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Rockville caps investigation with a 90K price tag


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Published on: Thursday, May 17, 2012

By Christa Puccio

ROCKVILLE - The City’s current contract with Saul Ewing is capped at $90,000 to perform an investigation of “various workplace and personnel matters,” according to documentation provided by the City Attorney’s Office.  While Saul Ewing established a hotline for City employees to report workplace concerns, A Morris Palerm LLC attorney said confidentiality cannot be guaranteed by law.

“There’s a general disinclination on the part of current city employees to cooperate with Saul Ewing’s investigation for the reason that there’s concern – even though there’s been an awful lot of commentary that any comments would be kept confidential – the problem is that it’s a legal matter and I think a lot of city employees are aware of that that confidentiality cannot be guaranteed,” said Douglas Gottron, attorney at Morris Palerm LLC.  “What I was talking about with [Charles] Baker, [a former Chief of Inspection Services for Community Planning and Development Services who is in the process of filing a lawsuit against the city] is something that will allow city employees, and anyone for that matter, to make complaints that will be treated with confidentiality.”

According to the letter sent out to current city employees, dated May 9, 2012, “[Saul Ewing] will conduct [its] investigation in a manner that protects the privacy of employees who raise complaints to the greatest extent possible,” said Devin J. Doolan, Jr., a partner of Saul Ewing.   “Moreover, please be advised that retaliation against any employee who comes forward to participate in the investigation is strictly prohibited and will not be tolerated by the City.”

According to a release by the City Attorney’s Office, “at this time, it would be premature to speculate on a completion date for the investigation However, Saul Ewing has been charged with conducting the investigation in a timely and efficient manner, without sacrificing thoroughness.”

Gottron said he created an outlet for current city employees to come forward candidly with guaranteed confidentiality.  “We established email for purposes of taking in various complaints, which we identified as rockvillecomplaint@morrispalerm.com,” said Gottron.  “So if anyone sent an email to that address, it would come directly to me, and by saying that they wish the comments are taken into consideration for the purposes of potentially forming an attorney-client relationship (not that one has to or will ever be formed, but simply that the comments are tendered out of that potential expectation that an attorney-client relationship may be formed), in that situation, anything they say to me is discovered in a pre-client privilege and I cannot be forced to divulge any of that information to anybody.  And so confidentiality is legally mandated.  I think this is one way to get around the problem that the Saul Ewing investigation may have.”

Doolan’s letter to current employees, however, encourages comments to be left on a hotline recording.  “To encourage employee participation and promote confidence in the investigatory process, my firm has established an independent hotline, which employees may use to notify me of any personnel policy violations or unlawful employment practices,” said Doolan.  “The hotline number is 1-888-355-6787. If you contact the hotline, you will be prompted to leave a message identifying your name, telephone number, and a convenient time for a follow-up call from me. The hotline will be operated by Saul Ewing, not the City, and it will be available to employees 24-hours per day from 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 9, 2012, to 5:00 p.m. on Friday, June 8, 2012. All employees with workplace complaints or concerns are encouraged to call the hotline.”

Acting City Manager Jenny Kimball acknowledged Saul Ewing settled with the City of Detroit for alleged wrongdoings by a former partner of Saul Ewing.  “The case was removed to federal court,” said Kimball.  “The case was settled later in 2011 for considerably less than the amount of fees paid to Saul Ewing for the work done on consent decree monitoring engagement with no admission of liability or wrongdoing on the part of any Saul Ewing attorney.”

Reader Comments - 20 Total

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Posted By: Not likely On: 5/28/2012

Title: Just so feed up

Call the number for help, leave your name and phone number. Just how is that protecting our privacy. SIMPLE "it's not". We are not that stupid. Hello, who is paying Saul Ewing, who signed the contract, who hand choose the law firm. Give us all a break. No retailation. Get real. There already is. Speak up and you get cut down real fast and then they make it hard on you and constantly make you aware that you can lose your job. City Hall, Vargas, City Managers office and Mayor will have everyones name and comments, just like last time when they said it would all be private but Vargas made all the apointments for people to talk to the invesitigator last time.

