Fake News 3: Human Resources Matter
FICTION: An employment action was taken for “political” reasons
FACTS: Any and all HR actions were taken with the specific knowledge and recommendation of the Director of Lancaster County Human Resources Department.
Former Lancaster DA Donald Totaro drafted a policy nearly twenty years ago stating that an employee needs to resign to run for political office absent special permission. This policy is not unique in law enforcement and has been upheld in state and federal courts. The US Attorney’s Office and the PA Attorney General’s Office simply prohibit campaigns.
Two prosecutors sought and were granted permission by DA Stedman to run for DA on the condition that they run clean campaigns, tell the truth, and do not do anything to attack the integrity of the office, or distract from our mission.
Had DA Stedman not wanted an employee to run for “political” reasons he could have simply denied permission. Further, DA Stedman was not running for DA.
Regardless, during their respective campaigns, information arose that at least one candidate was potentially not abiding by the agreed upon conditions. One of the employee candidate’s campaigns had allegedly made threats against numerous members of the DA’s Office in that employee’s presence and the employee had refused to disavow or stop them. In addition, there was information that potentially suggested the employee was not being truthful in 2019 with respect to a personnel action involving that employee in 2009.
DA Stedman brought these serious concerns to the HR Director for guidance. It was agreed that an information gathering meeting should take place with the employee candidate. DA Stedman, along with a senior female ADA as witness, attempted to meet with the employee to discuss the matters.
The HR Director was consulted about the attempted meeting and recommended the employment action taken based on the events. She confirmed same in a subsequent email.
The issue was resolved by the DA within days and the matter closed.
However, shortly thereafter the BOC broke long-standing practice regarding the confidentiality or HR matters and made a statement that an employment matter in the DA’s office, which they knew had been recommended by the HR Director and had been resolved at that point, had taken place. The BOC then unfairly identified the employee. They then went even further and speculated that the matter was “political.”
HR then conducted an “investigation”, which would include the HR Director investigating herself, and “found” that the employment action was “political” solely because the resign to run policy drafted by DA Totaro does not comport with county policy.
Contrary to what HR’s “findings” conclude, running for office does not grant an employee free reign to say and do whatever he or she wants to while still employed as an ADA without investigation and/or consequence. Office standards of conduct are not held in abeyance because someone is given permission to run for office.
The HR Director, who serves the BOC, in effect made the absurd conclusion that if there is a political backdrop to any legitimate office related concerns regarding what an employee candidate is doing or saying while running for office then it is “political’ and a county policy violation to make an inquiry of the employee- even when the HR Director specifically recommended the same.
What makes this even less sensible is that it is well established under the law that the BOC and HR Department have no authority over the supervisory powers of a DA as an independently elected official or actions concerning employment within the DA’s office.
Moreover, there was never any attempt by HR to interview the senior ADA witness who was present and generated a statement that the meeting was most certainly not political in nature.
Perhaps what is most egregious is the decision to reveal the purported “findings” in public. Indeed, the public release of this information is a clear violation of the privacy and reputational rights of the parties involved. The fact it was released at the same time as it was provided to DA Stedman certainly does not comport with good government.
Despite all of the above, DA Stedman has a standing offer to release everything regarding the matter provided the BOC secures the proper legal clearance, waivers from the employees, and agrees to indemnify the office as needed. The BOC has disingenuously declared the matter should be discussed out of “transparency” knowing full well DA Stedman cannot release the facts without the proper legal clearance. There is no question that full disclosure will remove every cloud of suspicion which has been woven and DA Stedman will be happy to comply.
It should be noted that LNP also has made no attempt to interview the same critical witness HR refused to contact. There is no doubt the reason is they are not interested in facts that do not fit their media assault.