By Irek Kusmierczyk
Members of the Bronson Centre’s non-profit organizations came out of a meeting with the centre’s advisory board stunned and numb last week.
The members requested the meeting on Oct. 5 in order to clear up confusion caused by the board’s firing of the centre’s executive director, Maureen Moloughney, on September 21. Members say they have been left in the dark during what has become the most turbulent episode in the centre’s four year history.
“Every question was dodged,” says Hoppy Roy, counselor at the centre’s adult literacy program, People, Words & Change, after the closed-door meeting. “There was no information to answer our questions about the direction of the centre or staffing. We have no sense where the building is going.
“We feel strongly there is another agenda we cannot see,” says Roy. “Because they admitted she did a good job, because the building has been successful, because we are happy here, and because people are lining up to get into the centre, there has to be something else.”
The chair of the advisory board, Timothy Kehoe, did end weeks of speculation by stating that the cherished community centre is not for sale.
“We’ve never been in better shape financially,” says Kehoe. “We’re making decisions to make sure the Bronson Centre is there 10 years from now.”
He added that Moloughney’s dismissal was not a criticism of her.
Kehoe would not go further than saying the board “was looking for a certain management direction that Maureen found unacceptable and unable to support.”
Roy says the advisory board refused to discuss the controversial firing of Moloughney.
“She was the heart of the centre,” adds Roy. “She knew everybody by name. She created a place that seemed to be a model of community.”
The community model fostered by Moloughney has been replaced by a tenant-landlord relationship, says Keenan Wellar, chief executive officer of the Special Needs Network for developmentally challenged people.
“They don’t understand what’s been lost,” says Wellar. “Everyone looks really numb.”
Wellar says he is concerned for the well being of those who live in the centre’s residence for low-income men—some of whom are overcoming addictions.
He says the men are at a risk of relapsing because the woman who looked after them, gave them jobs, and had a special bond with them—Maureen Moloughney—is gone.
“Imagine the person who saved your life gets fired,” says Wellar. “They’re in a horrible position.”
Wellar says the loss of community spirit will discourage people from investing themselves in the centre.
“I personally painted the third floor of the Bronson Centre,” says Wellar. “I took ownership.” He says others have invested over $30, 000.
The centre is owned by the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. The sisters rent out rooms in the former Immaculata High School, near Lisgar Street, to non-profit organizations at reduced rates.
The Bronson Centre plans to be incorporated by the fall, says Kehoe, separating itself legally and financially from the Grey Sisters.
The Grey Sisters will still appoint the members of the advisory board, but they will no longer be financially and legally responsible for what happens inside the centre.
Kehoe says they will hire more staff to implement the centre’s new direction and to carry out the new responsibilities. He would not say who would be hired and in what capacity.
Rent will not be increased to support new staff. Kehoe says the centre hopes to pursue government funding and private support such as the United Way and the Catholic community instead of taking money from tenants.
Kehoe expects the board to hire a permanent executive director in three months.