Wed. Oct 21st, 2020

Opinion  Piece By Linda Sutter – August 1, 2017 –

Why RHS lost $150,000 of funding from the City of Crescent City for the Food Bank and Harrington House

Rural Human Services (RHS) contains approximately 7 board members who are responsible for daily decisions. The current names of these board members are:

Celia Perez                    Chair

Ivan Minsel                   Vice Chair

Mike Riese                    Treasurer

Eli Naffah                      Secretary

Karen Saunders            Board member

Vanessa Alexander       Board member

Mitch Hanna                 Board member

So what does an attorney, the chief of police, a former City manager, a Sutter Coast Hospital director, a dairy farmer, and a president of the Republican Central Committee all have in common? They appear to have a propensity for turning a blind eye by ignoring their own Bylaws and violating State and Federal laws. One such clause in the RHS contract states the following:

NON-DISCRIMINATION CLAUSE-During the performance of this agreement, contractor and subcontractor shall not unlawfully discriminate, harass, or allow harassment against any employee or applicant for employment, because of sex, race, color, ancestry, religious creed, national origin, physical disability (including HIV and AIDS), mental disability, medical condition, age, marital status, and denial of family care leave. Contractor and subcontractors shall insure that the evaluation and treatment of their employees and applicants for employment are free from such discrimination and harassment.

Maybe the Board Members forgot to read that part. Especially in the case of Scott Feller, who we should all remember because he allegedly sexually harassed the former Harrington House Director, where she settled out of court for $150,000.  Maybe that’s where the money went for the food bank and Harrington House. Who knows? I don’t know. But is Scott Feller the only one at fault here?

So, woman comes forth with allegations of sexual harassment, which by the way was probably the hardest thing she had to do because her job is affected. She couldn’t take the allegations to her direct boss which was Scott Feller for the obvious reasons. So the question is when did the RHS Board Members become aware of this and once they were made aware of the allegations what action did they take?

No action was taken.

The board members allowed the Executive Director, Scott Feller, to continue to supervise over the Director of the Harrington House who filed the complaint. How egregious is that? Was there a vote on this matter? Shame on all of them.

The common mindset here is beyond words. It reflects on every being in this community. An Attorney, a chief of Police, a former City Manager, 3 women, who sat back and waited for some investigator to investigate.

In the meantime, no administrative time off for Scott Feller. Everyone knew better and violated their own Bylaws as well as State and Federal laws. There was one woman who was on the Board at the time Named Katie King who wasn’t having any of it.

Katie King is a Physician’s Assistant at Curry County Medical Facility in Brookings, Oregon. She was originally on the Board of Directors but resigned when she learned of the sexual harassment charges.  She wanted no part of it. Kudos for her. Someone with integrity, honesty, and fortitude. But the rest of the Board Members?

Because of these violations, the RHS funding was terminated for Breach of Contract by the City of Crescent City in closed session for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds. That means that hundreds will go without food boxes, and less women served for domestic violence at Harrington House. But, what could have been done to prevent such a severe action?

Did the City Council and interim City Manager conclude nothing could be done to save this from happening?   Did they shrug their shoulders? Why didn’t they request RHS Board Members to resign and be replaced with new ones to demonstrate to the State and Federal Government that there was no tolerance whatsoever, even if they are board members? So by allowing the RHS board members to remain in their capacity, funding will stop for two essential programs; Food Bank and the Harrington House?

I conclude this writing with a copy of the news release from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), DIRECTOR KEVIN KISH 2218 Kausen Drive, Suite 100 I Elk Grove I CA I 95758  800-884-1684 (voice) I 800-700-2320 (TTY) | California’s Relay Service at 711 www.dfeh.ca.gov I email: contact.center@dfeh.ca.gov

May 3, 2017 Contact: Fahizah Alim For Immediate Release  (916) 585-7076    Fahizah.Alim@dfeh.ca.gov

RURAL HUMAN SERVICES TO PAY $152,500 TO SETTLE DFEH  SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAWSUIT

Nonprofit organization will conduct training and implement complaint processes following accusations against executive director

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has obtained a $152,500 settlement in a sexual harassment case involving a former employee of Rural Human Services, a nonprofit organization located in Crescent City, California, in Del Norte County.   After an unsuccessful attempt to mediate the claim, the DFEH filed suit with the California Superior Court in Sacramento County (Case No. 34-2017-00209832) alleging multiple violations of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which prohibits discrimination and harassment against employees based on their gender, and a violation of the Ralph Civil Rights Act, which prohibits violence or intimidation by threat of violence based on gender. Because the nonprofit organization is a recipient of state funding, the lawsuit also alleged a violation of Government Code section 11135, a law that prohibits discrimination in government-funded programs and activities that the DFEH was charged with enforcing beginning on January 1, 2017.

