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Executive Summary Regarding Complaints Made by Leanne Siri-Edwards

Executive Summary Regarding Complaints Made by Leanne Siri-Edwards

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Published by DallasObserver
Dallas Fire Rescue, Leanne Siri, Dallas City Hall, Eddie Burns, sexual harassment
Dallas Fire Rescue, Leanne Siri, Dallas City Hall, Eddie Burns, sexual harassment

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Published by: DallasObserver on Nov 21, 2009
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Practices: Solutions

CONFIDENTIAL INVESTIGATION REPORT:

City of Dallas:

Executive Summary Regarding Complaints Made by Leanne Siri-

-. Edwards"

July 1,2009

Prepared by:

EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES SOLUTIONS, INC.

Pamela F. Hutchins, Esq., SPHR Houston, TX

(713) 855-4873

(603) 971-5289 (efax)

Corporate Office: 502 N. Carroll Ave., Suite 100 Southlake, Texas 76092

(817) 329-8460

(603) 971-5289 (efax)

This report is prepared by EPS for fact-finding purposes and is not intended to be legal advice .

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INVESTIGATION REPORT Executive Summary

SUMMARY OF INVESTIGATION

On April 23, 2009, Bell Nunnally & Martin ("BNM" or the "Firm") retained Employment Practices Solutions, Inc. rEPS") to investigate complaints by Dallas Fire Rescue ("DFR") employee Leanne Siri-Edwards ("Siri"), made against their client, the City of Dallas ("COD" or the "City"), and some City employees. These complaints occurred in the form of a Settlement Letter (the "Letter") fromSiri to City Manager Mary Suhm ("Suhm"), a Texas Workforce Commission charge (the "Charge") filed by Siri, a lawsuit filed in Dallas District Court (the "Lawsuit") by Siri, and allegations made by Siri during the course of this investigation. This report provides an executive summary of the investigation of all the complaints made by Siri in the Letter, Charge, Lawsuit, and this investigation.

The investigation of Siri's complaints consisted of in-person and telephonic interviews and a review of pertinent documents.

Specifically, in-person and telephonic interviews were conducted with the 681 individuals believed to have relevant knowledge, as indicated in Appendix A?

For a list of the approximately 4600 documents reviewed in the investigation, see Appendix B. For Siri's timeline of allegations as of the time of this investigation, see Appendix C. Allegations in this investigation were evaluated using the following types of conclusions:

• Unsubstantiated: proven untrue to the satisfaction of the investigator.

• Uncorroborated: not confirmed (or situations where evidence went both ways).

• Corroborated: confirmed.

• Substantiated: proven true to the satisfaction of the investigator.

Some allegations were determined to be only partially substantiated or corroborated, and some required brief additional explanation.

SummarY of Investigation Conclusions:

Siri made allegations against 263 specific City employees (at the time of this investigation), the City, and DFR, including claims classified by the investigator as physical assault, abusive treatment, hostile work environment harassmentlinappropriate behavior (mainly sexual and a few "general"), discrimination/unfairness (gender, race, and age), retaliation, and breach of confidentiality. She also made accusations about harms she claims were done to people other than her.

At the time of this investigation, Siri had worked for DFR for 37 months. Her allegations begin within the first three months of her employment and continue to the present, as of the time of this investigation.

The following is a synopsis of the conclusions for the allegations Siri made involving harm to herself:

1 The investigator was unable to schedule interviews with D.D. Pierce, Melissa Richardson, and Diana Salinas.

2 All interviewees were employees of DFR at the time of their interviews unless otherwise noted.

3 At the time of this investigation, there were no specific allegations against one of the named parties in Siri's lawsuit, Assistant Chief Debbie Carlin; however, she is included in this total of 26 due to her status as a named party.

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On the issue of physical assault, Siri made one allegation, and it was uncorroborated.

On the issue of abusive treatment (verbal: i.e., raised voice, cursing, rude statements), Siri made approximately five allegations against a total of three people; four were uncorroborated or unsubstantiated, and one was substantiated.

