Wednesday, June 19, 2013 5:03 AM
Published on: Thursday, April 05, 2012
By Christa Puccio
ROCKVILLE – The Montgomery County Sentinel has learned two more city employees claim they were mistreated by the City of Rockville during their tenure there.
This comes following an exclusive story last week in The Sentinel detailing complaints of racism and mistreatment by two city employees. Supervisors, managers and public relations representatives refused to comment on recent claims of a former employee involving racial discrimination, tampering of employee evaluations and personnel files, harassment, and Health Insurance Portability And Accountability Act (HIPAA) violations.
Nancy Williams, a retired Community Planning and Development Services (CPDS) specialist, and Carol Reitz, a retired administrative assistant, both came forward with similar complaints this week.
“There was no pressure when I started,” said Williams. “That went on for my first four years. . . My problems started when I had to be reassigned . . . I worked there for three years and I never received an evaluation. Rockville bases raises on the employee evaluations. So if you don’t get an employee evaluation you can’t get a raise. I started complaining and it became an issue because [the supervisor] did not want to do it. I put more pressure on [the supervisor] and started complaining at training sessions. [The supervisor] decided to give me an employee evaluation that was awful. [The supervisor] sat in front of me and screamed and hollered and was verbally abusive to me. I documented that in the memo I wrote to [the supervisor].”
A confidential source currently working for the City of Rockville said all employees were notified last Thursday by e-mail that reporters from The Sentinel were staking out City Hall for comments about the claims. According to the email:
“To CPDS staff, There was an article in today’s Sentinel newspaper that relates to our department. The link to the article is: http://www.thesentinel.com/mont/news/Rose3-29-12. In addition, there have been reporters with TV cameras in and outside of City Hall, who are attempting to interview various staff members. Any media calls and requests for comment or interview should be referred to the Public Information Office (PIO) at 240-314-8105. The City has a long-standing policy to not comment on personnel matters or matters of litigation involving the City. The best course of action is for you to refer them to the PIO and indicate that ‘The City does not comment on personnel or litigation matters.’”
Marylou Berg, public information officer for the City of Rockville, said “It would be inappropriate for Rockville to comment on specific personnel matters. Complaints received by Human Resources from employees are investigated thoroughly and appropriate action is taken. Each case is handled according to its specific circumstances. Rockville has a grievance procedure for employees, the details of which are set forth in our Personnel Policy and Procedures Manual
“[Robert Purkey, Construction Inspection Supervisor of the Inspection Services Division , Susan Swift, director of Community Planning & Development Services, Matthew Shanks, former fire marshal and supervisor of Plans and Permitting and Carlos Vargas, director of Human Resources Department] have been made aware of [The Sentinel’s] questions and have been given [The Sentinel’s] contact information,” said Berg.
One supervisor was tracked down, but refused to comment on the recent claims. “I’m just referring you to the public information office,” said Purkey.
Shanks did not return messages before the release of this story. The City of Rockville did not allow reporters from The Sentinel to speak with Shanks in person at City Hall either before his resignation on March 30, 2012.
Swift refused to come out of her office to speak in person with reporters last week at City Hall and Rockville employees at the Inspection Services front desk told reporters to contact the Public Relations Department. Swift also did not reply to an e-mailed interview request before the release of this article.
Vargas did not return a voicemail or an email sent to him for comment before this story was released.
Meanwhile, the memorandum Williams sent to her supervisor was dated Jan. 7, 2010 and addressed to the supervisor. Williams wrote, “I disagree with the entire evaluation and wish to grieve the manner in which it was conducted. City of Rockville Policy and Procedure was violated and my rights have been abrogated. It was never discussed with me. For the first discussion, I never saw the evaluation. It was given to me in a brown envelope to read at the end of the next day, for the first time. [The supervisor] and I have never sat at the same table, and reviewed any of the three year evaluations, page by page, together. No documentation has been provided to substantiate the ratings.”
Williams said the letter went from the supervisor, to the manager and then to human resources, but said nothing came of her complaint. “The letter was shared with [the manager] and [the manager] pushed to have the evaluations done. [The manager’s] evaluation depended on getting the evaluations done, so if [the manager] couldn’t get the evaluations done, then [the manager] couldn’t get more money. All of this was about money. They had to find a way to deny people raises and this was the whole strategy from my understanding. My complaint was totally ignored because I had alleged sexism and racism and the way [the supervisor] treated me. [The manager] put a cover letter on it and sent it to [Human Resources] for investigation. Nothing was done.”
