Millions sat with their jaws agape waiting to hear who would win $100,000 as Survivor China‘s most popular contestant on the series’ reunion show Sunday night (it was James) — but perhaps none was more agape than Nancy T. Lane’s. Lane is the superintendent of the Douglas Public Schools in Douglas, Mass., and she says that her employee, “lunch lady” contestant Denise Martin, lied on Sunday’s live broadcast when she stated that she was not given her job back as a cafeteria worker upon her return from taping the reality show and instead was made to “clean the toilets” as a janitor working night shifts. At the end of the show, host Jeff Probst gave Martin $50,000 on behalf of producer Mark Burnett to help get her life back on track.
“Yeah, I watched my own jaw drop when she said that, because it’s absolutely not true,” Lane told Hollywood Insider. Lane released a statement on Monday, on the Douglas Public School District website, explaining that Martin was actually promoted to the position as custodian –- a promotion Lane claims Martin asked for herself. Reached for comment, CBS responded: “The comments made by Ms. Martin on the program were compelling and sympathetic. If these statements were misleading or false, we hope that she will take immediate and public steps to clarify her remarks.”
Lane’s statement says that “Martin held a full-time position as a custodian prior to her participation in the series, and she returned to this same position upon her return from China.” The statement continues, “Although Mrs. Martin was a cafeteria employee prior to her selection as a contestant, she asked to be considered for a promotion to full-time custodian, and was promoted to this position on March 30, 2007. This promotion came with additional benefits and a higher salary. Following her leave, she then returned to this same position.” Martin has held the new position since August, when she returned from taping the show, up until last week, when she traveled to California for the live Survivor broadcast, according to Lane.
“I can empathize, having been a working mother,” Lane said. “It’s tough to work those night shifts. But she took the job; that’s the job she took leave from [to do Survivor]. If she wants to go back to the day shift, she should apply when one comes open.”
Lane says she spoke with Martin on the telephone on Monday afternoon and that the show’s fourth-place finisher was apologetic, but that “she did not explain why she said that to my satisfaction,” Lane explained. “It’s difficult to grasp. We did nothing but encourage her. She took leave for almost three months, she was given additional times off when ever she needed it. Now she says this on national TV…. Douglas is a nice little town. Everybody was rooting for her, the local paper was bending over backwards with positive articles. Then to have it end this way. Talk about a letdown.”
Martin was still in California on Monday, but Lane says her job is waiting for her when she comes back home on Friday. “I told her, ‘I think we have a few things to go over,’” Lane says. “I might have a few things I’d like to talk about.”