Superintendent Lanza dismissed at Belleayre

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By Jay Braman Jr.
Tony Lanza, the superintendent of state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center for the past 11 years, has been dismissed from his position as of Tuesday, May 22.

Emily DeSantis, a spokesperson for the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), made the announcement Tuesday, but was short on details due to legal reasons.

“DEC is in possession of information that warrants Mr. Lanza’s dismissal,” she said. “As this is a personnel matter, we cannot provide more information.”

Lanza, who Senator John Bonacic once said, “was the best thing to ever happen to Belleayre since snow,” was known for his marketing prowess.

He was also known for keeping the state-run facility closely connected to the communities in the region that surround Belleayre.

Flood work lauded
Most notable was his work after Tropical Storm Irene disaster last year, when he turned Belleayre into a temporary shelter for those displaced by the flood. Lanza also made the mountain the local headquarters for the Federal Emergency Management Agency as officials from that agency worked to sort out the aftermath of the flooding.

On Tuesday Lanza could not be reached, and Belleayre staff directed press calls to DEC in Albany.
Also on Tuesday, Shandaken Supervisor Rob Stanley, who is also a Belleayre employee, had no comment on Lanza’s dismissal, only to say that he was aware of it.

Lanza’s dismissal comes as the management and operation of Belleayre is about to be handed from the DEC to the Olympic Regional Development Corporation.

As of Tuesday, DeSantis said, DEC is still operating Belleayre, but would not say when the hand off would take place.

Former employee talks
Former Belleayre employee Lori Fairbairn of Margaretville believes that complaints she made to the DEC helped lead to Lanza’s firing. “I was the whistleblower,” she said. “I started writing letters to the governor’s office, the state attorney general’s office and DEC. I’m sure it had something to do with my letters. It was non-stop complaining since November 2010.”

According to Fairbairn, she was employed as a clerk on the mountain from 2002 through December 2010. She said she complained that Lanza “bullied” her and she accused him of harassment. “Nothing that I did was good enough and I think he gave me a hard time because I’m a woman,” she said. “Initially, when I complained, I was kind of ignored,” she added. “I knew there were unethical practices,” she added.

However, as she continued to speak about what she perceived as unfair treatment, Fairbairn said she was removed from her job on the front desk and eventually found herself without a desk at all. She explained that in December 2010, when Lanza demoted a number of permanent workers to seasonal positions, he laid her off. “ I complained to those higher up than Tony, because of the unfair treatment,” she said.

“I was out sick having major surgery and instead of being reduced to a seasonal worker, as he had done with some employees, he laid me off because I was out sick.”

Fairbairn told the News that she kept a log about the “unethical practices” that she witnessed while on the job at Belleayre, but she would not elaborate what they were.