Posted By: Chuck On: 5/24/2012

Title: Outraged at Rockvile

Did Jay Leno write the contract for the investigation? Well this joke is not the least bit funny!
The city clearly wants to pay to get out from under this huge mess. It is realy a kick in the teeth to have the acting city manager involved in the selection, much less establishing the scople of the investigation.
Every step Rockville takes just makes the situation much worse. The longer that no action is taken against the managers mentioned in the articles the more the citizens become outraged.
The new city manager once selected better get with the program and ask for heads on the silver platter. If nothing happens and any of these clowns are still employed there will be complete outrage from many citizens.
Get into it Rockville!
Chuck

Posted By: Sam On: 5/23/2012

Title: Staff

Whatever happened to the planner who vanished in CPDS. She was being treated poorly. Wasn't Ms Williams under the same abusive supervisor?

Posted By: samantha On: 5/23/2012

Title:

Wonder what happened to the planner in CPDS who just vanished. Wasn't Ms Williams under the same abusive supervisor

Posted By: Joseph On: 5/23/2012

Title: 90K for what U say?

Tell me the investigators are doing more than answer the phone and log complaints.
A trained monkey could do that. This contract must be released not only to the staff as indicated my the poster named Dedicaled employee, but to us taxpayers. Transparent government, you bet we can see right through this field of smoke.
Face it mayor and council many of us are sick and tired of all the smoke and mirror beat around the bush hide and seek garbage. We demand answers and what them now!
Are any of you actually reading the comments on the website? Get the head out of the sand and stop fooling around. Now is the time for strong leadership and thusfar what I have seen is a mayor and council scared to ask questions and demand answers.

Posted By: Bozo the clown On: 5/22/2012

Title: History lesson

[Centex sues small town to enforce its demands]
Centex, the developer of the Meadowbrook property in southeast Leesburg, will get to present its case before Judge James H. Chamblin, an opportunity the town tried to prevent last week when it argued for the case to be dismissed claiming the developer sued the wrong parties.
Centex filed a lawsuit against the Leesburg Town Council, Mayor Kristen C. Umstattd, Planning Director Susan Swift and the town in February claiming the town improperly dismissed its by-right subdivision application.
Town Attorney Barbara Beach argued that Centex should have sued the planning commission, not the council or Swift."
http://galaxyrising.com/index.php?/trifecta/comments/development_watch_centex_in_peoples_crosshairs_10/
Little by little the truth will be told.
Why can the United States Secret Service fire people in week, but Rockville provides protection. Could it be that all of them have dirt on their hands?

Posted By: Inmate 44X567 serving till age 60. On: 5/22/2012

Title: Less than 30 days and counting

Very soon the fat lady will sing and our lives will be toast. Jenny will be given the report and then the Rockville witch hunt will begin all over again. All the managers need to do is sit back and relax. They have had the meetings and you can bet every posting here has a prepared answer. They will justify every single action and turn the table on the facts.
Soon it will be back to the Rockville Way all over again. I would not doubt the paper shredder is working overtime, emails are being removed, journals will disapear, stories are being polished and our friends in IT have been searching for any evidence that can be used to support our claims.

Posted By: Not that stupid On: 5/22/2012

Title: Another sad mean joke on us employees

The city spends more money a year on worthless art projects that they will spend on what should be a serious in-depth investigation.
We are just pieces of ____ that will be replaced once we start making too much money. Old Cohen is crunching the numbers and looking into ways to prefund the retirement system.

Even though Burt Hall will retire, do you think that Recs and Parks will change?
CPDS, PW and yes R&P will still continue to operate without change.
Vargas is still in complete control of the complaint system.
Here is a hint never call the toll free hotline established by the city.The real joke is that the city taxpayers fund this hotline.
Anyone notice how Vargas has taken over the sick leave bank and the HR appeals process? Management rules over everything!
I agree the city is sitting back laughing at us right now. Every manager is now empowered because they can read about how scared the staff is.
O Lord hear my prayer! Help each of us through this suffering that we endure while trying to serve our friends and neighbors.