The civil rights lawsuit was filed against defendants Rural Human Services (RHS) and its executive director, Scott Feller. According to the complaint, Mr. Feller sexually harassed the former program director of Harrington House, a domestic violence shelter within RHS, while she was employed from September 2015 to January 2016. Specifically, DFEH alleged that Mr. Feller subjected the program director to unwanted touching during a business trip, made offensive and grossly inappropriate comments that were sexual in nature, and engaged in unlawful retaliation after she reported the behavior to RHS’s human resources personnel and to RHS’s Board of Directors.

The DFEH lawsuit further asserted that RHS was aware that Mr. Feller was behaving inappropriately in the workplace prior to the complaint, yet failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent the discrimination and harassment from occurring.

In addition to paying a total sum of $152,500 to settle the lawsuit, RHS and Scott Feller have agreed to cease all unlawful employment practices, disseminate a written policy against sexual harassment and retaliation to all RHS employees, and conduct an anti-discrimination education and training program. The defendants have also agreed to develop and implement a formal complaint process that allows employees to file complaints of unlawful discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

“No one is above the law,” said DFEH Director Kevin Kish. “When harassment comes from the top, everyone in the workplace suffers and DFEH will fight for the right of all Californians to work safely and free from discrimination and harassment. DFEH also takes seriously our new responsibility of ensuring that public funds do not flow to discriminatory programs.”

There will be a protest in front of City Hall on August 4, 2017 at 4 p.m. Folks the RHS Board Members must all resign. They are part of the problem and we the people need our voices heard. The City Council needs to write a letter of support to RHS requesting all Board Members resignation. Lesson Learned.

 

17 thoughts on “THE DIRTY WEB RHS BOARD MEMBERS WEAVE”
  1. Connie, you do make a point, but you seem to conclude that guilt should be assumed just so we don’t take the chance letting a guilty man get off free. Due process obliterated.

    Most of all, this is the day and age of electronics. The so-called victim was ready to dial 911 on her cell, but didn’t bother to record the incident????? Multiple incidents occur but she doesn’t bother to set up any type of recording device??? In this day and age? Real and tangible evidence could have been obtained but she chose not to??? Sorry, Connie, I must disagree with any premise that includes assuming guilt just because some men will get away with wrongdoing.

    With so many conveniently missed opportunities for the ‘victim’ to record the incidents and obtain real evidence, I’m just not buying it. Give me real evidence and I’ll be singin’ a different tune.

  2. Have you, Wes, and the guy who read the 6,000 studies of inept female workers who accuse men of sexual harassment because they felt they might lose their job.
    Does the study show who was judging their performance? Was it the man who was harassing her and perhaps using her job as a bargaining chip, and perhaps to get sexual favors.
    Unless the study addresses these issues of the 6,000 cases then you can’t really lend credence to the study.
    I wonder how many of the battered women at Harrington house just fabricated the domestic violence story because they felt their husbands were not happy with their performance and were afraid he might kick them out and they would have nowhere to live.
    A confident woman who deals with bullying men on a daily basis could not feel comfortable reporting Feller’s unwanted attention until other women with the same complaint came forward. This is not a court case to be decided by hired guns. This is a social anomaly that women have had to deal with when they are with entitled men who can not accept no as an answer.