On the issue of hostile work environment harassment/inappropriate behavior, Siri made approximately 15 allegations of a sexual nature and five that were not clearly sexual (but will be included in this category, as she made the complaints as if they were clearly sexual) against a total of 15 people; the conclusions were that eight were either partially or wholly substantiated, four were partially corroborated, and eight were either uncorroborated or unsubstantiated. It is important to note that of those that were substantiated, none were severe, and none involved repeat "offenses" by the same person. Of the four that were partially corroborated, the corroborated facts were somewhat different from those alleged, in a way that markedly decreased the level of offensiveness of each.

On the issue of discrimination/unfairness on the basis of age, race, and gender, Siri made many allegations. For the purpose of this investigation, the allegations against Chief Eddie Bums ("Bums") have been categorized into 16 groups of similar-type allegations (with some "groups· having only one allegation, and others having an undeterminednumber).Sirialse made twoadditionalaUegations against a total of two other people, besides Bums. All the allegations were either uncorroborated or unsubstantiated as untalr", although one was deemed partially inconclusive as the accused did not consent to an interview. For each, a reasonable, rational business reason was articulated for the actions taken.

· -.. . . . .

On the issue of retaliation, Siri made claims that three events prompted retaliation against her. However,

she made only general allegations as to the number of events thatactually constituted retaliation towards her. Of the three underlying events upon which she claimed retaliation was based, the first was unsubstantiated and the second was uncorroborated - the third was the filing of the complaints which are the subject of this investigation and thus obviously did occur. However, a reasonable, rational business reason was articulated for all of the actions taken which Sin has alleged or appears possibly to have alleged were retaliatory. The allegation of retaliation was found to be unsubstantiated,

On the issue of breach of confidentiality, Siri made three allegations against two people and against the

...... -.CityaodDFR;two.were uncorroborated, and the third was unsubstantiated.

Following is a complete listing of the conclusions in the investigation, including in Section I allegations of harms against Siri and in Section II accusations of harm done to others. For more information on each, please refer to the detailed reports produced in this investigation.

Complete listing of Investigation Conclusions:

I. Accusations of Harms to Herself

A. The investigation into Siri's accusations against Burns revealed that:

• Siri's allegation of physical assault by kicking was not corroborated.

• The evidence gathered in the investigation revealed that Burns did sing a song based on "lt's Hard Out There For a Pimp: but did not corroborate that he used the word pimp when singing it;

4 Some of the underlying facts were true and not in dispute; the issue in most cases was the reason for the actions taken.

5 This section first addresses accusations against Chief Eddie Bums, then the other accused individuals in alphabetical order. For each accused, the conclusions are listed in the same order as they appear within the detailed report associated with that accused.

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further, the evidence showed that he did use the word PIMP as an acronym for Positive, Motivated, Intellectual Person in a speech to recruits.

• There was no evidence that any decisions relating to Siri had been made on the basis of gender, race, age, or any other protected category; based on the information gathered, the investigator finds that the allegation of unfairness on the basis of gender, race, age or protected category was not substantiated.

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0 o The allegation that Burns made gender derogatory comments to Sin was uncorroborated.

o Siri's allegation that Burns made an inappropriate racial comment and threw a notebook was uncorroborated.

o Siri's allegation that Burns unfairly instructed her to be silent and out of sight because she was a female was uncorroborated. Her allegation that Bums instructed her to let him speak for himself, and to avoid being seen with him at meetings, lunch, or traveling or taking the same vacation days, was substantiated, but her allegation that it was because she was a woman was unsubstantiated.

The allegation that Burns instructed Sin not to speak to uniformed employees was uncorroborated.

The allegation that Siri was to receive a new vehide was uncorroborated.

The allegation that Siri was to have been brought in as a Second Tier Executive is unsubstantiated.

The allegation that Siri was treated unfairly because she did not receive a vehicle or mobile phone stipend was not corroborated as she was paid for them in full, although she had to be reimbursed for each because they were not set up initially.

The allE?gatiQn that Burns did nothing about instructions not to cooperate with Si~ was

uncorroborated. .

The allegation that Siri was unfairly excluded from meetings and other career building'· activities was uncorroborated .

The allegation that Siri did not receive proper credit for career advancing work was uncorroborated.

The allegation that Siri was unfairly denied career advancing opportunities was not corroborated.

The allegation that Siri was treated unfairly compared to Gipson because she was not made an Assistant Director was unsubstantiated,

The allegation that Siri's job duties were unfairly assigned to another employee was unsubstantlated.

