hanlon received the emotional support and guidance that had been missing in his life.
“I finally felt like I had a home,” Hanlon recalled.
Hanlon spent six years at LeRoy Boys’ Home, leaving after his graduation from Bonita High School. He returned to work at the home while attending college a year later and never left again. Over the next three decades, he worked his way through a variety of jobs at the home, eventually becoming its executive director in 1982.
Known as “Uncle Dan” to children and staff members, Hanlon, 48, was LeRoy Boys’ Home’s resident success story. The door to his house on the facility’s grounds was always open to the boys who lived at the home and the counselors who worked there. “I’ve always felt my employment at the (home) was like a mission I would like to fulfill,” he said in a 1984 interview.
On Sept. 19, the home’s board of directors told Hanlon he was fired.
Hanlon was dismissed because he refused to accept an administrative reorganization in which he lost authority over fund raising and finances, said the home’s attorney, Curt Morris, who is also a San Dimas city councilman.
Up to 76 Residents
Since 1982, Hanlon had overseen both child-care services and business operations for the nonprofit home, which houses as many as 76 boys from broken homes, some with emotional problems.
But last year, the board decided that the home--supported by money generated by two thrift stores and reimbursements from state and county welfare agencies--would need to be more effective at fund raising to reach its goals, Morris said. Plans such as the expansion of the home’s counseling service to treat non-residents needed additional revenue.
That in turn required an administrator with more financial expertise, Morris said. The board decided to place Hanlon solely in charge of child care and create a new position of chief executive officer. Hanlon did not meet the educational qualifications for the new job, he said.
“I’m not sure that Dan Hanlon had a background in business management,” he said. “His background was in the child-care program.”
The board found its new executive director, Darrell Paulk, 42, of Agoura, who was hired this week. Hanlon, who had objected to the reorganization since it was first proposed, remained an outspoken critic, his obstinacy finally becoming an obstacle to the home’s operation, Morris said.
Board ‘Could Not Continue’
“Mr. Hanlon was not accepting and said many times that he thought the board was doing terrible things,” Morris said. “Over a period of time, the board came to the conclusion that they could not continue (with) Dan Hanlon as an employee.”
Hanlon, who initially expressed his shock and amazement at the dismissal in local newspapers, refused to comment this week. He referred all questions to a Beverly Hills attorney he has retained.
Attorney Alvin Pittman said Hanlon will seek to regain his job through a negotiated settlement. But if a satisfactory agreement cannot be reached, Hanlon will file a wrongful termination suit against the home, Pittman said.
“Inasmuch as his heart is with the Boys’ Home, the feeling in his heart is to engage the home in discussions through his attorney,” Pittman said. “Certainly, in the event we are unable to work the matter out, escalation will be necessary.”
Several staff members and La Verne residents who support Hanlon have mounted an aggressive letter-writing campaign and are hoping to pressure the home’s board of directors into reversing its decision.
“All of us feel if we support him and back him that they will reinstate him,” said Alyce Dewey, a counselor at the home.
Not Swayed by Appeals
However, Morris said the board will not be swayed by the appeals. And while the home is willing to negotiate with Hanlon on severence benefits, the board will not accept a settlement that includes Hanlon’s reinstatement, he said.
“I do not believe the board will reconsider their decision to terminate,” Morris said. “They didn’t come to this decision lightly. They didn’t come to this decision without realizing there would be a lot of people in the community who wouldn’t like it.”
In a 1984 interview with The Times, Hanlon spoke earnestly of the “parent relationship” that existed between LeRoy Boys’ Home and himself.
“My emotional ties lie with the agency,” he said. “You can have parents that aren’t really your parents. The agency became the home I never had, and living here gave me opportunities I wouldn’t have had at home in Los Angeles with my family.”
Morris said the warm feeling is reciprocated by the home’s directors, even after Hanlon’s dismissal.
“I think most of the board members have a real affection for Dan Hanlon,” he said. “I think they all recognize he’s been there a long time and that he had done very many things for LeRoy Boys’ Home. It was a very, very difficult decision for these people.”
At the time he was fired, the board gave Hanlon a “generous” severence offer that included continuing his salary and benefits while he looked for work elsewhere, Morris said. Hanlon rejected the offer. Under an agreement with the home, he may continue living in the house provided by LeRoy Boys’ Home until the first of the year.
Although he was initially barred from speaking with anyone at the home, that restriction has since been relaxed, Dewey said. However, Hanlon must still call ahead for permission before going to the main administration building to pick up his mail, she said.
But while the board of directors has made overtures to soothe hard feelings, the effect of Hanlon’s firing upon the staff and children has been similar to that of a divorce or a family rift, Dewey said.
“It was devastating,” she said. “There were a lot of tears, a lot of shock and bewilderment. . . . We’re just trying to keep up a front for the kids to keep them going. It’s hard after working for somebody for so many years who’s been such a good boss. You’d have to know Dan Hanlon to understand.”