Opinion Piece by Samuel Strait – May 24, 2017 – After having read the three articles in the Triplicate, followed by the article in the Crescent City Times, regarding Rural Human Services (RHS) and the plight of its current director, Scott Feller, a thought came to mind by the piling on of several of Crescent City’s finest citizens, Ruth Rhodes, Stephanie Wenning, Lathrop Leonard, and Benita Cabrera, that it might put the 1670 Salem Witch Trials squarely in view of our local citizens. I fully understand the Triplicate’s need to sensationalize any story that they line up with in order to provide the driving narrative of “Scott Feller is a witch for sure” to support their floundering print newspaper. All of the Gasp! Gasp! offended people were sure to follow with their take on the “factual allegations” that ran rampant through out the Triplicate’s narrative of events, yet there seems to be some troubling aspects to the narrative that do not conform with that narrative.
We have all seen at the National level instances where cries of “Sexual Harassment” have become the weapon of choice for disgruntled employees who find themselves in positions that they would like to be rid of, some factual, and some are not. In many of the cases there has been a quick rush to judgement similar in nature to the famous witch trials in Salem of the seventeenth century. I hope that is not the case with Director Feller as nothing has been proven to this point.
While I by no means am knowledgeable about the particulars of his case, other than what I have read, I did notice a problem in the Triplicate’s reporting in that they stated that RHS had hired an attorney which in turn hired an investigator. The Triplicate reported that the investigator had found information that supported the allegations initially then seemed to back track later in another story. The Crescent City Times, on the other hand, reported correctly that the investigator found no credible evidence to support the original allegations. RHS’s attorney stated that if the case was brought to trial, he felt Scott Feller would be vindicated. Unfortunately we will probably never know what was factual, because the insurance company for RHS, ever mindful of their bottom line, elected to settle.
Since the original story broke in the Triplicate, we have seen the claim that several other women have experienced the same sort of behavior, all but one unnamed. While I do not discount that Director Feller could be guilty of such behavior, because I do not know. What I find troubling is this compulsion by a certain segment of Del Norte County’s citizens to be piling up the driftwood with match in hand when there seems to be significant problems with the claims made thus far. It is clear to me that there appears to be credible evidence that the first set of allegations were unfounded, by the fact that the RHS Board didn’t immediately suspend its director, the RHS attorney’s comments, and the investigator’s report. As to Rachel Marler’s claim that she was also sexually harassed, it seems that her attorney stated that she was “too traumatized” to speak of her ordeal at one point, but didn’t experience the same kind of trauma when interviewed by the Triplicate. Furthermore, there does not seem to be anything proven to be fact, simply allegations of misconduct.
Perhaps I do not have all of the details of every thing that occurred, but it doesn’t seem that any one else has all the information other than a lot of “He said, she said” kinds of things that do not make the case. People need to understand that because the Triplicate reports like they do, that isn’t always the whole story. Things can take on a whole different appearance once all the fact are known. In the case of the first set of allegations, we may never know what really happened if any thing at all because RHS’s insurance company settled. If we have a group of disgruntled employees rather than any wrong doing by Director Feller then we will have a case of burning the witch before we know he’s a witch. If Director Feller is shown to be the kind of person that the Triplicate and others have constructed, he will undoubtedly pay the price. In the mean time it is time to put the matches away and let the facts fall where they may. People can end up looking pretty foolish if the facts go against them.
I have noticed that the use of Sexual harassment and other sexual improprieties, by many over the last few years have not always led to them being proven truthful. Too often Insurance companies interrupt the process and nothing is ever shown to be true or false. In many of those insurance settlements, the claimants end up with a nice fat pay day. I do not know if this is the case here, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit. Ah! the world that we live in…..