October 4, 2011
While concluding there is evidence that former Delaware County 911 Director Bob Greenlaw created a hostile work environment in the 911 center through repeated “sexually charged” comments, three female 911 center employees who were laid off last August were not targeted after reporting them, a human resources investigator hired by the county has found.
Columbus-based consultant Felicia Bernardini concluded in an eight-page report that the layoffs of three 911 employees were “legitimate administrative actions” since no one who made the administrative decision to eliminate the jobs knew about Greenlaw’s behavior.
The investigator also wrote she did not find evidence that Greenlaw made racist comments, or that Greenlaw and 911 Operations Manager Brittany Craig made derogatory age-based comments, as the three 911 employees alleged in discrimination complaints filed with the county, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the State Board of Personnel Review.
Commissioners paid Bernardini $8,000 to investigate the discrimination complaints. The Delaware County 911 Board, which oversees the 911 center, said the report would stand as their official investigation, too.
The report supports the county’s position that the layoffs were legal, said Delaware County Administrator Tim Hansley.
But that doesn’t mean the legal process will conclude the same thing. The discrimination complaints remain in the legal system. Under federal anti-discrimination laws, the employees could each be awarded up to $50,000 in damages or get their old jobs back if the legal process finds in favor of their claim. The county also may need to show it is taking steps to avoid discrimination in the future.
“We hope they will come to the same conclusions (as in the county-funded report) because they are the facts,” Hansley said.
A phone message left with Merl Wayman, who is representing the three 911 employees, was not immediately returned. Reached by phone, Elissa Sessley, who accepted a lower-paying job as a county 911 dispatcher, said if the investigator couldn’t corroborate racist comments Greenlaw made to her, it’s because she didn’t ask the right people.
“I stand by my allegations,” said Sessley, who is black. (Greenlaw is white.)
Officials released the report Tuesday, shortly after the 911 board formally accepted Greenlaw’s resignation. Greenlaw, 64, technically still works for the county, but is on paid administrative leave until his last day at the end of the week. He turned in his a resignation letter on Sept. 27.
After leaving a closed-door session to discuss finding Greenlaw’s replacement, officials told reporters they did not ask Greenlaw to resign. However, Powell Police Chief Gary Vest, who chairs the 911 board, suggested it was best that the two sides part ways given the circumstances.
“Bob resigned, and we did not ask him to resign,” said Powell Police Chief Gary Vest, who chairs the 911 board. “He’s the one who can decide how much headaches he can deal with,” Vest said.
Greenlaw was hired in 2009 to oversee the consolidation of Delaware County and Delaware city’s 911 centers. That job is complete, Vest said.
“All of us sometimes look back at our career and decide there’s no more hills we want to climb,” he said.
While Greenlaw “strongly denied” doing so, interviews with other 911 center employees supported the women’s claims that Greenlaw “created a hostile work environment based on sex,” Bernardini said in the report.
Working in the 911 center is a stressful job, and that results in a “rough and tumble” environment, she wrote.
“It was reported that rather than being a moderating influence on the environment, Mr. Greenlaw has adopted the style as his own and freely uses sexually charged banter with staff,” Bernardini said.
However, Sessley, Sharon Creamer and Kathleen Coy did not make their concerns about Greenlaw’s conduct known, except to discuss it with their co-workers, before filing a discrimination complaint, the consultant found.
“The irony is if we didn’t eliminate those jobs, we wouldn’t have known that information today. So we’ve got to create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their concerns,” Vest said.
Sessley wrote in her EEOC complaint that human resources officials with the commissioners office either directly witnessed or otherwise knew about Greenlaw’s behavior.
The employees also question if the layoffs of their positions is actually a cost savings, since commissioners hired nine new 911 dispatchers (including Sessley and Creamer) around the same time.
911 officials will meet with Delaware County commissioners later this week to discuss finding Greenlaw’s interim and/or permanent replacement. In the meantime, Hansley is overseeing the administration of the 911 center, while Craig remains responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations.