Friday, December 06, 2013 2:08 AM
Published on: Thursday, April 18, 2013
By Brian J. Karem
It’s hard to know where to begin when it comes to discussing the lack of transparency, lack of common sense and lack of mental acumen which seems to dominate life in Rockville city government.
Perhaps another recap is in order to keep it real. Employees in Rockville complained for years about discrimination and harassment in the city by some of its managers. Among those named in the complaints is the city attorney.
No one in the city management staff did anything about the complaints – and in fact denied there was a problem. When we first caught wind of the accusations we were told there was nothing going on more than a small handful of disgruntled employees who wanted to make trouble for everyone else.
Then a former city employee filed suit against the city and Rockville settled. Slowly but surely others came forward and told us increasingly alarming tales of discrimination, harassment and abuse of power by city supervisors.
Far from being disgruntled, these employees were weary, worn down and unconvinced there would be any change in the abusive environment of the city no matter what was done.
At one point we spoke with more than two dozen different employees who told similar stories.
We began investigating these stories and ran into the same problem with some of the supervisors and Rockville city staff the employees said they encountered.
We were dismissed, put off, ignored and belittled.
One of the city staffers called to complain about the way one of our reporters was dressed. Another told us we were more than rude for pursuing the stories.
One told me, point blank that it was none of my business what was going on. It was a private matter regarding employees that shouldn’t be discussed in public.
I always find it amusing when those who are accused of abusing their employees hide behind the cloak of wanting to protect their employees when they choose not to talk.
Ironic, hypocritical and very funny – if it weren’t so sad – yet there it is.
So after months of investigating these claims, and many months more of reporting on the claims and the city staff’s unwillingness to deal with the problem, the city council bought and paid for an outside investigator to examine the issue.
Saul Ewing LLP took on the daunting task, asked for an extended deadline in its investigation and then upped the price tag for the investigation to $190,000. The city paid.
Finally, last fall Saul Ewing delivered its results.
By then at least two of those accused of harassment had left Rockville employment. Meanwhile the employees we talked with expressed continued fear.
True to form the city attorney immediately sealed the results of the investigation – again in order to protect the city employees.
In as much as the city attorney was named in some of the concerns by employees, at that point where she sealed the results, she should’ve resigned.
City staffers remain convinced nothing will ever be done. The city council hasn’t pushed to see the Ewing report while everyone from former mayors to city activists and legal experts have pushed for at least a redacted report.
Now comes word from one of those who complained to Saul Ewing that there should be no names in the report anyway because he was told everything he said was in confidence. He took quite a chance coming forward to tell us this, but it is the latest twist in an unending story in Rockville city government.
There are, of course, many things to be said about Rockville. But let’s take a look at the bottom line: the inmates are running the asylum.
City staff supervisors – none of whom have ever put their name out there on a ballot for election and to serve – are seemingly impervious to the democratic process. They have decided good and well what is best for Rockville and are determined to let everyone know it.
It can be changed – through the charter review process and through election. Rockville needs smart, intelligent people to step up, stand for election and actually run the city.
Unelect staff supervisors shouldn’t have all the keys to the city’s kingdom.
The abuse of the rank and file of the city staff show there needs to be far greater oversight of the supervisors than is currently provided.
So far there has been little indication anyone is willing to step up to the plate to deal with this.
That must change.
Posted By: Resident On: 4/26/2013
Title: To Sam N.
I hope the Sentinel verifies where Vargas is working. I heard the City hired Vargas from MC and MC hired him back when he resigned from the City. Our tax money at work. Just another bizarre twist.
Posted By: Sam N On: 4/25/2013
How c ould someone mentioned in the articles get hired by Montgomery Co?
I sure hope the person is not a supervisor. My understanding is Vargas went to work for a non profit company.
Please can someone from the Sentinel look into who this is? As a resident I want to know the type of people being hired.
Posted By: Buff On: 4/25/2013
Title: To former employee
I was not refering to Vargas, which you are correct he was hired from MC. The individual worked in ISD as a supervisor, left and went to the City which is the State Capitol and now is back at MC.
Posted By: to buff On: 4/25/2013
Title: to buff
vargas went too shady grove hospital. shanks came MoCo. maybe sentinel should get comment from there employers
Posted By: Former Employee On: 4/22/2013
Title: To Buff
If you are referring to the former HR supervisor, Carlos Vargas, it is my understanding that the City hired him from Montgomery County’s HR and when he resigned from the City, he immediately returned to the County’s HR.
Posted By: Buff On: 4/18/2013
Title: Here is another twist
Here is another twist, one of the supervisors that was named in one of newspaper articles left the City, is now coming back to the area and working for Montgomery County Gov.