WASHBURN COUNTY -- According to a letter obtained by DrydenWire.com and written by Washburn County Finance Director Jane Dvorak which was sent via e-mail to Washburn County Board Members and to Washburn County Clerk Lolita Olson and Washburn County Board Chairman Tom Mackie, Dvorak is stating that she has claims against the County of Washburn, Washburn County Board Members, Sheriff Dryden, Corporation Counsel Jeff Kohler, and County Clerk Lolita Olson among others.
Re: Claims Against Washburn County and Agents / Officers / Employees
I am writing to formalize a summary of my interactions with Washburn County and its representatives since around February 2016, and to document the several claims that I have against the County and its agents and officials.
As you know, the County hired me in December 2015 as the Finance Director, and since then, I have acted under the direction and control of the Finance Committee of the Board. Throughout my tenure, I have done what I was told, reported my findings to the Finance Committee, and followed their instructions faithfully and without question. I performed my duties not only at a minimally acceptable level but above the requisite standard to the point of obtaining a glowing six-month review and a raise, which I declined for the purpose of providing the best care to the taxpaying public in Washburn County.
As you know, during the course of my assigned duties, I discovered some improper claims and distributions, and brought the, to the Finance Committee's attention. I completed the additional inquiries and investigations as they directed, and brought the information I obtained back to them for a decision regarding how they wanted to proceed. When the Finance Committee issued their decision regarding next steps, I complied with their instructions regarding how the County would proceed and what I was to do in that process.
Because I reported several illegal claims and distributions which involved Sheriff Terry Dryden and involved Clerk Lolita Olson in various roles, they have targeted me for retaliation and issued several public defamatory, libelous, slanderous statements, caused my suspension from employment, placed my current position in jeopardy, damaged my relationships with my staff, co-workers, and the Board, destroyed positive public documents about me including my excellent six-month performance review, and ruined my future career prospects. They further made false statements during the investigations into their false allegations to County agents and officials. The Board made the situation worse by directing me to refrain from responding to the false and retaliatory allegations against me, and by failing to publicly condemn the false statements that Dryden and Olson both made verifiably false allegations against me, with the intent of causing me harm, and which have in fact caused me harm in several ways. I was removed against my will by law enforcement due to the false allegation that I made comments about bringing an armed weapon to work, or words to that effect, and thereafter I suffered a suspension which went on for several months without recourse. This not only harmed me and my family due to the terrible publicity surrounding the event, but harmed the public by misinforming them of the circumstances surrounding the County's conduct and expenses, and by prohibiting me from completing necessary job duties in a timely manner.
Board members have minimized this unlawful defamation and retaliation by calling it a “cat fight” between Olson and me, and I have been further subject to unlawful discrimination because of my gender in several respects. In fact, I was informed that the Sheriff's Department was a “brotherhood,” and that “This would not have happened if [I] were a man.” Kohler warned me that I would “pay for that” when I reported improper claims and distributions from the Sheriff's department and told me that he would do everything in his power to protect Dryden no matter what the circumstances. Most recently, Attorney Mindy Dale from Weld Riley directed the Board to retain REALiving Coach Marni Waznik to further perpetuate the torts and retaliation against me by inciting others to report to her against me and to compile allegations against me and report them secretly to the Board without my knowledge.
In addition, I have repeatedly requested full information about the allegations, investigations, complaints, and reports at issue, as well as proper notice and notes following County meetings, but the information I have requested has not been provided or has been heavily redacted, omitted, and in many cases postponed for no valid reason. Board meetings have been knowingly conducted without proper notice or documentation, and I have been denied access to my own personnel data.
Based on these circumstances, I have claims against Washburn County and the members of the Board, as well as Olson, Kohler, Dryden, Weld Riley attorney Mindy Dale, and REALiving coach, including but not limited to violations of the open records and open meeting laws, tortious interference with employment, common law retaliation, assault and battery, fraud, intentional and / or negligent infliction of emotional distress, defamation, slander, libel, violations of State and Federal First Amendment rights, gender discrimination under State and Federal laws, whistleblower, statutory retaliation, harassment, intended constructive discharge, and neglect of duty statutes. My damages are not measurable at this time, but include significant damages to my professional reputation and resulting lost opportunities, lost wages and benefits, significant emotional distress damages, attorneys' fees and costs on a continuing basis, along with associated penalties, punitive damages, consequential damages, charges, and fees. I am also entitled to recover injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and other equitable and judicial remedies. My damages continue to accrue."
