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Two Former Rockville Employees Level Complaints


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Published on: Thursday, March 29, 2012

By Christa Puccio

ROCKVILLE – Two former City of Rockville employees claim they suffered from mistreatment, tampering of employee personnel files and an unprofessional work environment while employed with the city.

This after a former city secretary settled with the city after she made similar accusations.  Marylou Berg, a spokesman for the City of Rockville, has declined to speak of this or any other complaints leveled against the city.

“The City of Rockville has become a toxic environment and a majority of people who come to work every day are in fear of losing their jobs,” said Charles Baker, a former chief of inspection services for the City of Rockville.  Baker worked for the city for 26 years and retired on Feb. 7, 2011.  “Employees get zero support from human resources.  Anytime someone goes over and complains, there’s a partial, somewhat haphazard investigation and nothing ever comes of it.  You call them on the phone, they don’t answer.  You go over and ask for the person – they’re not in.  I went to the window and could see the person that I needed to speak with and was told they weren’t available.  There’s a huge problem within that agency.”

Baker said he is in the process of filing a lawsuit against the City of Rockville for mistreatment, but cannot yet speak about his own experience.  However, Eric Rose, a former construction codes inspector for the City of Rockville, an employee in Baker’s department said he was constantly harassed by his supervisors.

“Eric was harassed unmercifully by both of his supervisors, at different times,” said Baker.   Baker said one comment made about Rose was distinctly racist. “It sounded racist to me and that’s how I would have perceived it,” Baker explained

Rose said he followed Baker’s instruction to file a complaint with the human resources department after his supervisor made a comment about his hair. “His comment was ‘I didn’t know black people could have a cowlick,’” said Rose.  “And that, behind all of the other things he’s said, I reported him.  It was the first time I did, but I probably could have many times before.”

Baker said that HR did an investigation but it was eventually “swept under the rug.” 

“The overall recommendation was that the entire department go through sensitivity training,” said Baker.  “Now, nothing was done to his supervisor, absolutely nothing.”

Baker said one manager demanded negative changes to Rose’s employee performance planning and evaluation form.  “I had people I thought were doing a good job, [the manager] thought completely the opposite of that,” said Baker.  “[The manager] would force me to rewrite the evaluations that were full of lies, constantly.  Anything that moved from the Eric’s original evaluation was because I was forced to make the change by my manager.  [The manager] is supposed to just make sure everything was filled out properly, not change my evaluation.”

According to Rose’s personnel file, the evaluation review date was May 6, 2009, but the evaluation was not received until Dec. 1, 2009.  Rose and Baker said it was because [the manager] continued to “force [Baker] to change the evaluation.”  

“Charlie gave me the evaluation, but he wasn’t supposed to,” said Rose.  Baker also kept a copy of the evaluation before [the manager] made final changes to the document to show the difference to Rose.

In the section on employee conduct in the work place, (before the manager’s final adjustments), the final comments are: “He has been the subject of jokes and belittlement on the part of his peers.  The staff cloned a nickname of the ninja.  This issue and others was one of the reasons I asked the Director of Human Resources and the City Manager for assistance bringing the hostility to an end.”

After the manager’s adjustments, the final comments changed to: “It is felt that Eric needs to improve in communicating with the other inspectors in the unit relating to recordation of inspection.”  The check box for that section also went a step down from “Successful” to “Acceptable.” 

Baker said, “[The manager] told to remove my comments and made me change everything. It was squashed and put under the rug like everything else.”

In the Task/Technical section’s Final Goals, (before the manager’s final changes) the evaluation read: “Help in displaying a positive attitude in sprite of nasty comments by other staff.  This issue was reported to both the Director on HR and the City Manager.  Specific details are not provided or attached to this evaluation.”

This section was then changed to: “Work towards extending training and ideas with FM staff and Inspector I positions.”

In another section, Rose said his performance was downgraded from “successful” to “acceptable.”  

Rose said that after all the harassment he endured by his supervisors, he hit his limit.  “All of this was taking a toll on me,” said Rose.  “It was a lot of stress. I started having problems with my heart.  I had to take a leave of absence from work.  After that, I started finding out certain medical things about myself, and because of that I still wasn’t at work six months later.  I was pretty much toast. I was just messed up. I went to the doctors and a psychologist.  They put me on anti-depressants.”

