Bill Southrey, executive director of the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, was offered two severance options by the mission's board Monday.

Staff photo by Edward Lea

The decision to suspend Atlantic City Rescue Mission Executive Director Bill Southrey was not due to criminal, unethical or immoral behavior, the nonprofit’s chairman Bob Stahler said Friday.

Stahler declined to provide any further details, saying it was out of respect for the 32 years Southrey spent with the mission.

Prior to voting on the matter Tuesday, Stahler sent an email to board members and Southrey that said the reasons included but were not limited to “conflicting reports of insubordination resulting in confusion ... reports of changes in who reports to whom (and who will not do what) ... reports of statements of termination and questions as to whether they can actually take place, and ... the recent poll in which 5 of 7 board members that I polled favored a suspension.”

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Board member Helen DeMario said the suspension is only until further notice.

“He was not fired,” DeMario said of Southrey. “(The decision) was not unanimous, and we’re still gathering more information.”

Supporters of Southrey have continued to rally behind him, creating a Facebook account and frequently checking in on him.

“Letting Bill go or keeping him on suspension is a grave mistake,” said supporter Dan Smith, 42, of Atlantic City. “This is the guy you want to help out because he goes out of his way to help people.”

Smith, who works at one of the casinos, said he stayed at the mission in the 1980s when he was 12 years old while his single mother slept in the alleyway because the mission did not have separate quarters for women then. It has since added a women’s shelter. Smith said over the years, he would help Southrey walk the city, looking for homeless residents to help.

“This guy is priceless,” Smith said.

Southrey, who was paid a salary of $104,000 in 2010, according to the mission’s latest tax forms, said he has not heard anything further about his job status.

“They’ve locked me out of my email account,” he said. “For somebody that’s on suspension, it sounds like they’re going permanent with it.”

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