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Executive director of Citizens Alliance for Progress fired

TARPON SPRINGS — David Archie is out as executive director of the Citizens Alliance for Progress.

The former vice mayor was fired Thursday after a special meeting in which board members voted 4-3 to remove Archie and two other staffers of the nonprofit community outreach organization.

Board member and treasurer Ed Cole said Monday that Archie was terminated on a vote of no confidence regarding leadership.

"This is nothing personal. This is about business," Cole said.

Cole and board president Annie Dabbs declined to discuss specifics about the dismissals. In a meeting at the CAP center, Dabbs deferred to Cole on the matter, but said services would not be interrupted and that the situation should not reflect negatively on the organization.

Though police were present for security, the staffers were not escorted off the premises, Cole said.

Archie, who had been with the organization for more than two decades, was a former board president who took the role of executive director 15 years ago. He served as the city's vice mayor until March, when he left the commission due to term limits.

Archie also declined to comment on specifics about the situation Monday.

"Right now, I'm not at liberty to really discuss some of the things, but the truth will come out in the end," said Archie, 55.

The nonprofit community outreach organization in the city's Union Academy neighborhood offers a variety of services, including tutoring, counseling and job placement. Its headquarters are at the Union Academy Family Center, an old segregated school that was renovated by CAP in the 1980s. The building belongs to the city, which leases it to the organization for $1 a year.

Mayor Beverley Billiris said the city had not received official notification about the firings and was not investigating the matter.

"At the present, no. We had such an outstanding relationship with the CAP center for all these years," she said. "I'm hoping that the administration will continue to be run at the excellent level that David Archie ran it at. Obviously, we'll be watching this unfold."

Also dismissed Thursday were administrative services manager Leah Johnson and program director Frances Serrano-Lux.

Johnson, 38, said she was given a letter after the meeting that said she was bring fired "with cause."

But the 14-year employee said she's never been reprimanded or had any disciplinary taken action against her.

"I don't know what happened to cause them to feel they needed to terminate me. I'm still baffled," she said.

Johnson said the timing couldn't be worse.

"I have two children and Christmas is coming and now I have to worry, not just about Christmas," she said, "but how am I going to pay my bills?"

Serrano-Lux said some of the board members, including Cole and Dabbs, have created a "hostile environment" in which staffers are treated like "indentured servants."

"There's so much they did that just totally undermined the work of the staff and Mr. Archie," she said.

Serrano-Lux, who has worked for CAP for a year and eight months, said she believed some of the board members handled the situation unprofessionally.

"Here they talk about being Christians and a week before Christmas to just give you your walking papers, that's not the way to do business," she said.

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4162.

Executive director of Citizens Alliance for Progress fired 12/22/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 26, 2008 9:24pm]
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