The allegation that Siri was unfairly denied overtime, and thus effedively demoted, was uncorroborated.

The allegation that Siri was unfairly treated by removal of the title Executive Officer, and thus effectively demoted, was unsubstantiated,

The allegation that the Organizational Development and Planning Bureau was taken away from Sin unfairly, thus effectively demoted, was uncorroborated.

The allegation that Sin was moved to report to an Assistant Chief, and thus effectively demoted, was unsubstantiated.

• The allegation that Burns failed to appropriately handle Sin's complaints was uncorroborated.

• There was no evidence of any retaliatory decisions relating to Siri's employment; based on the information gathered, the investigator finds that the allegation of retaliation was unsubstantiated.

o The allegation that Bums confronted Sin about being a common thread in the lawsuits of others and then began retaliating against her was uncorroborated.

o The allegation that she was retaliated against for knowledge of a prohibited relationship between Burns and a direct report was unsubstantiated,

o The allegation that Bums was setting her up for failure and retaliated against her by making her job duties impossible to accomplish, after submission of her Letter, was uncorroborated .

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o The allegation that Bums was retaliatory with Siri in his mid-year ratings on her evaluation on integrity and leadership, after submission of her Letter, was uncorroborated.

o The allegation that BUms reta1iatecfag-ainst herby-ctltting-her-futl;lreovertime pay, after submission of the Letter, was uncorroborated.

The allegation that Burns breached confidentiality required of him regarding the Letter was uncorroborated.

The allegation that Burns engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate was uncorroborated.

The allegation that the hiring and reporting structure of the EEO Officer was done inappropriately was unsubstantiated.

B. The investigation as regards the allegations against Section Chief Jim Adams ("Adams"):

• The allegation that he displayed on his desk a large pornographic photograph 'of a woman holding _

a rifle was unsubstantiated. -

• However,the investigation did reveal that he displayed a CD cover that was a photograph of a woman wrapped in only afire -fiose-and-hOldihg thEfnozzle~with-no-personal body parts exposed.

• The allegation that it was on his desk was uncorroborated, as he claimed it was on a credenza at the side of his office.

C. The investigation revealed that the allegation that Assistant Chief Robert Bailey made a

- lewd gesture toward Sirl was not corroborated; the allegatlon.that Bailey did not tum away

--- -~-.- wnen-Sirra-sked hlm-to-when-shewas getting out of a Suburban ina fitted striligllt skirt

was substantiated; the allegations that he told her to ca-rry his coat and asked to brush something off her backside were not corroborated •

D. The investigation revealed that the allegation that Assistant Chief Debbie Carlin told others that Siri was no longer to be treated as a lunch buddy or included in anything beyond necessary dialogue was uncorroborated,

E. The investigation revealed that the allegation that the City held an inappropriate meeting --~---for--thepeople-named-in-Sjri's.letter: was unsubstantiated.

F. The investigation revealed that Siri's allegation that Assistant Chief John Cook loudly berated her on one occasion was SUbstantiated. The investigation further revealed that Siri's allegation that Cook threatened to publicly embarrass her was uncorroborated.

G. The investigation into Siri's allegations against DFR:

• allegation that DFR mishandled the sexual harassment

uncorroborated.

• The i the allegation that DFR mishandled the situation involving a male

. . semen in female employee's office was not corroborated; the locks on

Ice door were changed that same day, and, despite no usable evidence or

, ble to identify the culprit from 35 suspects and have him removed from the

workplace within three months. However, it was not possible to conclude from the evidence

gathered in this investigation exactly when I~eived the report of the incident, whether anyone offered to c\ea~ce, wheth~s reminded of the availability of the employee assistance program, o~nda was not among the earliest interviewss.

H. The investigation revealed that the allegation that City Human Resources Director David Etheridge failed to appropriately handle information he received from Siri about alleged harassment, assault and abusive treatment was unsubstantiated •

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Pamela F. Hutchins, Esq. SPHR

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I. The investigation revealed that the allegations that Battalion Chief George Florence ("Florer'lce") made gender derogatory comments about Siri were unsubstantiated •

. -- .. - - .. --.----.--~ .. ~-------~--- ----------.----~.-----.--.- .. - -----_._-

,

J. The investigation revealed that the allegation that Fire Rescue Officer Liz Hilton called Siri a "bitch" to a co-worker was uncorroborated, but that Hilton did admit she said she heard Siri was not nice to work for.