Posted By: Doug Gottron On: 5/22/2012

Title: Rockville Complaints

To those with complaints and/or having knowledge of wrongdoing within the City of Rockville:
Having been retained to represent the interests of several City employees relative to systemic problems within City Hall, I have watched this story develop since publication of the first article on March 29th. Sadly, it has become more than apparent to me that City employees do not want to cooperate with the Saul Ewing investigation for several reasons. Firstly, the City has gone down this path before and, if anything, history teaches that this investigation will, at best, pass by the wayside. Secondly, the investigation was contracted by the acting City Manager who will, seemingly, be the recipient of any completed investigation. To the extent the acting City Manager is target of many of the comments that have been posted to the various Sentinel articles, one is left wondering what purpose the investigation will serve and if it will ever be made public. Despite protests to the contrary from many, it seems possible that the investigative report could serve as the basis for further retaliatory action. Thirdly, any complaint made to Saul Ewing, despite any effort to maintain confidentiality, can be discovered through a legal process. Accordingly, confidentiality, contrary to various representations made to date, cannot be guaranteed or legally protected.
In the interest of truly addressing each individual complaint and in effectively cleaning up the problems noted by many, my firm has offered to field complaints in a manner that circumvents the foregoing concerns. As suggested in the published article, any complaint sent via email to RockvilleComplaint@morrispalerm.com is subject to an attorney-client privilege in which confidentiality is legally mandated provided the complaint is made with a reasonable expectation of forming a client-lawyer relationship regarding the subject matter of the complaint. For simplicity, including the following sentence in any complaint tendered will establish an attorney-client privilege - or, in other words, a legally protected confidentiality that can only be waived by the author:
It is my intention in sending this complaint that it be accepted and investigated by you with an expectation that you are willing to discuss the possibility of forming a client-lawyer relationship.
This statement does not bind you to form a client-lawyer relationship.
Although not entirely clear in the Sentinel article, it is my hope that every person having a complaint and/or having knowledge of someone with a complaint come forward. I will contact every person making any complaint in order to discuss the same and inquire as to your intentions regarding it’s handling. But, please rest assured, if wrongdoing is never addressed, it will most certainly continue.
Doug Gottron
Morris Palerm, LLC
416 Hungerford Drive
Suite 315
Rockville, MD 20850
eMail: RockvilleComplaint@morrispalerm.com

Posted By: Rosa On: 5/22/2012

Title: Is this the year 2012? Racist Rockville!

I am so sick reading all of these comments that city staff have been posting,where they are begging for help and nothing happens.
I too want to see this so called contract signed by Ms. Kimball to cover up the abuses that these poor city staff have suffered through.
I agree that spending $90,000 to conduct a investigation will yeild nothing but a cover up. How stupid does the city think everyone is? Don't answer that!
There needs to be a federal or state investigation into discrimination in the city. Lets look at the facts found in these articles;
Every person who came forward is an older retired or forced out employee.
Multiple minority employees were forced into retirement by one manager alone.
This same manager Ms. Swift had been accused of racial slurs and nothing happened. Another supervisor in her department made a racial comment about Mr. Eric Rose having nappy hair or something just as bad. Again complaints were filed and nothing happened, except he resigned just after the articles surfaced.
I think we have a hidden racist cluture in Rockville that needs to be completely exposed. This attitude cannot be allowed to exist!
Who is the mayor and council going to hire as the new city manager? DAVID DUKE!

Posted By: Martha On: 5/22/2012

Title: TELL YOUR STORIES

I am a long time city resident that retired from government. I cannot imagine what each of you has gone through at the city, but now is the time to speak up and tell your stories. Reading what many of you have gone through is appalling and tugs at my emotions. I broke into tears just reading the stories about asking for help and only finding more abuse.
You must testify and see this through. Just look at the huge outpouring of support from us residents. If each of you does nothing they will write you off and have free reign to continue their ruthless behavior directed towards each of you.
Mayor I am holding you to your words.

Posted By: Martha On: 5/22/2012

Title: TELL YOUR STORIES

I am a long time city resident that retired from government. I cannot imagine what each of you has gone through at the city, but now is the time to speak up and tell your stories. Reading what many of you have gone through is appalling and tugs at my emotions. I broke into tears just reading the stories about asking for help and only finding more abuse.
You must testify and see this through. Just look at the huge outpouring of support from us residents. If each of you does nothing they will write you off and have free reign to continue their ruthless behavior directed towards each of you.
Mayor I am holding you to your words.

