Trustee: We need real investigation into Lakewood chief administrative officer, village president

Amy Odom
Amy Odom

Seven weeks ago, Lakewood employees came forward with allegations of intimidation, harrassment and a toxic work environment under our current Chief Administrative Officer and President.

I don’t believe we as trustees have addressed these very serious allegations in a timely or proper fashion. The tap-dancing taking place by certain trustees and board members is so elaborate, it would make Gregory Hines jealous.

The Lakewood meeting of June 23 was beyond the pale and I in no way condone how the meeting was handled, the public shaming of employees, the questions that were crafted or the contrived "investigation report."

It was a blatant display of power, intimidation and cover-up ... a big middle-finger to our employees and the residents. 

I won’t resort to the tactics of certain trustees.

No need to pretend I’m a lawyer, publicly embarrass employees or residents, resort to juvenile name-calling, be condescending, intimidate people into silence, or read private emails publically to discredit another trustee.  But I will express my whole-hearted support for our employees, my belief in their allegations and my outrage of the so-called “Finding of Facts.”

I have read every written complaint, listened to every verbal complaint, reviewed every audio recording and watched every video clip ... several times.

I have spent dozens of hours talking with these employees and their fellow employees that have witnessed the bullying and inappropriate treatment. The retaliation goes on to this minute.

And of the 13 current and past employees I’ve spoken with, none have received any contact from the trustee “leading” this alleged "investigation."

How do you conduct a fair, thorough and objective "investigation" without actually interviewing any of the accusers?

Well, you don’t. 

These "questions" were crafted by one self-appointed trustee. Two trustees were completely excluded. No input in these questions, and when asked for a copy of these questions were denied.

I also learned this “self-appointed” trustee took it upon themself to cook-up questions for four employees, making accusations and another trustee. I didn’t get to see those questions either.

I did see the cover letter, though, and told this “leading” trustee not to use the term "on behalf of the board of trustees" as they were not speaking on behalf of two of us. How deceptive and heavy-handed to use that term to make people think this was a unanimous decision by the board.

Needless to say, the verbiage was never changed. None of the accusers answered any of the trustee’s questions.

Surprising? Of course not.

The employees already submitted their written accusations to a board member they trusted, who then interviewed all of them and provided a written summary to the board.

Protocol followed.  But now (these employees and the trustee they confided in) are being treated with overt condescension, public humiliation and character assassination by two of the trustees and the President.  

Would you spend another breath re-explaining your allegations to someone who isn’t going to listen, doesn’t believe you and isn’t really looking for the truth? Of course not.

They have lost faith in this board. I don’t blame them. I have too.

So the “Finding of Fact” (aka the best piece of fiction for 2020) that was read on June 23 …did the other trustees actually see it prior to their approval? Or did they approve it without actually seeing it?

Because two of us were purposely left out of that loop … never saw it.

Both of us have clearly been voted off the island ... let’s call it social distancing.

However, I know there are at least 200 residents (including me) that signed a resident-created petition in support of getting to the truth. I suggested an employee liaison to this board … ignored.

I suggested an ethics advisor ... ignored.

I requested an ethics commission ... ignored.

Now, it’s time for these employees to contact the EEOC or the state's attorney office so this is investigated properly without bias or agenda.

To date, Lakewood has lost 16 employees under this CAO and President (either quit or were terminated) including another one Friday (let go by the CAO, stating she had the "support of the board”).

Yes, to the trustee leading this charge that denied this number during the June 23 meeting, it is 16.

I'd be happy to provide the names, phone numbers, email addresses and dates of service at Lakewood to you, though if you’d conducted a fair, objective, thorough investigation you’d have all this information. Right?

The irony is that, during a separate employee discussion, one of these board members stated "I know it's happening because it's happened more than once."

Hmmm. In the same conversation, another trustee stated "this is not a one-off...three incidents is a pattern."

Really? So, what does a dozen or more incidents equate to?  

According to the so-called “Finding of Facts,” nada.

These are all just disgruntled employees that don’t want to work hard.

My term is up in April 2021.

I am confident that caring, concerned, level-headed residents will step up to run for election for open trustee spots and the President’s position.

And if you are unable to commit to that, at least commit to attending every board meeting and demand accountability and transparency. Those concepts are currently being twisted into a pretzel.

• Amy Odom is a resident and trustee of the village of Lakewood.

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