K. The investigation revealed that Siri's allegations-that-MedicaIDirector Marshall Isaacs sent her sexual explicit email was unsubstantiated as workplace misconduct as he sent it to

her at her private email and from his private email. The investigation revealed that the allegation that Isaacs made an offensive statement in a training class was substantiated. Further, the investigation revealed that the allegation that Isaacs disclosed her private medical information without her authorization was uncorroborated.

L. The investigation revealed that the allegation that Deputy Chief Kenneth Johnson made a derogatory comment about Siri's gender was unsubstantiated, and that the allegation that he offered to hug her in a meeting was substantiated.

----- - ------ ---

M. The investigation revealed that the allegation that Battalion Chief Mike Jones called Siri's co-worker "Siri's little bitch" was substantiated.

N. The investigation revealed that the allegation about Section Chief Max Kirk ("Kirk") making the comment about Siri that "we'd be better off if she stayed in the kitchen" was not _ --e-el'l'abarated.-Ful1!j.er-,.theJnyestigatiolLdid_ll<tt..J:orroborate the- comment Kirk was alleged to have made about refusing to help "that woman [Siri],'with information for-a DFR newsletter •

O. The investigation substantiated that Fire Rescue Officer Paul Lara engaged in a verbal interchange witt~ere he suggested she should lick copier ink off his fingers, after

she teased him ~e ink on his hands from the toner cartridge. -'

P. The investigation did not substantiate that Supervisor Joel Lavender sent Siri a picture of a naked woman; the investigation did reveal, however, that Lavender sent Siri a picture via email of the back view of a naked man with a nakecfwoman painted on his back, showing

her only from the waist up. -

Q. The investigation revealed that the allegation that Civil Services employee Kim Martin ("Martin") called Siri a "bitch" to a co-worker was uncorroborated, but that Martin did admit to saying she had heard bad things about working for Siri.

R. The investigation revealed that the allegation that Section Chief Chris Martinez failed to appropriately handle Siri's complaint against Section Chief Cynthia Michaels ("Michaels") was uncorroborated.

S. The investigation revealed that the allegation that City Assistant Human Resources Director Molly McCall failed to appropriately handle information she received from Siri about alleged harassment, assault and abusive treatment was unsubstantiated.

T. Siri's allegation about a male medical director presenter for DFR including a highly inappropriate slide as part of a presentation to DFR emergency medical technicians was partially SUbstantiated by this investigation. The presentation was at a public seminar sponsored by University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UUTS"), presented for paying attendees from the emergency medical field. The slide Siri references showed photographs of a breach birth in the context of a discussion about EMS personnel being sure about the emergency capabilities of the hospitals to which they were transporting

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patients, in highly dangerous medical situations. The slide was entitled "It's Pucker time!!!" In the context of the forum, topic, and audience, the content was appropriate, and the title and photograph were only mildly inappropriate and not likely to be offensive.

j

U. The investigation revealed that the allegation that Michaels stared at Siri's breasts and

genitals during a training session c;onductedby Siri was uncorroborated.

V. The investigation revealed that Siri's allegations that Dallas Firefighters Association President (and DFR Fire Rescue Officer) D.O. Pierce used derogatory stereotypes and assumptions about her abilities, traits and performance on the basis of sex was uncorroborated but inconclusive at this time. The investigation further revealed that Siri's allegation that Pierce demanded her position and staff be cut was partially substantiated in that he recommended it, but not in that he made a demand, and was inconclusive at this time.

W. The investigation revealed that the allegation that Deputy Chief Joe Pierce ("Pierce") talked negatively about Siri to other people was uncorroborated, but also that Pierce said that it could have happened and was not against any rules. Further, the investigation revealed that the allegation that Pierce verbally attacked and was disrespectful to Siri in several meetings was unsubstantiated. Lastly, the investigation revealed that the allegation that Pierce instructed his employees not to cooperate with her was uncorroborated.