Baker said when Rose went on family medical leave, his supervisor made some comments about him being on medical leave and “a bunch of other medically related things.”   Rose said HR did not take any action against the supervisor.  “When I was sick, in one of the staff meetings [the supervisor] tells the guys, ‘Eric won’t be with us for long.’ He was talking about my medical records with other employees,” said Rose.  “I found out from my wife that that was a violation of my HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) rights and we both complained to HR.  The first thing that [human resources] said was ‘Who was the employee who told you all this?’  I said, ‘It doesn’t matter who told me, it matters the person who said it.  That’s who you need to talk to.’  They would have taken repercussions against him if I told [HR] who told me.”

Baker said nothing came of Rose’s complaint. According to the Office for Civil Rights, which enforces the HIPAA Privacy Rule, the HIPPAA Privacy Rule protects “the privacy of individually identifiable health information; the HIPAA Security Rule, which sets national standards for the security of electronic protected health information; and the confidentiality provisions of the Patient Safety Rule, which protect identifiable information being used to analyze patient safety events and improve patient safety.”

Both Baker and Rose claim their personnel files were “scrubbed of everything positive.”

Reader Comments - 15 Total

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Posted By: Lydia D. York On: 2/21/2014

Title: City Employees

Aren't the City employees part of a union which could help them with some of these issues?

Posted By: Pat Duran On: 11/22/2013

Title: Real problems with HR

This is the second story I have read concerning problems with the HR dept of the Rockville City government. There needs to be an examination of the process by which complaints from employees are addressed, and an examination of the pattern of complaints, esp those dealing with discriminatory treatment. Someone at HR is not doing their job.

Posted By: Tom F On: 10/17/2012

Title: Nothing new!

So could someone please tell me what has changed in Rockville since the new city manager took office???
There has been no new news articles indicating that anymore directors have quit or been fired. Seems just like business as usual in the old city.

Posted By: P Off Resident of Rockville... On: 5/15/2012

Title: Go 4 it

Now all the filth in Rockville is spilling over into the streets. The city does not have the heavy equipment to clean up the mess. The residents now have to read about what our tax dollars have been used for.
Just imagine all these years and the little city has been hiding a real torture chamber right under our noses.
Many of us have smelled something rotten in Rockville, but had no idea how deep the garbage plie was.
Anyone ever see the Rockville symbol on city hall? It is supposed to be the 3 times Rockville was awarded the All American City Award. It is deplicted by three R lower case letters in a circle.
Ha Ha now we really know what the symbol stands for: Realy Rotten Rockville.
This whole issue makes me sick to live in this city.

Posted By: Still in chains On: 5/11/2012

Title: Thanks!

Without the people mentioned in this article, we employees would not have a fighting chance to force change in the Dungeon of Death. Now let us go forward into the light of freedom.
For all too long no employee dared come out and speak about the treatment in city hall. Anyone who did was quickly labled as a disgruntled employee who just could not perform. So one by one good staff were picked off in a very calculated fashion. There was no mass firings since that would raise a red flag.
Many employees went from having great evaluations to being the worst employee ever hired by the city. Employees were suspended without pay and put on performance improvement work plans gearded not to assist the employee but to give the managers a written reason to fire the staff.
Employees were told you cannot appeal the evaluations. We had no outlet for help and the city was able to rid the dungeon of many employees.
We must come out in mass against the machine left in place by the ruthless Dungeon Master.
Clearly we now see Jenny as part of the real problem in the city. I cannot stand to even look at her anymore.
As many have said leadership starts at the top. Well so does morale!
We need new leadership in the city and not retention of the same managers who ruled by the whip and kept the employees chained to their workplaces.
We know that the Dungeon Master hand picked many who would carry out his orders to create a world of obedient managers who would rid the city of anyone who could possibly question his motives.
Best wishes to my fellow staff! Together we can rid the city of the poor managers.

