When the military sent my husband back to Washington, I went to work in the Planning Department at Island County as a Plans Examiner and Inspector Trainee (2001 – 2003) to get acquainted with local codes and processes and to prepare for a reciprocal Washington State Architecture License. I worked 32 hours a week and seldom took a break.
Not long after I was hired, I was placed on the Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve - Historic Review Committee (HRC) as the department’s ex-officio member. The Department Head, Phil Bakke and the committee members, lauded me for my work (that’s in the file). When the group got tired of waiting for the county to codify design and development guidelines, Bakke directed me to proceed with crafting those guidelines. For almost two years he delayed that progress. When the group threatened to hire an outside consultant, he gave me a firm directive “I am making you solely responsible to see to it that I get this done”. When progress started happening – I was removed from the HRC and a “Letter of Reprimand” was issued with a litany of supposed transgressions about my work. I was asked to sign it, when I said I did not agree with what it stated, I was told “you are not signing that you agree, only that you received it”. In my naiveté I signed it.
Prior to this no papers other than hiring docs existed in my file, and in spite of my requests no formal review was ever conducted, however my boss, Bob McCaughan, had provided nothing but accolades for my work. For no apparent reason and to my extreme discomfort, what transpired were months of harassing, bullying, and denigrating behavior and a methodical papering of my file. When I asked what I had done to bring this about, Phil Bakke said “ The Historic Advisory work” he then said to his secretary “I want that stricken from the record, I want the lid kept closed on that box”. My assigned job was in fact contrary to the secretive agenda to prevent the guidelines because Bakke and McDowell saw them as a hindrance to development. So they set out to get rid of me.
When the union stepped in and cried foul, my rep insisted that there had to be a verbal warning first, then a Letter of Warning, and then a Letter of Reprimand and that these things had to be substantiated by records of evidence issued within 10 days of the supposed misconduct. Thus my boss began “10 Day Reports” writing up any and every thing he could drum up and then sending these gotcha’s to the HR department to pollute my file.
One day I took a lunch break to meet with the in house union rep and was told afterward by Phil Bakke “You are not at your desk when you should be, therefore you will now have to ask permission to leave your desk”. Subsequently I kept a sign-out sheet on my wall to note when I left my cubicle to go to the bathroom, or to get a file and when I came back, always letting a co-worker know of my whereabouts. On one occasion, I escorted a contractor to my desk to review his plans and walked him back out of the office and then got written up for “giving a tour of the office without permission”. This harassment went on for months.
There is no law against a hostile work environment in Washington State - that needs to change. There is however, recourse if one is fortunate to be a member of a union, which I was - AFSME 1845 Council 2. Several employees wanted to join me in a hostile work environment grievance but I was told that if I pursued the effort, I could be fired without just cause. Instead I negotiated a lay off. I have never, ever, been fired from a job.
I worked hard, loved my job, and studied to become a certified plans examiner. I received A’s on all of my quizzes. When the state shifted gears to the International Code – and my boss lent the new set of codes out elsewhere, I bought my own set and began studying anew when all this mess came down.
I am glad to see things I tried to move forward then, have now been implemented, many while I was a commissioner, like standards for plan review, detail handouts for the public, standardized inspection qualifications, online permit status information, and department data sharing.
That “Letter of Reprimand” was not legal and was supposedly removed from my file. After copious amounts of “evidence” were added to my file a “Letter of Warning” was issued mimicking precisely the previous reprimand letter. There is not one piece of factual evidence in that papered file to substantiate the fabricated rubbish. On the contrary my rebuttal includes numerous letters of recommendation and recognition from county citizens who worked with me, fellow employees, professionals, instructors, colleagues and past employers.
To end this nightmare, I negotiated a lay off, and asked the Human Resources Director Dick Toft, how long my file would remain at the county. He said ‘you can come to get a sealed copy in 5 years, we destroy them at the end of 5 years’. Five years later I decided to run for county commissioner to clean up the corruption and cronyism and to bring honest and open government to Island County.
I would run against (and beat) Mac McDowell the commissioner who hired Phil Bakke and simultaneously Bakke would run for county commissioner. They worked together to paper my file, and colluded ill intent for its use. I asked for the promised sealed file and was told then, in 2008, that the county does not destroy files, they keep them forever. I reviewed them and discovered Bakke had put the illegal Letter of Reprimand back in the file along with the Letter or Warning. I purchased the entire file, which costs some $50.00. Brian Kelly, the South Whidbey Record Editor at the time, bought some $7.00 worth of the file, the pages he needed to attack me just before the Primary Election. I was told the only way to guarantee my side of the story would print was to pay for an ad. Marcia VanDyke, the Publisher at the time, edited my “Let Me Set The Record Straight” paid ad. For the first time in history, people picketed the South Whidbey Record. It was the expose of that nefarious behavior that helped me unseat Mac McDowell and sent the perpetrator of employee abuse, Phil Bakke, packing.
13 years after the original ordeal, Barbara Bailey and her cronies are resurrecting the lies and falsehoods with juicy embellishments. Her smile, scarf, flag pin, and wings can’t hide the evil inside. The photo they altered is of me on my 9:12 pitch roof buckled in with a harness and scraping moss off my roof, working. I’d love to see Barbara up there.
It would take a book to share the whole story of corruption and abuse my family has endured via the mafia style politics on Whidbey. Instead, I am going to keep fighting to put government back in the hands of the people, and to be their public servant for the good of the whole.