The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Opinion

December 4, 2013

Editorial: City administration needs to answer for loss of records

The interpretations of how and why three women were fired from their city jobs has swirled into the political realm.

But to many of us it points to a breakdown in communications between a departing Democratic administration and an incoming Republican one.

Prior to 2012, Kim Townsend, Debra King and Beth McKenzie worked in the Community Development Department administering programs for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In 2012, they were terminated by the Smith administration over allegations that some of their relatives were being placed in HUD homes.

An investigation was started as early as February 2011 by then-Mayor Kris Ockomon’s administration. Steve Priser, director of personnel and insurance, said nothing was found to warrant further investigation.

The available HUD housing had been advertised by a third party, PathStone, and nothing apparently involved a direct family member of the workers.

As of last week, the original paperwork or written recommendations from the investigation were lost.

Yet, the Smith administration fired the women.

The link in this seems to be Floyd Edwards, director of human relations for both the Ockomon and Smith administrations. He was reportedly involved in a 2011 meeting and told there was no evidence of a conflict of interest with the female workers. He has denied being at such a meeting. He conducted an investigation for Smith that yielded the terminations.

As director of human relations, Edwards should have known of the 2011 investigation. And he should have learned of that one from the 2012 investigation.

But this is one of the problems of a contentious shift between administrations on the opposite end of the political spectrum. They don’t tell one another certain things.

Somebody in the current administration needs to answer for the miscommunications and the loss of records concerning a personnel investigation.

In this case, there was a link that perhaps could have avoided the messy termination that has yielded a lawsuit and correspondence from HUD and the Indiana Department of Workplace Development.

While the role of a city administration is not to provide government jobs, part of its duty is to protect the dignity of the workers it hires.

In summary The loss of personnel records involved in an internal investigation needs itself to be investigated with someone explaining what happened.

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