Posted By: Trevor On: 5/6/2012

Title: OUTSTANDING

Good for these employees that stood up against the injustices in city hall. These employees did the right thing and exposed a huge pile of dirt under the city rug.ENOUGH COVERING UP YOUR ABUSES.
This is the biggest mess i have seen in years. This makes former Mayor Barry look like a saint.
how in the heck did this go on for so long? Sounds like someone kept a tight lid on the staff. Most likely threats were made that thy would be fired. I bet every employee in HR has been threatned with loosing their jobs. Vargas here this. you did not comduct your duty in protecting the staff in Rockville. All you did is support the dictatoral management of a tyrant. Sir, you must step down immediately.
My hat is off to Rose, Baker, Williams, Reitz and those unmentioned staff posting comments. We citizens will be looking close at what happens.
Do not try to cover the investigation up Rockville!
Best wishes!

Posted By: Jon On: 4/26/2012

Title: Are they gone yet?

So what if anything has been done to the so called managers? I bet they have the attitude they did nothing wrong and the city will protect them. After all they were just following orders.
Count me in to call for the firing of any manager responsible for this heaping pile of _____!

Posted By: MJ On: 4/26/2012

Title: In reply to the: Check out the Human Rights Commission

This must only apply to residents. Employees clearly are treated worse than a junk yard dawg.
Looks to me the State of Maryland should be investigating the city. Or in the case of Mr. Rose the NAACP. I feel sorry for U brother this ain't right.
How did things get so bad?
Oh snap! Here is a news flash..... ROCKVILLE FIRES ABUSIVE MANAGERS. Now we talking.

Posted By: Concerned In Rockville On: 4/24/2012

Title: Check out the Human Rights Commission

It has been watered down and totally ineffective. Simply listed on the website for appearances sake.

Posted By: SSgt C On: 4/19/2012

Title: Harassment and abuse tolerated in Rockville

I must agree with the comment made by Mr. Singleton about the Human Resources Department. It is clear that if one reads the policy on harassment that the leadership in this department is either derelict in their duties or incompetent at best. Talk about maleficence in office.
If this were the military the leadership would be answering to a court martial at the least.
I also call for Mr. Vargas to step down. Susan Swift should just be fired plain and simple.

Posted By: John R. Maurer Ph.D On: 4/17/2012

Title: A makeover needed for the City of Rockville

Enough with the window dressing it time to remove the curtian and really see what our tax dollars are being used for.
There appears to be a huge cost to the tax payers just in the Community Planning and Development Services Department. The entire department seems very heavy in the Management and Support section. A whopping 30% of tax dollars is being used to support this section of 6 to 7 people. So if I am reading this correctly they have a Director(Dictator) Susan Swift and Assistant Director for a whole department consisting of only 40 staff persons. Then we throw in the Division Chiefs who supervise their own sections, but these positions are paid for by another fund center. Seems to me that we have lot's of chiefs not not many Indians.
If I were the Mayor and Council my focus of cost savings would be to get rid of the Assistant Director position and take a serious look at the entire staffing in this department.
In HR there is a director and only several employees. But what exactly do they do? clearly they do not protect the workers in the city.
I found these issues just after a cusory examination of the proposed operating budget. In times like these we need to look at where the money is being used and hold people accountable.
It looks like the centire city is broken from the top down at the management level. A strong leader is needed to make some tough decisions and restore the pride in the City of Rockville that is sorely missing.
Thank goodness that some former employees stood up against this #$%&!! system.
Ms. Swift and Mr. Vargas how in the hell have you kept your jobs? I would like someone to explain this to me.
I am now wondering is there are similar problems with the other departments in the city that just have not been brought into the open. If I were a city official, my concern would be to find out where the garbage is hiding.

Posted By: J. Nicholos On: 4/17/2012

Title: No justice in Rockville

Now we know what the Rockville Way is all about. It's the Rockville Way or the highway for the poor staff in the city.
I will be watching how this is being handled.

Posted By: Joe Singleton Jr. On: 4/16/2012

Title: Speachless in Rockville.. Not really.