Williams, a black female who at the time was 61, said she was discriminated against and harassed because of her age, race and gender. “I believe that certain people were targeted because of their age and the amount of money they were making,” said Williams. “I started at about $50,000 and when I left, I was making $69,000. See over the years, we were getting cost of living raises and performance based raises. I was 61 almost 62 when I got my November evaluation, and I knew that if terminated, you cannot receive the retirement. I was able to retire and I chose to retire because in four months, I would have been 62 and been able to receive my securities. I knew it was going to get real ugly. When the budget got tight, that was the way they were going to stop people from getting money. So that was the process.”
Carol Reitz, administrative assistant, said she was fortunate enough to be able to retire because it was an opportunity for her to be able to leave. “I explained that when I left, several of the staff asked me to do something to help them as I walked out the door,” said Reitz. “They knew their efforts and achievements were disparaged and management showed them a lack of respect. I had repeated discussions with human resources and nothing ever came of it. The same happened to me as many others have said – my evaluations took months to get to me because they were rewritten several times by [the manager].”
The first letter Reitz wrote was sent to the city manager, human resources and the mayor and council on Jan. 8, 2010. Reitz wrote, “As the months progressed, [the manager] took advantage of meetings to publicly berate and insult staff. [The manager’s] comments were unprofessional, making comments regarding ethnic association. Staff sensed bigotry in certain remarks [the manager] made about specific staff. Because of the comments, there appeared to be a disregard or lack of respect for CPDS staff. Needless to say, this behavior undermines the team effort, lowers morale, and infects all with a disrespectful attitude toward management, and is hardly representative of the Rockville Way… if staff disagrees with [the manager], [the manager] is quick to retaliate by creating impossible deadlines and workloads that are difficult to achieve in the time expected, particularly when relying on outside sources.
“[The manager] also writes every evaluation, editing some at least three or four times, until [the manager] ‘evens the score’ for those who disagree or with whom [the manager] does not like by bringing the marks to the unacceptable level… When given my final edited edition, [the supervisor] apologized profusely for the low grading, saying with tears in [the supervisor’s] eyes, that I deserved better…
“Downsizing and denial of salary increments are understandable to afford dedicated staff the opportunity to remain employed. If [the manager] was hired to inject fear, disloyalty and create unrest in the staff of CPDS, [the manager] is a successful hire. However, if the City prides itself on the retention of dedicated staff who deliver a consistently outstanding product, CPDS needs redirection and stabilization to rebuild morale and teamwork. Staff has registered complaints with Human Resources regarding this situation,” Reitz concluded.
Reitz wrote a second letter to the Mayor, Council, and City Attorney on May 26, 2010 addressing the complaints in the previous letter. Reitz wrote, “In February, a Human Resource staff contacted me by phone to discuss the memorandum and informed me that [HR] was given the task of investigating the information. [HR] phoned me again a week later for further clarification and said [HR] planned to speak with several CPDS employees and, upon completion of the investigation, a report would be written. It has now been four months and I have not received a written report. I look forward to reviewing a copy of the findings when discovery is completed. Your assistance to this end is most appreciated. I am available to meet with you to discuss the situations that existed upon my departure, and as I am told, still exist.”
Reitz said she still to this day has not received a written report from human resources in regards to her complaints.
Posted By: Tom S. On: 5/29/2013
Title: The joke is on us the taxpayers
One of the persons accused in the report that worked in CPDS now works in the county. Guess he will fit right into the abusive system in the Department of Permitting Services.
Guess bad behavior pays in local government or people are not doing background checks into new hires.
Posted By: A proud resident On: 5/17/2012
Title: Thank You
Thank each of you for speaking out against the abusive environment in Rockville Without your courage the staff in the city would still be abused.
Posted By: Kicked one last time. So very sad! On: 5/7/2012
Title: Former employees thrown under the buss by Rockville once again?
Thanks Mayor and Council!
As a former employee who left the city due to harassment it appears the city forgot about us once again?
The selected investigator is sending out a survey to all current employees according to the Mayor. This firm must be experts in the fine art of creating surveys. Surveys can be worded to get the result that you are looking for.
This so called limited investigation clearly leaves out those who were mistreated and left the city to include people like Mr. Baker, Mr. Rose, Ms. Reitz, Ms. Williams and so many others.
Oh well guys we have been thrown under the buss again, and other this an this forum we are out of sight and out of mind.
Sort of like one last kick in the rear from the city. So sorry Charlie and others they screwed you once again.
Clearly nobody cares! I had hoped that the Mayor cared about all the former staff that were mistreated. Boy what a sucker I was.
Many existing staff are scare to report violations and harassment to the city. So how does this survey investigate Mr. Vargas? A majority of the violations happened because he did not do his job and that resulted in many staff getting fired etc.
Guess you are off the hook Vargas.
Well it will be back to business at city hall very soon. Hope all the existing staff enjoyed the short vacation!
Well done Jenny you did a fine job defining the limited scope of the investigation with the fine assistance of the city attorney!
This whole process smells just like the Internal Customer Surveys that only reflected the positive in the city.
MY HAT IS OFF TO THE CITY FOR STICKING IT TO US ONCE AGAIN. NOW EVERYONE CAN REALLY SEE THE TRUE ROCKVILLE WAY.
Guess the dictators are laughing their A off right now planning their next attack.
This is what I get for trusting the city to do the right thing.
Posted By: Mack D On: 5/7/2012
Title: if the glove fits u gotta quit
I would say we have a perfect match with the directors and acting city manager. The city has some critical issues to resolve and all I see if Kimball protecting the hired henchmen.
What a joke the city has become. What is not funny is how the elected officials have no power to stop a bunch of thugs from running off good employees.
I used to watch Ullery get real pissy with the Mayor and Council and he seemed to get a real kick from doing so.
The city has a full scale revolt to deal. So start the firing process and lets move on.
Better set up a settlement fund for staff while you are at it.
Posted By: R. Walter Wingate Sr. On: 4/19/2012
Title: Department of Corporal Punishment and Derogatory Slaps (CPDS)
I am outraged to read that four long time staff from the same department all make the same claims of harassment and abuse under the manger Susan Swift. Talking about a smoking gun coupled with written proof. As noted copies of evidence were provided to the Sentinel from what was reported here.
I wonder how many others in that department have left under the watch of Swift? I think the overall turn-over rate for this one department needs to be investigated. Does the Sentinel staff have the answer to this question?
I would imagine that the city attorney being a sworn officer of the court can conduct the investigation unless there would be some form of conflict of interest.
Let's see that these staff that suffered under the rule of the whip are taken care of. Workplace bullying and general forms of harassment cannot be tolerated in today's workplace. If the city is serious then they would enforce what rules they seem to have in place to deal with this form of workplace torture.
Finally, I hope that the former employees mentioned in the articles sue the city for the legal limit of damages. I would suggest that the city do the right thing and make a settlement of compensation to each of the aggrieved former employees.
If I were running the city and looked at all of the apparent evidence, it could be less costly just to settle these claims than risk being sued and loosing much more money after a judgment for the plaintiffs. Just look at the case history behind this kind of lawsuit. Can you imagine how much a class action case could cost the taxpayers?
Posted By: Catlin Fox On: 4/18/2012
Title: Say it ain't so. Sad but true
You gotta read this bull. This is directly from the City managers webpage. Notice how the mission statement says nothing about respect and honor.
"The employees of the City of Rockville are dedicated, talented, and skilled individuals. We strive for the highest level of professionalism, integrity, and leadership, and recognize our accountability to the community. We are proactive and take pride in our work. We value flexibility, teamwork, and fiscal responsibility. We support and encourage creativity and innovation by respecting each other's ideas and contributions."
Guess not all of the statement is a lie.
They are talented at abusing staff.
They are dedicated about covering up the abuse.
They are skilled at driving off the most skilled of the staff.
This is my favorite line of BS:" professionalism, integrity, and leadership, and recognize our accountability to the community."
All three elements seem to be lacking in the city top management. U are right we hold each of you accountable for this huge mess.
A JOB WELL DONE..... NOT!!!!
Posted By: Say it ain't so.... On: 4/5/2012
Title: Who can you turn to.....
Does anyone see that the retired City Manager, HR and the City's Law Department should have intervened in all the foolishness? It does not appear that they ever stepped up? By not stepping up, such behaviors was sanctioned by those entrusted to protect the employees, or at the very least the Mayor and Council and the City. In each accusation, individuals state that they pursued remedies from the City Manager, HR and the City's Law Department. No one thought they should step up. Why is it okay to ignore such blatant and illegal behaviors.
This is beyond amazing. It is truly awful to mistreat employees for any reason. It is not okay! Perhaps it was unexpected that eventually someone was willing to say "this is wrong and I’m not going to take it".
There is absolutely NO WAY that the City Manager, the head of HR and the Law Department should be able to keep their jobs with all of this happening REPEATEDLY under their watch!! By ignoring the situation, does anyone realize the ramifications.
How do you spell Class Action! C-L-A-S-S A-C-T-I-O-N!