Friday, December 8, 2006
Complaint lodged against Town Administrator
When does an employee conflict become a case of harassment? Opinions differ. Two Board of Health (BOH) employees have sent the Selectmen and Personnel Board letters of complaint, and BOH Chair Martha Bedrosian said the letters describe harassment by Carlisle's Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie. The names of the employees have have not been made public. According to Bedrosian, non-sexual harassment might include anything from intimidation, humiliation or bullying, and municipal employees are protected by law from these possible types of behavior. She is waiting to learn how the town will address the grievances. Doug Stevenson, chair of the Board of Selectmen (BOS), said, "I don't qualify the complaints as 'harassment.' There was a complaint about an incident at Town Hall, and then a complaint about how the Town Administrator handled it."
Stevenson said, "Our overall goal on any complaint like this is to handle it without the pressure of the public eye all over it." The Selectmen will address the issue, under the guidance of the town Personnel Policy's grievance procedures.
Bedrosian forwarded the letters to Stevenson and JoAnn Driscoll, chair of the Personnel Board. There have been no formal complaints filed with the state, Bedrosian said, noting, "Ultimately it is the Personnel Board and the Board of Selectmen who have to handle it."
The proper procedures to resolve the problem are complicated in this case. The Personnel Policy directs that employees first submit a written grievance to the Personnel Administrator, but McKenzie is also the Personnel Administrator. If employees are not satisfied with the decision of the Personnel Administrator, then a committee (including the Personnel Administrator) would normally investigate and give an advisory opinion to the Selectmen. As the government entity that appoints the Town Administrator, the BOS has ultimate responsibility for the problem.
Bedrosian told the Mosquito that she asked for guidance on the proper procedure from the Massachusetts Human Resources Division (HRD). The HRD spokesperson recommended that Carlisle's Town Counsel be asked to describe the correct protocol for resolving the conflict.
Town Counsel weighs in
Stevenson said, "I have spoken to Town Counsel about our Personnel Policies and problem resolution procedure and he has agreed that our procedures are a very reasonable approach to solving a problem like this." Town Counsel agreed that in this case the Selectmen have the responsibility for handling the issue. They will discuss the complaints privately with the parties involved with the goal of reaching a solution within the next week. While Stevenson did not say that a formal investigative committee will be formed, he did say that the Personnel Board will have a representative at the discussions, at the request of both the BOS and BOH.
McKenzie declined to comment further on the case, other than to say, "It's going through a process and that process has to be followed."
For the future, Bedrosian would like to see town employees and officials receive additional training in handling all types of harassment. The town has a policy addressing sexual harassment, but McKenzie said, "We have not had trainings in anything beyond that."
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