Employees testify about bullying

By From page A1 | November 04, 2013

Twenty-one year county employee Sam Koch, now retired, testified that in his years with the county, during many of which he served as a shop steward for the El Dorado County Employees Association Local 1, that he “had many opportunities to see bullying by supervisors and managers. I was aware of things done to others, but it was always done in the ‘best interests of the department.’ I don’t know how you make a policy effective when it’s done (the bullying) for the good of the department,” Koch said.

Relating his own experience being bullied, he said “there was no concrete evidence of what the (department) director was doing,” and he acknowledged the difficulty authorities would have trying to enforce such a policy.

Local consultant Dan Dellinger described his testimony as coming at “great personal risk” and urged the board to “stop abusive department heads” and include protections for companies and ordinary citizens doing business with the county. “You need to set up a mechanism where people can come without fear of (retribution)” and added with visible emotion, “I’m a victim (of practices that) ruin your lives.”

Dellinger is currently involved in a case brought by District Attorney Vern Pierson over allegations related to a questionable consulting contract with the Pioneer Fire Protection District Board of Directors in 2011 that preceded a voter-approved, increased tax assessment for service within the district, according to the grand jury report from 2011-2012.

Jere Copeland, executive director of the employees association, addressed the board Tuesday and described “bullying” as a “gray area” within the county structure that is not clearly defined compared to adopted policies prohibiting harassment or violence in the workplace. Those and related policies deal with specific acts and/or with specific populations or members of “special groups” such as minorities that are generally protected by civil rights laws.

“I’m abused but not in ways that have policies,” Copeland said in trying to describe the problem.

Chris Daley

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