Carrying a large box filled with his belongings, Ric Wyman - who until now was at the heart of the Lucille Ball community in Jamestown - left his office Friday afternoon and stepped out into the rain.
Only a few minutes before, a police officer was stationed in the corridor outside Wyman's office as the former Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center executive director gathered up his things. He loaded them into the trunk of his car and drove off without comment.
Wyman was fired Friday, and some who serve on the board of directors that runs the organization say his sudden termination - as well as the termination of his assistant, Pat Brininger - was against the law.
Former Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center executive director Ric Wyman carries his belongings out the door at the center Friday afternoon.
P-J photo by Patrick Fanelli
''It seems like we're suffering from a coup,'' said Carolyn Seymour, a former Jamestown mayor who joined the center's board of directors late last year.
The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center is the organization that operates all the destinations in the city dedicated to television icon and Jamestown native, the late Lucille Ball.
Accord to Wyman, who issued a statement to The Post-Journal on Friday evening, he still has faith in the Lucy-Desi Center and its mission.
''In my opinion, both Rick and Pat were fired illegally without authority.''
Chuck Ludwig Lucy-Desi Center
''I'm as confident as ever in believing that the legacy of Lucille Ball is the catalyst for economic development for this community,'' Wyman said. ''I've been privileged to be the executive director of an organization that brings so many good feelings to visitors from all over the world.''
According to Chuck Ludwig, another board member and owner of Ludwig Auction and Realty, the terminations were carried out by Ed Fagan, a local attorney and the center's board chairman.
Ludwig also said Fagan assumed the title of acting executive director several months ago at the behest of the late Lucille Ball's family. Family members reportedly did not have a good relationship with Wyman.
According to Ludwig, Fagan assumed that position in name only to calm down the family, which has been asking the center for the return of loaned memorabilia. Wyman reportedly continued to collect a paycheck and run the day-to-day operations of the center.
Friday afternoon, though, Fagan reportedly terminated Wyman and called a police officer to the premises as the former employee collected his belongings.
''In my opinion, both Rick and Pat were fired illegally without authority,'' Ludwig said.
Ms. Seymour described Wyman's termination as occurring ''totally out of the blue.'' Earlier in the day, board members and other invited guests - an entourage that included both Fagan and Wyman - toured the center's new museum on Third Street.
''I have to say it's a bit bizarre to be welcoming community leaders to visit the wonderful new Lucy-Desi Museum and a few hours later be escorted out of the center by security people,'' Ms. Brininger said.
Ms. Seymour has raised several concerns over the center's governance. For one thing, she said, the board voted to retain one attorney while Fagan hired another. She also said Fagan has held no board meetings over the past few months and that no minutes were recorded during the meeting at which he named himself acting executive director.
Central to her concerns, though, is Wyman's termination.
''I don't think Ed Fagan has the authority to do all the things he's done today,'' Ms. Seymour said Friday.
Phone calls to Fagan's office went unanswered Friday.
Wyman and Mrs. Brininger's terminations weren't the only recent staff changes at the center. In December, The Post-Journal learned that both Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr. - Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's children - resigned from the board of directors along with two others, one of whom alluded to personal conflicts with Wyman as the reason for the departures.
A news release issued by the center Friday only briefly alluded to Wyman and Mrs. Brininger's termination. According to the release, the center has ''embarked on new projects and programs in mission and outreach and development,'' and that ''staff changes have been made.''
''The center and its board of directors are thankful and appreciative of all the hard work done by Ric Wyman and Pat Brininger over a number of years to bring the center to its successful status today,'' the news release states.
Patricia Smith, a management consultant who has served as interim director of several local organizations including the Joint Neighborhood Project, has been hired as the center's associate interim director responsible for day-to-day operations.
According to Ms. Smith, Fagan asked her to respond to press inquiries, though she said she could not comment on anything related to the circumstances of Wyman and Mrs. Brininger's terminations.
''I'm really not in a position to say,'' she said.
Two other center officials - Libby Nord and Mary Jane Price - were promoted to the positions of development coordinator and mission and outreach director respectively, according to the release.
''In his almost 10 years here, Ric has given an amazing gift to Jamestown, transforming the downtown into a tourist attraction that welcomed more than 5,000 visitors just since the new museum opened on Aug. 1,'' Ms. Brininger said. ''As someone with a longstanding commitment to trying to strengthen the economic health of this community, I have to say that this is a very sad day for Jamestown.''