Now the truth comes out about the city and it is not good. I feel somewhat sorry for the current Mayor and Council having to see the city being exposed on a weekly basis.
I have to agree with other writers that something really stinks in city hall. This really has the smell of a dictatorship run sweat shop of corruption
WHAT A JOKE!
This is from the HR Departments homepage.
"Message from Chief Human Resources Officer
Carlos A. Vargas
Thank you for visiting the City of Rockville’s Department of Human Resources career and resource site. The City of Rockville prides itself on providing its residents with premium quality, responsive, high value services. If you value innovation, teamwork, and take great pride in your work – the City of Rockville may be the place for you!"
The joke continues:
Department of Human Resources
Harrassment Prohibitions

"The City does not condone or tolerate any type of harassment, including sexual harassment, of our employees. We will not permit any situation where an employee's submission to such harassment is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of that individuals employment, where submission to or rejection of such harassment is used as a basis for employment decisions, or where such harassment has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individuals work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. The City will not tolerate or condone such harassment of its employees by either their supervisors, their co-workers, or third parties on our premises, and/or during work hours, over whom we have control."
What do they not understand about ANY FORM OF HARASSMENT?
Oh wait, don't stop reading it only gets better..."An employee who believes that he or she has been harassed in violation of this policy or has observed such harassment has the responsibility to report it immediately to the supervisor/manager or Personnel Department. The Director of Personnel or a designee will conduct an investigation. Should the City conclude that an employee was harassed, appropriate corrective action will be taken.
Harassment is considered to be a major violation of City policy and will be dealt with accordingly by immediate disciplinary action up to and including suspension or termination.
It is the intent of the City to provide a work environment free from verbal, physical, and visual forms of harassment. All employees are asked to be sensitive to the individual rights of their co-workers."
Sure seems clear to me that there are so many violations of employee rights that not only should the city be sued, but the supervisors need to be sued for everything they own.
What a joke and an insult to the staff working in the city.
I also find it interesting that the City of Rockville does not even proof what they write. Notice on the website that the word "Harrassment" is used. Funny I thought that Harassment only had one "R" not two as cited on the WebPage.
Finally, I hope the city does the right thing for the staff that have had to suffer without any basic level of employee protection.

Posted By: Bob the Builder. On: 4/16/2012

Title: What a mess!

Looks like the City of Rockville has some real explaining to do about why there is so many staff complaints and violations of rules and regulations. Not to mention a racist culture that is allowed to fester.
Just imagine having to be subjected to racial slurs and doctored evaluations, no evaluations, no documentation provided to justify poor ratings on evaluations and the list just goes on and on like a bad novel!!!
This situation would have continued to degrade if it were not for someone like Mr. Baker and the others who stepped up to the plate and did the right thing to expose these issues.
What kind of culture did Mr. Ullery bring to the city? It would appear one of abuse and managers who clearly do not deserve to get a paycheck. The real question is where is the leadership now that Ullery has departed to enjoy his retirement only after seven years? WOW what a sweet deal he has. Put in seven years and create a huge mess for others to clean up and get a paycheck for the rest of his life.
I normally do not respond to news articles but this is just really frost me in the wrong way.
I wonder what else has been going on behind the doors in city hall? Transparent government yeah right!
One has to feel sorry for the staff and employees abused by these white collar despot dictators. Susan Swift, Carlos Vargas and the acting city manager need to be FIRED! That's right it includes you the acting city manager.
How many of you readers watch the Mayor and Council meetings? yeah I have no life...LOL I have never seen a group of senior level managers do the double talk around elected officials like Susan Swift and others. Her responses back to the Mayor and Council are like a merry go round. Round and round we go.
The solution here is very simple and that is fire Swift and Vargas immediately! The city and it's citizens deserve better not to mention to poor employees faced with working in city hall.
As the Rockville slogan states.... "GET INTO IT" and fix these issues to prevent future negative news articles.
I would love to post my name, but my business has to obtain permits from the city.

Posted By: Wouldn't dare for fear of reprisals On: 4/11/2012

Title: True in the County Government as well

I am so sad to hear that the City of Rockville operates the same way as the County Government. In my particular department (permitting services), horrible managers were supported by HR and created a toxic work place. I am now out of that department but I don't hear that things have improved. The previous director is gone but the beat goes on. I used to joke with my co-workers that I was going to write a book, "And you laughed at the DC Government?" Best of luck Charlie. The problem goes above the management. It reaches up to the County Council and especially the County Executive




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