In the email, Sheriff Dryden stated that the finance director had, “purported false information” to the finance committee and other county employees regarding Washburn County Sheriff's Office expenditures. Sheriff Dryden also stated that the Finance Director "utilized confrontational and intimidating communication tactics when interacting with others.”
In response to an open records request, DrydenWire.com received a copy of a letter which the Washburn County Finance Committee issued to Dvorak on May 10, 2017.
The letter states that its purpose was to serve as a written directive from the Finance Committee to Dvorak concerning her role as Washburn County Finance Director and to put Dvorak on notice that upon returning to her work, she would be subject to a 90-day coaching and review period. During that time, the Committee would be evaluating her overall performance as well as her actions to correct the performance deficiencies identified in the independent investigation, according to the document provided to DrydenWire.com by Weld Riley.
In the letter, Dvorak was advised that she was to participate in a 90-day coaching and review period with a REALiving Consultant and Intrinsic Coach, starting on May 18, 2017, and with reimbursement for her mileage to travel to Chippewa Falls, WI for the sessions.
Dvorak's first official day back to work in her role as Washburn County Finance Director was listed within the letter as May 25, 2017.
Three specific areas of performance deficiency were identified within the letter with supporting details included as substantiated by the outside, third-party investigators who conducted the investigation regarding Dvorak's actions and behaviors.
- Failure to Communicate in an Appropriate and Professional Manner with Department Heads and Other County Personnel
- Failure to Maintain Professional Boundaries with Department Personnel
- Failure to Maintain Professional Boundaries with Finance Committee Members
The letter stated in further detail that the findings of the independent investigation substantiated that on multiple occasions, Dvorak engaged in one-on-one conversations with fellow employees in a hostile and belligerent manner as well as demonstrating unprofessional behavior such as crossing her arms and rolling her eyes, slamming doors, speaking to other employees in an accusatory or suspicious manner, and leaving conversations in a huff in unwillingness to listen to another person's comments.
Further findings of the investigation which were stated within the letter specified that Dvorak failed to maintain a professional boundary with her subordinate employees, by expressing to them on various occasions her frustrations and personality conflicts with other department heads and attempting to solicit agreement from them regarding her attitudes and opinions about other co-workers.
The investigation also revealed that Dvorak would monitor the comings and goings of her direct subordinates, as well as their conversations, to the point where her subordinates “legitimately and reasonably believed themselves to be subject to questioning” by Dvorak at any instant about any movement or interaction they had during a workday, whether business related or social related.
Additionally, the findings of the investigation substantiated that Dvorak failed to maintain a professional boundary between herself and one or more elected official who has ultimate authority concerning her employment status, which had the result of eroding “interpersonal trust across the organization.” The frequency and length of her discussions with one or more elected officials on the Finance Committee were found to be “excessive and counterproductive in terms of operational transparency and trust building.”
Also, the letter stated that Dvorak's attempts to influence Board Members into intervening in any attempts by human resources to take appropriate steps to discipline Dvorak's workplace performance were “unprofessional and contrary to the need for workplace issues to be addressed.”
The letter then went on to direct Dvorak to immediately take the following itemized steps to address the identified “serious deficiencies” in her workplace performance:
- Be respectful in all verbal and written communications.
- Be open, attentive, and respectful to the point of view of others.
- Do not physically express exasperation, frustration, or disagreement in an unprofessional manner.
- Do not slam doors.
- Do not engage in supervisory conduct that a reasonable, objective person would find to be suffocating, hovering, or overbearing.
- If an employee is away from their work area for 15 minutes or less, do not make an inquiry as where they have been or with whom they were talking; and
- Do not ask your subordinates who they socialize with, including with whom they are having lunch. If they want to offer that information, they will.
- If you have an expense or another finance-related issue, address that issue with the appropriate County personnel and/or your Board Members.
- Limit in-person and telephonic socializing with Board Members during work hours. Keep discussions work-related.
It was also stated that it had been brought to the attention of the Finance Committee that Dvorak had behaved in an insubordinate manner towards County Board Members by resorting to name-calling and making derogatory comments. The letter advised that such conduct would not be tolerated and could be grounds for immediate dismissal should it continue.
Calls for comment were not immediately returned from Washburn County Sheriff Dryden, Washburn County Corporate Counsel Jeff Kohler, or Washburn County Clerk Lolita Olsen.
Washburn County Board Chair Tom Mackie did state to DrydenWire.com that he was aware of the email and was “reviewing it”.
So far, the cost of the previous investigation to the County Tax-Payers (through May 31, 2017), is in the tens-of-thousands.
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