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No Dodge And More Bullets

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Published on: Thursday, September 19, 2013

By Holden Wilen

ROCKVILLE – Apparently upset with the lack of action taken by the city following an investigation into employee complaints of discrimination, racism and harassment, another former employee has filed a lawsuit against the city.

Charles Baker, the former chief of inspection services for Rockville worked for the city for 26 years and he filed his lawsuit on Aug. 12 claiming the city “deliberately and intentionally” made working conditions intolerable for him, forcing him into medical retirement. Baker is asking for the maximum $500,000 in damages.

Baker’s lawsuit is the third one filed in the aftermath of an investigation conducted by Saul Ewing LLP, a law firm the city paid $190,000 to look into complaints employees made to The Sentinel. Former employees Donald Dorsey and Courtney Morgan filed lawsuits earlier this year and Saul Ewing’s report has been sealed by City Attorney Debra Yerg Daniel and City Manager Barbara Matthews.

Morgan told The Sentinel in December that Saul Ewing never contacted him, and Baker, who is represented by the same attorney as Morgan, Terry Morris, said Saul Ewing never contacted him either. Meanwhile, it took more than a year for the city to hire a new human resources director and many of the supervisors mentioned in employee complaints are still in their positions.

Baker said he felt compelled to file a lawsuit because he has not seen any changes. Employees are still in fear of losing their jobs, Baker said, after the city told The Sentinel it could not release Saul Ewing’s report because there would be too many names to redact.

“People used to love working for city government. The city was like a big family. There were always tensions you’d find in any workplace, but people honestly liked coming to work. It is now a job versus a career,” Baker said. “It still really does bother me that things are still going on and that my laundry has to be aired out in public. I would have preferred not to do this, really, but I do not have a choice.”

According to Baker’s statement of facts filed with the Montgomery County Circuit Court, Baker never received a negative performance review from 1984-2008. However, Baker claims his working environment changed once a new director of the city’s Department of Community Planning and Development Services took over.

According to the case file, Baker claims the director continually chastised and ridiculed him in front of co-workers and called him “incompetent.” Baker also claims that despite working after hours throughout the work week to complete assignments, the director called him 1 p.m. on Palm Sunday demanding  he come into the office by 3 p.m. to staple a report and place it on her chair.

Additionally, Baker says the director gave him a negative performance review, which resulted in him not getting a salary increase. However, Baker said the director did not conduct two six-month reviews, which the city requires.

The saga continued when Baker’s boss required him to complete a project schedule before a deadline. Though Baker said he turned in the schedule ahead of the deadline, according to the case file, his boss filed a disciplinary action accusing Baker of not turning in the assignment on time. The action resulted in the city suspending Baker without pay for two days. When Baker attempted to file grievances with the human resources department, he says he was told he could not do so because it would “fall upon deaf ears.”

Eventually, Baker retired on Feb. 7, 2011, but he says the emotional and physical toll from his treatment has been overwhelming.

“Going down from salary to retirement pay was a financial hardship. My wife was supposed to retire, but she has to work so we can pay our bills,” Baker said. “Emotionally things have gotten better, but even now there are still things when talking about it that are very emotional to me. I was not really ever an emotional person, but talking about a lot of these things seems to trigger bad memories.”

City spokesperson Marylou Berg said the city has received notification of the lawsuit, and the case will be handled by the Local Government Insurance Trust, but she would not answer questions about Baker’s accusations.

“Although we appreciate the opportunity to respond,” Berg said, “the city's policy is to decline to comment on matters of pending litigation.”

Baker’s former supervisor Susan Swift confirmed she is aware of a lawsuit, but when asked about the accusations she said, “I believe Ms. Berg has already provided you with a response.”

Former City Councilwoman Anne Robbins said she did not know Baker when she served on the council, but she believes it is outrageous that current and former employees have to spend their energy and money filing lawsuits.

“I am afraid the city’s message is that you will have to file a lawsuit, because the almost $200,000 of taxpayer money that the city paid Saul Ewing to conduct an employee investigation is a sad, sad situation for transparency. Only two people have seen it, and not the mayor and council, which most citizens are puzzled and outraged by.  It would be such a good thing for the public if the mayor and council had insisted that they see it, as they are the people's representatives,” Robbins said.

Baker said other employees and former employees are preparing additional suits against the city.

Reader Comments - 5 Total

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Posted By: ROCKVILLE VOTER On: 9/26/2013


I agree with S. Cox. The only problem is that I would like to see all of the current members of the council swept out of office. That would have been possible if two of them were not running for mayor. Rockville voters have a chance to elect a completely new counciL--LET'S DO THAT ON NOVEMBER 5!!!.

Posted By: Tony On: 9/26/2013

Title: Mr. Baker

As a business owner here in Rockville I find the treatment of Mr. Baker to be horffic at best.
I met Mr. Baker some years ago during a construction expansion of my business and found him to be very helpful in explaining the inspection issues cited during an inspection.
The city lost a very good employee with many years of expierence and that is hard to replace.
When are the Mayor and Council going to fix Rockville?

Posted By: Now Happy Former Employee On: 9/25/2013

Title: Yes - Sad, So Sad

There are many employees who would like to file formal complaints, but don’t for fear of losing their jobs. Morale is low, fear is high and trust doesn’t exist.
Charlie Baker is a nice guy and doesn’t deserve what he was dealt. I hope Charlie doesn’t settle out of court and gets his day in court to expose the City’s unfair practices, which continue. Good luck to Charlie.

Posted By: S. Cox. On: 9/23/2013

Title: Sad!

Rockville has been mentioned in numerous articles about mistreatment of employees over the last year and nothing has been done except to make excuses.
How terrible for the former employees to spend money trying to make up for their mistreatment at the hands of poor managers.
I suggest the voting box be used to force change in the city.

Posted By: Sandra Burgen On: 9/19/2013

Title: Another sad day for my city

I cannot imagine what the employees like Mr. Baker went through trying to.serve the citizens of Rockville. This behavior on the.part of managers like those mentioned in this article is just plain WRONG.
I get upset just reading the stories.over the last year.
How the hell did the M&C spend 200,000 dollars and not see.the report? This is.really smelling like a huge cover the city manager.
Do.something Mayor.and.Council!!!


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