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BTAC backers frustrated

Tim Willert

Word of Patricia Smola’s firing as executive director of the Burbank

Temporary Aid Center stunned friends and colleagues, including those

who donate time and money to the center on West Burbank Boulevard.

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“She motivated me to give assistance to the center,” Phyllis Jones

said. “I was totally shocked when I heard she had been dismissed.”

So, too, was Pat Straub, a center volunteer who announced Thursday

that she was terminating her relationship with the organization after

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seven years.

“Watching Pat work as hard as she worked for that agency and

seeing what happened to her, I just felt I couldn’t stay there any

more,” Straub said Tuesday. “If that board [left], I would go back.”

Smola, who was hired by the center’s board of directors in June

2000, learned she had been terminated by the board in a letter she

received June 27 at her Burbank home.

Center board President Jan Loporcho has declined to discuss the

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circumstances surrounding the dismissal, but Smola has been on

disability leave for a stress-related illness since February, and has

filed a workers’ compensation claim.

“There are people worse off than me, but it’s still devastating,”

Smola said Tuesday. “It’s hard because I made [the center] my home.

“You can either move on or hide in the sand, and I don’t plan on

doing that.”

Smola is not the first key member of the center to resign or be

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terminated by the center’s board. The agency has gone through four

executive directors since 1998, and several employees have quit over

dissatisfaction with the board’s leadership.

“I do have some concerns with that organization,” said the Rev.

Larry Stamper of First United Methodist Church, which donates an

estimated $10,000 annually to the center. “People here are wondering

if this is really the organization we want to give our support to.”

The center is a nonprofit organization that helps meet the

short-term emergency needs of Burbank residents, assisting more than

2,500 people each month with food, shelter and other necessities.

City grants and donations from local businesses, churches, temples,

service organizations and individuals pay for center operations.

Stamper said he was “saddened” by Smola’s dismissal.

“Pat has been very easy to work with,” he said Tuesday. “She has

done an excellent job keeping in touch with this church.”

Mas Yoshinaga, the city’s grants coordinator, said he never had

any problems with Smola. The center, he added, receives between

$35,000 and $40,000 yearly from the city.

“Patricia was very cooperative,” he said. “We had a good working

relationship.”

Former BTAC volunteer Elsie Jeffers called Smola a “truly caring

advocate,” and said the center had lost a devoted executive director.

Smola said she has been “overwhelmed” by the outpouring of

community support.

“The support is just unreal, but that’s Burbank,” she said. “The

citizens of this city are like no other.”

Like Stamper, Jones and others have expressed doubts about

continuing to support the center.

“When I give something, I want to make sure I know where it’s

going,” Jones said. “It bothers me not knowing the facts so I can

make a determination.”

Loporcho, meanwhile, said a search committee will be formed to

find Smola’s replacement.


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