Based on recent history, Pat Smola’s tenure as executive director of
the Burbank Temporary Aid Center was fairly lengthy.
But for the community she served so effectively, and for her
supporters -- of whom there are many -- her apparent dismissal came
all too soon.
Smola told the Leader last week that she was notified by letter
June 27 that she had been terminated from the position she’d held
since June 2000. BTAC board of directors president Jan Loporcho
confirmed Smola’s separation from the center, but would not say
whether she was fired or had resigned.
Smola, widely credited with stabilizing center operations and
vastly improving its fund-raising, has been on disability leave since
February for a stress-related illness, and acknowledged that she had
filed a workers’ compensation claim against the center. Despite her
lengthy absence from BTAC’s day-to-day operations, however, she said
the letter was “devastating and humiliating” because she has poured
her heart into the center much of the past three years.
The Burbank Temporary Aid Center is supported by individual
donations and city grants, religious organizations and service
groups. By early summer of 2000, all of them had been given cause to
wonder if their contributions were being used wisely, as the center
had gone through three executive directors in two years, and several
employees had quit out of frustration with the center’s lack of
Then came Smola, who by all accounts stabilized the center’s
administrative operations and proved adept at fund-raising. A former
escrow officer, Smola scored donations from the Burbank Sertoma Club,
U.S. Postal Service, IKEA and Joslyn Adult Center, among others. Such
donations were crucial to keeping things up and running at the
center, which assists more than 2,500 people per month with food,
shelter and transportation vouchers.
Since board members say they can’t talk about the circumstances
leading to Smola’s departure, the whole story might never be known.
Surely, the uncertainty of going even longer than five months without
the services of the center’s executive director, for whatever reason,
must have played into the decision.
But what seems certain is that Smola, who gave BTAC the best
public face it had had in the past five years, will be missed by
center employees, volunteers and the community, not to mention the
thousands of people BTAC serves. Her stay was much longer than her
immediate predecessors’, but not as long as it deserved or needed to