The Bullies at Centro

Linda McKeown, the manager of Call-a-Bus, used bullying as her management style and she passed it down to her staff.  Herewith my letter to her on October 18, 2004:

Dear Linda,

            I have spoken with Sharon Keener, manager of customer service, regarding a complaint against Jim Bacon, Call-a-Bus Assistant Director, and she has advised me to file the complaint with you.  Jim has refused to provide me with information, and refused to refer me to anyone who could provide the requisite information.

            On Friday, October 8, at a meeting at ARISE, you used the phrases “required” and “standby” in talking about ride requests.  I had never heard these phrases before, and didn’t know what they meant.

            When I got home after the meeting, I called to confirm my Call-a-Bus ride for Saturday morning to a doctor’s appointment.  Jim told me they had nothing for me.  He would not explain why.  He asked if I wanted to use a line bus.  I told him I couldn’t.  He started to hang up, leaving me hopeless and in need of a ride.

            I asked him the difference between a “required” ride and a “standby” ride.  He said, “We’ve been through this before” and refused to answer my question.  In fact, we had not been through it before because I had just found out about it a few hours earlier.

Furthermore, this is not the first time Jim has cut off conversation with his autocratic, “We’ve been through this before.”  I told him that it didn’t matter if we’d been through it before; if I requested information, he should provide it.  Courtesy says that you answer questions when asked; wisdom says that when working with multiply disabled people, you recognize that you may need to give the same information several times.

            At this point, Jim changed his answer to my question.  He said, “I don’t know.”  In fact, he had not been through it before, and he knew it.  I asked him who would know the difference between “required” and “standby.”  He again said, “I don’t know,” and again started to hang up on me.  I asked to be transferred to you, and your voice mail message said that if there were immediate problems, to contact the assistant director.

            I called back, Jim answered again, and when I asked who the assistant director was, he said, “Me.”

            I have, at the least, the right to be given information upon request, or be referred to any person who has such information.  It is not acceptable to me to have Jim (a) knowingly give false answers, (b) not have correct information, (c) not refer me to someone who does have the answers, and (d) repeatedly try to disconnect me.  As a CENTRO employee, he is supposed to be serving the public, not bullying it.

            Please address these issues with Jim.  I would like a written apology from him.  I have treated him with courtesy and respect, and I expect to be treated in the same manner.


Of course, I never got an apology.  In fact, I never got any indication that McKeown had addressed the problem, or any confirmation that she’d even read the letter.

The same day, I also wrote another letter to Linda:

Dear Linda,

            Twice in the last few weeks, my Call-a-Bus ride requests to doctor’s appointments have been turned down without explanation, thus increasing my pain.

            At the Public Transportation Advisory Committee meeting on October 8 at ARISE, you said that some rides are taken as “required” and others as “standby.”  Neither the other disabled people who were present, nor Beata Karpinska, the advocacy director, nor I, had heard of this before.  Likewise, when I spoke with Richard Vargas, an ADA specialist in Albany, he had never heard that language used.  He recommends that you stick to the language in the law, e.g., “trip prioritizing,” “trip scheduling,” and “capacity constraints.”

            Would you please provide me with a written explanation of “required” and “standby,” and the criteria for each?


No written explanation was forthcoming.  As with Wayne Freeman at Medicaid dispatch, so with Linda McKeown at Call-a-Bus:  oral statements would be made and directions given but they would never put anything in writing for the rider to see, digest, and refer to as necessary.

The idea that the rider is to be constrained and bossed around was not limited to Call-a-Bus.  Apparently Centro had a systemic attitude that riders were large, awkward pieces of shit who were to do as they were told and not ask questions.  On November 4, 2004, I wrote to the Operations Director.  [(1) 442-3434 is the cancellation number for Call-a-Bus; during the hours that CAB is closed the calls roll over to Operations.  (2) CAB has subcontractors, such as Blue Chip bus company, which carry CAB rides.  (3) All short buses are equipped with radios.]

Dear Sir:

In regard to the woman answering the 442-3434 phone line on Saturday, October 30, I wish to file a complaint.  She did not do her job, refused to provide information, and was belligerent and rude.

I had scheduled a ride with Call-a-Bus to go to the doctor; Blue Chip was supposed to pick me up at 8:45 a.m.  When Blue Chip had not arrived at 9:00 a.m., I called to find out what was wrong.  The woman who answered the phone made no attempt to contact the driver, but dismissed me with a curt, “He’s out there somewhere; he’s on his way.”

After waiting another twenty minutes, I called your operations person again.  This time she did call the driver, and again told me he was on his way and would be there in X minutes.  I didn’t get how many minutes she said, so I asked how much longer it would be.  The woman refused to repeat the information.  Instead of answering my question, she demanded, “Do you want to cancel or not?”  [To be continued]

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
This entry was posted in activism, advocacy, disability, disability rights, Onondaga County, Poverty, Power, power wheelchairs, Powerlessness, Values and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Bullies at Centro

  1. qwester32 says:

    When you try to take away power from an absolute tyrant you are depending upon a righteous contention poorly supported by the rules. There is no absolute penalty for tyranny and the path for the supervising administrator to whom you appeal for justice and equity is strewn with underlings who owe their job to some good ol’ boy who has an unknown amount of clout. You are asking the administrator to risk their job. Your unshakeable belief in the goodness of people is an impediment here. Your success depends upon obtaining reasonableness from an octopus of great power possibly going up the chain to the Governor. IMHO a more powerful champion is needed such as a U.S. Congress person or Senator who plays a part in the financial chain that Morely-like binds these unseen ghosts to the present. State government is more historically corrupt than federal. I wish there was a better answer.

    • annecwoodlen says:

      “Your unshakeable belief in the goodness of people . . .” I figure that’s the way God looks at us.
      And before you say I need “a more powerful champion” why don’t you see what I can do?
      The whole point of this is to teach people to become their own powerful champions.

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