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Two Senior Center patrons claim abuse

Dispute: Director says accusations are unfounded; man was escorted off premises by sheriff’s deputie

Posted: February 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 10, 2011 1:55 a.m.
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Two local seniors are protesting what they describe as abusive treatment at the hands of a Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center volunteer and administrative staff there.

Santa Clarita residents Luis Lovato, 62, and Carmelita McClaine, 70, accused a Senior Center volunteer and staff members of physically and verbally assaulting them multiple times over the past year.

Lovato and McClaine complained about the alleged abuse during a Santa Clarita Valley Committee on Aging hearing Tuesday. Sheriff’s reports for the alleged incidents were unavailable Wednesday afternoon.

Senior Center Director James Morgan, who began working at the center in September, said that these accusations are unfounded but confirmed that he had Lovato escorted out of the Newhall center by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies on Wednesday for creating a disturbance.

“A big part of our job is to make sure people get along and are safe, and I’ve ensured that,” Morgan said.

Lovato said he arrived at the senior center Wednesday to eat lunch, as he does most days, before sheriff’s deputies led him off of the premises.

Soon after, he said, he began pacing the Market Street sidewalk adjacent to the Senior Center in a show of protest against the center’s alleged unfair treatment toward himself and a handful of other patrons.

About a year ago, Lovato said he was elbowed by one of the center’s meal service volunteers, also a senior citizen, who Lovato said has since yelled at him several times and refused to serve him.

McClaine, who has frequented the senior center since last fall, said the same volunteer struck her twice in recent weeks and yelled at her during lunch service.

Both said they have repeatedly brought the issue to the attention of Senior Center administrators, who have largely ignored the problem.

“They said their mission is dignity and respect. We’re not getting that,” Lovato lamented. “If we talk to the director, he treats us like children.”

Morgan said his investigation into the issue hasn’t yielded any substantial evidence to show the volunteer in question is verbally or physically abusing patrons.

Out of the approximately 250 seniors who visit the center daily, he said, “Two hundred forty-eight people love the volunteer.”

During Tuesday’s hearing, one senior center patron, Zandra Cousins, said the services provided by the local organization have vastly enhanced her quality of life since she moved to Santa Clarita three years ago.

“We always have something to look forward to. ... It’s added a whole new dimension to my life,” she said.

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