Union asks LMUD to protect its members
Directors Cardenas and Sargent resigned their elected positions as LMUD directors effective at 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 26. Langston, Nagel and Wood remain as directors.
According to the letter, written by Dennis K. Seyfer, IBEW’s assistant business manager, “We have been advised in the last several days that allegations of misconduct have been brought against a member of your administrative team employed in a very high-level management position. It is our understanding that these allegations include extremely serious claims that this individual engaged in numerous instances of sexual harassment against more than one LMUD employee.”
Jamie Jones, LMUD’s legal counsel, Frank Cady, LMUD’s general manger, Langston and Nagel either declined to comment or did not return the newspaper’s calls seeking comment on the union’s letter.
Wood said he couldn’t comment on the letter because he claimed he never received it.
Jerri Kresge, the LMUD board’s secretary, signed receipts for the certified letters to all five directors on Monday, Oct. 29.
Ray Thomas, a senior business representative with the union, said IBEW sought a closed session meeting with the LMUD board to discuss the matter, but as of Thursday, Nov. 15, there had been no response from the board.
One of the reasons the union sought the closed session meeting was because it wanted to ensure the publicly owned utility district would take action to resolve the issue.
“ … it is our understanding that this matter was considered in a special ‘closed’ session on Oct. 23, 2007; and that no significant consequences were imposed by the board. Inasmuch as this union represents the physical and clerical employees who work for the district, we believe this misconduct cannot be tolerated. We seek assurances that the district has handled or will handle this matter appropriately.”
According to its agendas, the LMUD board held a regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 23. That meeting included a conference with legal counsel involving “significant exposure to litigation.”
The board held a brief special meeting at 6 p.m. on Oct. 23. That meeting’s agenda included the item — “Consideration of appointment of standing hearing officer to conduct disciplinary appeals hearings.” The board authorized Jones to hire a “standing hearing officer” from out of the area.
Jones said the officer should be someone with legal experience who has no conflict with the district or the employee or employees who may be involved.
Thomas said none of the victims of the alleged misconduct were IBEW members, but the union was concerned about the allegations because its members worked in the same office environment.
“While we acknowledge that our understandings are based on rumor and hearsay,” Seyfer wrote, “we have heard from reliable enough sources that our understandings are accurate. Naturally, if you are prepared to unequivocally deny these allegations, we would like to hear the basis for your denial. Otherwise, we believe these issues must be addressed in a straightforward manner.”
The union’s letter noted the alleged misconduct can “run afoul” of the memorandum of understanding between the union and the district as well as federal and state law.
“In short, it cannot be tolerated,” Seyfer wrote, “and we believe it must be addressed through the strongest measures available to the district’s board of directors, including, but not limited to, meaningful discipline. Having been made aware of these allegations, it is incumbent upon this board to take the necessary steps to address the misconduct. Otherwise, having been put on notice, this board becomes fully responsible for sheltering this individual’s past misconduct and also becomes responsible for his future misdeeds.”
Thomas said the union was simply trying to protect its members. He said workers don’t have to be the target of harassment to be victims.
“To be clear, our interest is to protect the integrity of the workplace for our members and to protect them from this individual’s wrongful behavior,” Seyfer wrote. “It is simply unacceptable for a public entity of this nature to tolerate the alleged behavior.”
His letter said the district has a responsibility to both its employees and the public.
“To that end, I am requesting an opportunity to meet with the board directly in closed session in order to discuss how our members will be protected and the aforementioned interests will be addressed,” Seyfer wrote.
Thomas said he attended the special LMUD board meeting at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 5. He said many union members and LMUD employees also attended the meeting. He had hoped to meet with the LMUD board in closed session, but that meeting was never arranged.
The board voted unanimously to start accepting applications for the two seats vacated by Cardenas and Sargent through 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 27, and then went into closed session without meeting with the union representative.
In a statement regarding her resignation, Cardenas wrote, “I would also like to ask the public to start attending district meetings, and give guidance to the remaining board members so that the right decisions can be made on your behalf, as you all are the owners of this utility.”
The next LMUD board meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 27.
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