Posted By: Martha On: 5/22/2012

Title: Come forward

I am a long time city resident that retired from government. I cannot imagine what each of you has gone through at the city, but now is the time to speak up and tell your stories. Reading what many of you have gone through is appalling and tugs at my emotions. I broke into tears just reading the stories about asking for help and only finding more abuse.
You must testify and see this through. Just look at the huge outpouring of support from us residents. If each of you does nothing they will write you off and have free reign to continue their ruthless behavior directed towards each of you.
Mayor I am holding you to your words.

Posted By: Dedicated Employee On: 5/22/2012

Title: Post the Contract with Saul Ewing LLP

It is time to end this cat and mouse game. We want to see the City’s contract with Saul Ewing LLP in its entirety. Post it on the City’s website.
The City is paying Saul Ewing $90K to do exactly what? Answer the phone and log complaints? A secretary without a degree can do that.
I can’t believe that Saul Ewing would conduct an investigation of this magnitude for $90K.
What is the actual contract dollar amount? Does it include dollar add-ons?
City management obviously wrote the scope for this investigation, probably even the uninformative, safe language in Saul Ewing’s letter to the employees. It's a safe bet that it was written to benefit/protect management.
If this investigation is being conducted to benefit the employees, shouldn’t it be managed by the employees?
We have all noticed the friendly smiles on the cats’ faces recently. Are the cats trying to back the mice into a corner for a cat feast?

Posted By: Minority city staff On: 5/21/2012

Title: Get the whip ready

I can just see the managers waiting with foaming mouths like rabid dogs to get their hands on us who dared to speak out. One manager was seen doing internet searches trying to find out who some of the posters were. Why?
I know exactly what will happen to this investigation, and that is nothing. Who in their right mind thinks Kimball who has nursed into her position by Ullery will do a damn thing to help us staff? She has already shown how much contempt for each of us by not doing one thing to comfort the staff. Can anyone name one thing she has done? How much support has Kimball shown for anyone except her senior staff.
Lets not all blame the mayor and council for the throwing us the 1% bone, there was no additional increases asked for by senior staff with the exception of themselves. They make sure the 10% bonus, car allowance and other hidden perks were included.
Not one of the senior staff really cares about any of us. Have they banded together and fought for us to have raises? NO All we hear is the doom and gloom and just be glad you have a job in this bad econmey. CUT CUT CUT! DO NORE WITH LESS!
Face it people so many have been beat down over the years that everyone is scared to death of speaking out. If not for this format, we would still be suffering under the ruthless whip of the master.
Who will really see that things change in city hall? Does anyone really think a new city manager will burst into office and start firing people? Hell no, what will happen is that Kimball and her senior staff will prepare memorandums justifying every action taken against the staff.
Who will believe any of us? We have complained and complained only to have the whip cracked harder against our backs.
Explain this...why is there not one minority of color on the senior staff or at the division cheif level? As mentioned several times under these articles the white woman Swift has been getting rid of minorities like guy in ISD cause HE DID NOT FIT IN! And the guy who was the plumbing inspector was run out of town. This brother was beat down till he had a breakdown.
The lady Ms. Williams was run out by Swift. Who else of color is being targeted right now?
Take a look around the city and you can see exactly what I am writing about.
If you are of color or older the city really wants you out!
The city is beyond a quick fix to restore morale. I'm not sure that many of us can ever trust management and expecially Human Resorces.

Posted By: Jimmy Ray. On: 5/21/2012

Title: Yeah sure. Where is my clothes pin honey?

90K these days wound get ya much. I gotta love how Rockville just releases small tid bits of information.
Hopefully the staff will at least try to come forward. If the city betrays any employees trust,someone at the state needs to investigate the city and find every speck of hidden dirt.
You worthless scum ball managers who mistreated these staff for years or even a day must be sent packing. Heck if the city send a message and start somewhere this would be a great start. Let's draw strays and see who will be the first clod sent packing.
Any mew manager should have a quality instructor, not the minion hired by the departed city manager. Please note that even using the term mamager around these people is unfair to all the good managers.
here is a link to some training that could be a great start. The best thing is my link did not cost the city one dime.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znICtiHoPdg

Posted By: Roy Rockville, Md On: 5/20/2012

Title: Billable Hours = Cover up.