X. The investigation revealed that the allegation that Deputy Chief Bobby Ross repeatedly hugged her in meetings, such 'that she had to ask.hlrn more than once not to touch her, is partially substantiated as to one hug, and one time asking him not to touch her, and was uncorroborated as to "repeatedly hugged" and having to ask him "more than once" not to touch her •

Y. The investigation revealed that the allegation that rumors were spread of Siri having affairs with male co-workers was substantiated, but that the perpetrators were not identified. The allegation that the named men who were spoken of as being in an affair with Siri were harassed was unsubstantiated.

Z. The investigation revealed that the allegation that City Manager Mary Suhm ("Suhm") issued instructions to Burns because of and on the basis of Siri's gender was not corroborated.

II. Accusations of Harm to Others 6

A. The investigation into Siri's allegations that Burns wronged others in DFR revealed that:

The allegation Bums coached Lindburg Williams and Mike Howard on how to beat sexual harassment complaints against them was unsubstantiated,

Bums acted in a hostile and retaliatory manner toward Fire Rescue Officer not corroborated.

that Burns promoted Ross without regard to complaints of sexual harassment was unsubstantiated.

The allegation that Bums did nothing about Siri's report of Pierce's conduct towar~s

unsubstantiated. ~

6 This section first concludes accusations against Chief Eddie Bums, then the accused individuals in alphabetical order. For each accused, the conclusions are listed in the same order as they appear within the detailed report associated with that accused .

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• The allegation that a female recruit was ostracized and Bums did nothing was unsubstantiated.

• The allegation the Burns replaced Section Chief David Martin with Johnson was unsubstantiated. • __ The.alleqation that the termination of Fire Rescue Officer Clyde Sherpen was deliberately delayed

by Burns until his retirement vest was uncorroborated.

• The allegation that Bums refused to implement a budgeted harassment and discrimination prevention program was unsubstantiated.

• The allegation that Burns ordered Siri to coach African-American men applying for chief positions on City time was uncorroborated.

B. The investigation revealed that the allegation that Adams was demoted for covering up discrimination and fabricating evidence was unsubstantiated.

C. The investigation revealed that Siri's allegation that Kirk made racially discriminatory promotions, and that Burns disciplined Kirk for discriminating against white DFR employees, was not corroborated.

D .. The investigation revealed that the allegation fuat Pierce discriminated against __

~sunsubstantiated. __ __._ _

E. The investigation into allegations about Suhm revealed that:

• The allegation that City Manager selected Siri to independently create and maintain a monthly

Women's Series was unsubstantiated: . .' .

• The alleqatlon that Suhm made demands about the verbiage relating to racism and .sexisrn in the -. BerkshireR.epoftwas- uncorroborated:

• The allegation that Suhm told Siri that she would terminate a Chief who had an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate was substantiated .

Summary of Background Facts:

Siri is a Third Tier Executive employed by DFR since July, 2006. In that capacity she has worked in Dallas City Hall in the 7 A South ("7 AS") offices. Prior to coming to DFR, she had approximately six months experience working as an outside organizational development and planning consultant for fire serVICe-clienfS,"bufnO:TnternaIexp.eJi~:rj""ein a 'fire' seNiceoroth-erparamilitary organization. She is a non-uniformed or "civman" employee of DFR.

Bums came to DFR as its Chief on April. 19, 2006. He was previously a Deputy Chief with the Fort Worth Fire Department, and had worked there 27 years. He also works in 7 AS.

Bums and Siri became acquainted in late 2005 through a mutual acquaintance who was a professor at Texas Wesleyan University. Bums arranged for Siri to be introduced to Chief Gaines at the Fort Worth Fire Department, and she was then retained for consulting. She and Bums discussed the possibility of him doing some consulting with her company, and he met her in Austin to watch her program at Dell. He also referred her for some consulting work at the Richardson Fire Department. As he went through the process of applying for the position of Chief at DFR, Siri coached and assisted him. When he accepted the position, he brought her in as a consultant to help during the first three months, and asked for and received permission to appoint her to a Third Tier Executive position at the end of the contract.

At the inception of her employment with DFR, Siri reported directly to Bums.

Summary of Citvand DFR "Policies":

The City and DFR have a number of policies which cover the some of the acts alleged by Siri in this investigation, some of which are relevant on the issues in this report:

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ConductNioJence

The Dallas Fire-Rescue Manual of Procedures, Section I, Conduct, states that a member shall notresort to physical violence.

