Year-old Lauderdale employee complaints still being investigated

A year after more than two dozen city employees raised allegations of discrimination and a hostile work environment, they’re still waiting to hear if the city will do anything about their concerns.

A consultant’s investigation authorized by City Manager Lee Feldman was originally projected for completion by November, but no report has been released yet, following interviews of affected employees in the Public Works Department’s engineering section last fall.

Mayor Jack Seiler said that’s because some of the employees filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in October, so producing a report wouldn’t be appropriate given the pending litigation.

Seiler said he’s aware that “remedial actions” have been taken, but aren’t being disclosed because of the EEOC litigation.

“Their concerns have been addressed. I can’t tell you their concerns have been resolved,” Seiler said.

But Feldman said the consultant’s report is still being worked on and expects it to be completed within 60 days, at which time he expects it to become public. He will then review it and “take what, if any, appropriate actions are deemed necessary,” city spokesman Chaz Adams said.

The situation wasn’t discussed in Feldman’s recent evaluation by city commissioners, who plan to award him a 3 percent raise Tuesday. Feldman’s current salary is $219,690. A 3 percent raise would be an additional boost of about $6,590, bringing his salary to $226,280.

Commissioner Romney Rogers lauded Feldman for “his ability to change the culture in a positive way.”

Chris Sharp, an attorney who first brought the Public Works Department employee concerns to the attention of commissioners, said he would have expected “prompt, effective remedial action” and was initially encouraged by the city’s response to the allegations. But he said he’s heard nothing since.

“You certainly can’t say this has been prompt,” Sharp said.

Sharp initially became involved last year with the 26 employees, many of whom said they were told they were going to be laid off. They also complained about harassment by their supervisors.

The city quickly dismissed employee concerns about being laid off, describing it as a misunderstanding. Officials have not yet said anything about allegations of harassment, bullying and unwarranted disciplinary actions by supervisors.

The consultant, Rosilyn Dickerson, was hired to investigate those claims in August. She is employed by the city on a full-time, temporary basis until her report is complete at an annualized salary of $104,000.

Commissioner Bruce Roberts said he has stayed in touch with Feldman on the issue. Roberts said he’s been told part of the reason no report has come about is because of settlement negotiations involving the EEOC complaints that were filed, but Sharp said no one from the city has been in touch with him.

The city has begun implementing a new system in the engineering section, retraining the employees and making them “project managers” instead of engineers, then putting them on six months probation in their new positions. Officials have said the employees can return to previous job classifications if they don’t clear the probation period.

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