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County abuse shelter lets 5 go

Four paid employees and one volunteer have been dismissed from the Citrus County Abuse Shelter Association (CASA) in the last week after an internal agency dispute, CASA officials confirmed Monday. Neither CASA board members nor employees who left would provide details of the dispute, and executive director Susan Rupek did not return phone calls Monday afternoon.

"We just had to make some changes," said Miriam Cohen, president of the CASA board of directors. "There were some problems and we felt our executive director Susan was handling them."

Mrs. Cohen indicated that a part of the problem involved professional behavior by the employees.

When asked if the departure of the employees would hurt clients who had built a rapport with certain CASA workers, Mrs. Cohen replied, "That's probably a part of the problem. You have to function as an agency. You have to be very professional in your relationships."

Mrs. Cohen said that the employees seemed dissatisfied with something but she wouldn't elaborate on the details.

"We have a (procedure) for grievances and they didn't follow it. Then their dissatisfaction came to a head," she said.

CASA board member Charles Davis also declined to comment on details of the dismissals but he did confirm that one of those who left CASA was victim's advocate Kathy Bennett, who has been on salary at the center since 1988 and was a volunteer there for three years before that.

When contacted, Bennett declined comment on the details of her departure.

But she did say, "Regardless of my current job status, I still sincerely believe in the shelter and in no way would I want to see anything happen to it in the future.

"The shelter saves lives," she said.