How many investigators does Saul Ewing have looking into the allegations of misconduct in the city?
One thing is a fact which is the 90K will be spent my the end of the contract. Can you imagine the Federal Govt setting limits for investigations, when the average cost of just one EEOC complaint is $500,000 to investigate?
My friends what we have here is far from an investigation and nothing more than a cover up with the acting city manager still running the show.
Here is a huge cost savings method to get the facts. Bring the new city manager on board with instructions to clean house starting with that HR director who failed to do his job.
What do each of these managers have over on the city manager that would clearly prevent her from doing her job. It is just unfathomable for us to be reading about these abusive tyrants still working each day. What kind of message does this sent to all staff?
I doubt the city would be protecting lower ranked staff and spending one dime to exonerate them.
As a resident, I demand full disclosure of the final report from Saul Ewing LLC. I could care less about the names, and just want the facts, prior to the city manager putting her spin on the findings.
Each reader needs to understand that the city will not admit to any wrong doing on their part, since to do so would open up the city to massive lawsuits. The city must try to contain the damages, and this is where Saul Ewing LLC comes into the picture.
This 90K is dirt cheep compared to how much it will cost the city to defend even one lawsuit.
The issues here are compounded by the fact that we read city staff have no trust in the investigation and may or may not testify. One thing is a for certain, if the employees do not testify their lives never change and the brutal dictatorship will continue.
I strongly suggest that each city employee get their story on record, and if the city turns up the heat find an attorney. Face the facts the city is counting on each of you not to come forward. If you do not testify the city will win.
Saul Ewing was hired by the acting city manager. So who are they going to protect?
Best wishes to each city staff who continues to serve the residents in spite of the abuses.
Roy

Posted By: Staff #3 On: 5/18/2012

Title: Do it

It is down to the wire and it looks like the city may beat us down once again. Every city employee cannot allow the city to win if many do not come forward to tell our story.
Reading these stories showing fear of the city has done nothing but give power to the same people who caused your suffering. No wonder why they have the wait it out attitude.
I agree there is strength of numbers.
Time for each of us to stand tall and tell our story. I suggest telling both Saul Ewing and the attorney Mr. Gottron to cover our rears. If the mayor planed a double cross this does nothing but gives us more ammo to expose the city corruption and abuse.
If we do not come forward the goons win and we will continue to suffer. We cannot wait for a new city manager.
The time to act and get our lives back is now!
Thanks Mr. Gottron for helping us!

Posted By: Charles Baker On: 5/18/2012

Title: PLEASE ACT NOW!

Every city employee both current and former who has something to say needs to have their story on the record.
If you do not feel comfortable, or fear possible retaliation from speaking to Saul Ewing LLC, then please sent your complaints to Douglas Gottron Esq at the provided email address below.
rockvillecomplaint@morrispalerm.com
Even if you leave a message with Saul Ewing LLC, please email your story to the above email address.
I understand that many are fearful of city management, but try to turn that fear into something positive and see that the environment in city hall changes for the better.
Each of you are not alone in trying to improve the working conditions in city hall. If each of you takes no action, then the city wins, and it will be back to where we started.
Pass the word to each of your co-workers that now is the time to come forward.
Charles Baker, Retired Chief of Inspection Services
charlesbaker424@yahoo.com

Posted By: Undisclosed resident On: 5/17/2012

Title: Now maybe we can get somewhere

$90,000 for another cover up. Just exactly what do us citizens get? Most likely the same old spin from the city that has been going on for years.
What do the staff in city hall get? A report that could obtain the names of staff who complain. Remember the staff are not clients, the city is the client. Exactly who signed the contract one may ask? You can bet it is none other than one of the accused abusers Ms. Kimball.
Every day it is something new in the city. Just fire the exposed managers and save the $90,000. Hey here is a thought, give the money to the staff as an additional lump sum payment. Bunch of low life jerks!




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