The Dallas City Code Chapter on Personnel Rules, Section 34-36 states that an employee shall refrain from unacceptable conduct, including "disruption,· for which it gives examples including causing physical harm to another, sexual harassment, or the use of profane, abusive, threatening or boisterous language (amongst many other examples).

Harassment and Discrimination

City Administrative Directive 3-61 prohibits harassment, and provides under Section 4 that an employee should first, if they are comfortable doing so, tactfully advise the offender to stop, and if that does not work, inform their supervisor or the Employee Relations division of the City Human Resources Department.

The Dallas City Code Chapter on Personnel Rules, Section 34-35 states that the City may not discriminate on the basis of, amongst other protected categories, race, color, or age.

Retaliation

. City Administrative Directive 3:61 prohibits retaliation for making a complaint of harassment.

Compiaint Handling.

The Dallas Fire-Rescue Manual of Procedures, Section II, B, covers the handling of DFR complaint investigations.

Relationships

There are no provisions in the City of Dallas or DFR that directly address relationships between employees.("Sirihas Claimed that her allegation of an inappropriate relationship with a direct subordinate could fall unCrerthe Dallas Code of Ethics, Sections 12A-I(a)(3), (b)(I)(D)-(H) and (b)(2)(A-C and E-F). These provisions fall under "Statement of Purpose and Principles of Conduct."

12A-1 (a)(3): no city official or employee have any financial interest, direct or indirect, or engage in any business; transaction, or professional activity or incur any obligation of any nature that is in conflict with the proper discharge of his or her duties in the public interest.

12A-1 (b)(1) The city council further believes that an elected or appointed official of the city assumes a public trust and should recognize the importance of high ethical standards within the organization they lead or support. Essential values and ethical behaviors that an elected or appointed official should exemplify include the following:

(D) Respect for the value and dignity of all individuals. (E) Accountability to the public.

(F) Truthfulness.

(G) Fairness.

(H) Responsible application of resources.

12A-1 (b)(2) In keeping with the values set forth in Subsection (b)(1), and to assist in the fulfillment of responsibilities to the individuals and communities served, each elected or appointed official should subscribe to the following principles .

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(A) To conduct himself or herself and to operate with integrity and in a manner that merits the trust and support of the public .

.. .. .im To uphold all applicable laws and regulations, going beyond the letter of the law to protect and/or-enhance the city's ability to accomplish its mission.

(C) To treat others with respect, doing for and to others what the official would have done for and

to him or her in similar circumstances.

(E) To take no actions that could benefit the official personally at the unwarranted expense of the city, avoiding even the appearance of a conflict of interest, and to exercise prudence and good judgment at all times.

(F) To carefully consider the public perception of personal and professional actions and the effect such actions could have, positively or negatively, on the city's reputation both in the community and elsewhere.

Demotion

From the City of Dallas Personnel Rules, March 2007:

Sec. 34-12 Demotions, (a) Demotion means a reduction in grade with a resulting decrease in salary.

·····~easSignment

Sec. 34-13 Transfers and Reassignments (b) Reassignments. A department director may reassign positions and staff within a department to provide for the best interest of the employee or the department.

Third Tier Executiv~

Administrative Directive 3-41 of the City of Dallas Section 4 defines Third Tier Executive poSitions as those requiring special management skills, knowledge and abilities and necessitate employment at will. Management accountability usually falls short of Assistant Directors accountability but above that of midlevel managers. Section 5 states that to qualify for Third Tier Executive Status, a position must: 5.1.1. Report directly to a Director or Assistant Director.

Executive Officer of the Fire-Rescue Department

The Dallas Fire-Rescue Rules & Regulations state under Section XIII. Chief of the Fire-Rescue Department; A~~-is-the--exeGiit.lveofficer· ot·ttle-eJepartrne,rrt. ._._- -- - ....

Conclusion

This report summarizes the information gathered from the interviews conducted regarding complaints made by Siri

Thank you for the opportunity to work on this investigation. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at (713) 855-4873 or (800) 727-2766.

Submitted by:

/I2:J I_/~ ;/ .. V~

Pamela F. Hutchins Date: July 1, 2009

Employment Practices Solutions, Inc.

Pamela F. Hutchins, Esq. SPHR

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