Rainier City Councilwoman Judith Taylor is facing a recall following allegations of harassment by the board president of the city’s senior center.
Ballots will be mailed Nov. 29 and must be returned by Dec. 17, when unofficial results will be announced. The election will cost the City of Rainier between $2,000 and $3,000, said Pam Benham, Columbia County elections supervisor. Rainier Senior Center Board President Bill Dias collected 113 valid signatures — 110 were required — to force the recall vote. On his petition, Dias accused Taylor of “conduct not becoming of a public servant,” saying that Taylor overstepped her responsibilities as the City Council’s liaison to the senior center.
Dias said Taylor screamed in his face and, on more than one occasion, verbally attacked staff members and volunteers.
“There’s just so many people she has offended with her behavior,” he said. “It’s her way or the highway. You can’t have that as a public servant.”
Taylor refused the opportunity to resign and submitted a statement of justification to challenge the recall. She called the special election “vindictive” and a retaliation against her efforts to help the senior center become more financially sound.
“My word and my integrity are important to me. I can’t think of anything more dear to my heart than the senior citizens in my community,” said Taylor, who was elected to the Position 2 seat last November and appointed the senior center’s liaison in December.
“If I did get recalled over this, at least I know in my heart I’ve done all I could.”
The Rainier Senior Center leases its building without payment of rent from the City of Rainier, which secured the land through a $600,000 community development block grant in 2000, according to The Daily News archives.
As a condition of the nonprofit’s lease agreement, the senior center’s board of directors must provide the city with its monthly expenses, an annual audit report and a list of people or organizations using the facility. City liaisons ensure the senior center is financially fit to maintain city property.
Taylor said when she first became a liaison, the senior center’s board could not provide operating budgets or financial reports. The city offered to pay for a bookkeeper to sort through the center’s funds, but the center’s board members refused, she said.
“The senior center refuses to cooperate,” Taylor said. “We need to be open about the situation down there.”
Dias acknowledged that a previous volunteer manager misspent funds, but said the organization has improved its finances since he was first elected to the board in July. The senior center has $8,000 in savings and $2,500 in its general fund, he said.
The senior center’s board turned on Taylor because of her abrasive attitude, he said.
“Judith Taylor tried to jump in there and take over and felt like the city should hold (its) thumb over us,” Dias said. “We are a private organization, and we have a right to run our business as we see fit.”
Mayor Jerry Cole did not comment on Taylor’s behavior but said both sides have the same goal — to improve the senior center.
Rainier Councilman Steve Massey — who replaced Taylor as liaison — said Taylor can be a big personality, but the recall is misguided.
“She tried to ask questions, and the person she was asking gave her no respect and just totally didn’t cooperate with her,” Massey said. “Judith cares a lot about the senior center. She was trying to find out things on it to try to improve it.”
Massey said he does not think the recall will be successful.
“I would really hope not. For someone doing their job, being attacked like this doesn’t speak well for anything,” he said.