Shades of Gray

By Nate Jackson

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Posted July 1, 2010 in News

After nearly two years of complaints regarding alleged verbal and mental abuse by a staff member at the Eddie Dee Smith Senior Center in Rubidoux, Rebecca Ludwig is running out of options to get her voice heard.

According to Ludwig, allegations of long-term harassment by Bob Craig—co-manager of the center located on Mission Avenue in an unincorporated area of Riverside County—are met with “political damage control” designed to deflate negative reports. Despite a vocal minority of fed up seniors at the center, the operation continues to earn more accolades than investigations.

In recent months, Craig’s wife, Lynne Craig, received the California State Assembly’s 2010 “Woman of the Year Award” for her work in various public offices including co-manager of the senior center. The award was given by Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries of the 66th District. Riverside County District 2 Supervisor John Tavaglione and the county’s Office on Aging publicly recognized the center—an honor given to senior centers all over the county. And on April 7, a brief and general survey of the center showed a 92 percent approval rating among a group of 195 seniors. The population served by the center is over 400 according to their official website. However, the center’s Food Box Day program often draws 700 or more seniors.

“We must be doing something right,” says Lynne Craig, who says that the survey reflects the seniors’ general opinion of the center. She also dismisses allegations of Bob’s verbal abuse.

“My husband has never been abusive [toward the seniors],” she says. “But with this population, sometimes you have to get their attention.”

Ludwig frequently addresses her complaints to the county Board of Supervisors, giving accounts of Craig’s interactions with seniors, alleging that they often include yelling, swearing and berating comments during indoor activities and meal times while people are waiting for food.

“Anyone else would have lost their job [for that behavior],” says Ludwig, who lives at the center.

Phil Wannes, a current attendee of the senior center, was one of a handful of seniors who spoke to the Weekly regarding Craig’s performance as co-director.

“When he’s disenchanted about something [at the center], he gets very rough, verbally,” he says.

Though he’s seen Craig intimidate some seniors with his words on numerous occasions, Wannes says he’s never heard him swear at anyone.

The comments on Craig’s conduct are relatively small compared to the many positive comments left on the survey. Yet Ludwig insists that her two-year struggle to shed light on this issue has been out of fear for her safety.

Heidi Marshall, assistant director of the Housing Authority, received over 20 written and phoned complaints from Ludwig since September 30, 2008. Ludwig also alleges that Craig is immune from reprimand because of his friendship with Supervisor Tavaglione, who oversees the Housing Authority in his district.

However, Marshall says that during her review of the complaints and the April 7 survey conducted by the senior center, the claims were deemed unfounded. She declined to say whether Craig has ever been reprimanded or questioned about his managing style. Tavaglione staff member Donna Johnston, in charge of senior services for District 2, declined to comment to the Weekly for the story.

Recently, while Craig was away on medical leave, the Authority hired a front desk liaison between the seniors and the staff, as well as the public.

Though Ludwig says she’s spent years begging local government to act on the complaints she and a minority of seniors at the center have made, she says that she refuses to relocate because of any backlash her rabblerousing creates. Mainly, she’s hoping that exposing the issue will force Craig’s behavior to change since she says it’s had a negative impact on the center’s morale.

“He’s representing the county,” says Ludwig. “Does that mean because we live in a low-income area where we have all the drugs, pedophiles and the felons and the gangs that we have to behave like that? I don’t think so.”


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