STERLING – Whiteside County Senior Center’s executive director and her assistant resigned Monday after their 2-week vacation, officials announced Tuesday.
Executive Director Roxanne Bauer and her administrative assistant, Deb Wehmhoefer, worked for the senior center for several years, officials said. They also worked at the Dixon senior center together.
Sheila Martinez, the senior center’s board president, thanked the women for their work on behalf of the senior center and their efforts to enhance the transportation program. “We wish them all the best,” she said.
Martinez named Doug Vandersee as the interim executive director. He served as the chief executive of the Sterling-Rock Falls YMCA for 7 years before leaving in 2010.
Vandersee will stay as the interim executive director while the center searches for Bauer’s replacement, Martinez said.
Bauer and Wehmhoefer couldn’t be reached for comment Monday and Tuesday.
Two weeks ago, the women left on vacation, with Bauer going to Dubai to visit family. Some at the senior center believed the women were gone for good. The board scheduled a meeting in their absence.
At the time, senior center officials said they expected the two to return to work.
On Tuesday, Tim Zollinger, the senior center’s attorney, said the women have left “to pursue other options.”
“There is no issue as far as the senior center is concerned,” he said.
The senior center is a private nonprofit organization that receives government money for its services to seniors. It gets about $80,000 annually from a Whiteside County senior tax levy and money from the federal government for providing transportation to people of all ages.
For $10 a year, a person of any age can become a member of the senior center.
The senior center, 1207 W. Ninth St. in Sterling, is not an arm of the government, so it doesn’t have to comply with the state’s open meetings and records laws. However, much information can be obtained from the multiple agencies that fund the senior center – a time-consuming process.
“If the county or state have any questions, we’ll answer them,” Zollinger said. “The senior center has an obligation to cooperate with county, state and federal officials.”
Gary DeLeo, a state Department Transportation official who watches over transit agencies, said he knew nothing about Bauer’s and Wehmhoefer’s resignations.
In February, Bauer’s previous service as the head of the Lee County Council on Aging became an issue. The Lee County Board debated whether to have the county directly manage the county’s transportation service or have an outside organization do it.
Some members said they didn’t want to make the same mistake as before. They were referring to Bauer’s management of the transit service.
In 2009, Bauer, who founded the service and ran it for 13 years, got into a dispute with a Dixon nursing home. The transit agency was charging $1 each way for riders 60 and older, but it assessed nursing home residents $12.50. Bauer contended some nursing homes used the service as an ambulance.
But Heritage Square nursing home denied that was the case.
Some say the dispute led to Lee County’s decision to take control of the transportation service from the senior agency. Not long after, Bauer left her Lee County job, saying she wanted to focus on her position in Whiteside County.
She said the Lee County transportation program was “run perfectly. There were no problems.”
Last month, DeLeo, the state official, said Bauer had done a “nice job” with the transportation service in Lee County but that she had left the County Board “out of the loop.”