BREAKING: County Employee Blows the Whistle on County Auditor in Bullying Investigation
The County of El Dorado hired the Van Dermyden Maddux Law Corporation to conduct an impartial workplace climate survey at the County of El Dorado. The workplace climate survey commenced on January 27, 2014. The survey was transmitted electronically to County employees on March 11, 2014. Consistent with representations to County employees, results are anonymous. The survey closed on April 2, 2014.
During the survey period, Van Dermyden Maddux sent electronic surveys to 1,934 current and former County employees and received a total of 1,228 responses, yielding a response rate of approximately 63%.
There were 297 employees who responded they were uncomfortable reporting their concerns. These responses were roughly divided into the following six categories.
"Retaliation. Approximately 140 employees stated that they would not feel comfortable reporting an incident because they feared retaliation. The following quotes are excerpts from the responses citing a fear of retaliation:
- “Fear of retaliation from management.”
- “Retribution or punitive action.”
- “You become a marked person for retaliation.”
Ineffective. Approximately 59 employees stated that they would not feel comfortable reporting an incident because they did not believe their complaint would effect change. The following quotes are excerpts from the responses citing a lack of faith in the process:
- “Tried in the past was told to drop it and let it go.”
- “Because nobody will do anything to resolve it.”
- "Any issues usually fall on deaf ears so there is no point.”
28% said they are actively making plans to leave employment with El Dorado County.
The full report is online at: https://eldorado.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=3052821&GUID=0529C92D-6BFE-4739-8360-3EDA8A9257D8
But the report was just 1/3 of the special meeting as the report generated intense conversation among the public and the Supervisors themselves.
The key issue is how to deal with elected officeholders. It was established that there are plenty of safeguards in place, even if not fully enforced, to protect employees that are protected from certain kinds of workplace harassment, it also highlighted a serious gap in protection from Elected officeholder.
Many of the employee complaints related to a small number of department heads. Those named in testimony included Tax Collector Cherie Rafety, the bulk of the bullying was attributed to Auditor Joe Harn. Both the named department heads are long-time elected office holders with a combined incumbency of nearly 50 years.
How to deal with them, and how limited the options for these Elected officeholders, was the focus of nearly two hours of testimony and Board discussion.
The CAO, a relative newcomer to the county, asks the BOS if they are really ready to deal with the problem explaining the difficulties of exposing an elected officeholder's bad acts. See her question here:
Three of the Supervisors were ready to go all the way down that road even if they were to be called on the carpet, but two showed hesitation about that road.
BOS Chair, Supervisor Norman Santiago acknowledges the seriousness of the problem.
Supervisor Nutting notes that the county policy board (BOS) can deal with employees at all other levels, but not with Elected officials.
Supervisor Ron Briggs answers COA question about willingness to tackle tough issues of employee bullies.
He adds that the Elected should be the first to be called on the carpet as the those with the highest level of responsibility.
Supervisor Nutting calls this process a Watershed Moment that will be looked back on in the years to come as a moment when the culture of El Dorado County was focused on making elected officials subject to the same behavior standards as all other employees. This is the time that all Board members will take a stand to make the hard decisions, or the time they kicked-the-can down the road and let down the county employees.
See page two here: http://www.inedc.com/1-8534