    1. Connie,you need to read the posts more carefully. The statistics concerning the average of 6,000 cases of reported sexual harassment come from the EEOC, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a Federal Commission. The employees are made up of both men and women, who were tasked with investigating the sexual harassment claims individually on their own merits. Sorry,but the gender card doesn’t work here at all. The study of the results was done by three women. Sorry, the gender card doesn’t work there either.
      The job performance information comes from the investigations referred to from the EEOC. Once again both women and men investigators. Sorry again Connie. You can subscribe what ever credence you wish to the numbers, but it is a pattern that has shown increasing numbers over the six year study ending in 2015.
      With respect to sexual and domestic violence the numbers are reversed. A completely different kind of issue. Only when violence is reported does the nomenclature change from harassment to abuse.
      As far as your assertion of “a confident woman who deals with bullying men on a daily basis could not feel comfortable reporting … until another woman came forward…”. What happened to confident? Also that doesn’t appear to be the case here, unless you know something that hasn’t been reported.
      Be aware that none of this kind of information can be applied to the Scott Feller case. All it shows is that with respect to sexual harassment claims we as a society, both men and women should leave the judging to due process, not like what has occurred in this case. Also it by no stretch of the imagination is the EEOC saying that it isn’t a serious issue, nor is the study. The EEOC information is only from the cases being reported to them, and doesn”‘t claim to have investigated more than a fraction of the instances nation wide. It is just that the cases they have investigated show a rather disturbing pattern as more and more women find themselves in the nation’s workplace. You can take it any way that you want to, but Wes is right, no proven facts have come forward, unless men are more likely to lie than women is as you assert a fact then maybe. I think most unbiased people would prefer to let due process be the arbitor.

  3. I’m sorry Linda, but I have to agree with Wes. There are way too many holes in your narrative and the press release does nothing to fill any of them. DFEH seems to be basing their press release not on proven facts but solely on the claim and the settlement by the insurance company. It is pretty easy to be a bureaucrat and claim all sorts of things on the face of an insurance settlement. Too many bureaucrats like to give themselves credit for things that they have little to do with. As far as them “not doing things half assed”, that is something almost built into anything that the government does. I simply can’t understand why you give such credibility to that press release, or that when this suit was instituted by the DFEH and the insurance company settled, you automatically judge the settlement as an admission of guilt. No one has been proven guilty of anything. Allegations is all you have to this point and proven facts, witnesses, taped phone conversations or the like would seem to be a crucial element for someone to be guilty, and they have not surfaced. So, until you can supply us with some thing that is equivalent to provable facts, this can only be your unsubstantiated opinion.
    For the record, I don’t know Scott Feller or anyone on the RHS Board all that well, but have an extremely difficult time swallowing modern day witch hunts without speaking up.

    1. when you go to court you can claim “no contest” instead of a guilty plea. Doesn’t mean your guilty to a traffic violation right wink wink, but you still got to pay the fine…RHS settled…doesn’t mean Scott Feller was guilty, but they paid…well, we are all entitled to believe whatever. Me,in my eye someone paid, someone lost their job, just because it was “settled” doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. And, always when it involves a female…the man is innocent…

      1. Linda, the insurance company settled, not RHS. The insurance settlement was not based on any statement of facts, but purely on costs of litigation. Your familiarity with the cost of litigation should tell you that this was a good financial deal for the insurance company. They do not care about guilt or innocence, just how much it will cost to make whatever go away. The reality is that when a woman claims sexual harassment studies show that 90% of the people interviewed favor the woman’s side of the story,yet when over 6,000 cases were investigated less than 12% were found that it actually could be proven that it happened. Nearly 50% of the cases found no sexual harassment period had occurred and in another 25% of the cases there was no evidence to support the claim. Mind you that statistics do not get Scott Feller or the RHS Board off the hook, but only proof in a court of law will find him and the board guilty. You are perfectly entitled to your opinion and I accept that, but you are not a court of law and neither is the Triplicate, the DFEH, or any of the other local witch hunters. Thus far we are operating with no provable truths and we all should be able to accept that until something occurs that says otherwise.
        The Triplicate keeps reporting that in court papers the private investigator hired by I must assume RHS’s lawyer shows evidence that the harassment is supported, yet others who have seen what I must assume is the same report indicate no evidence to support the claim. I have to say that in my opinion the Triplicate’s reporting is quite often skewed or incorrect. In any event, if the investigator was hired by RHS’s lawyer, it would not make much sense for him, the lawyer, to urge the board to litigate if the Triplicate’s report is factual. You will grant me that observation won’t you Linda? So unless some one is willing or perhaps able to publish the report, what else do you have which would lead you to believe Feller is guilty. The woman after all, claimed in her complaint that the initial event took place shortly after she was hired on the way to a Sexual Harassment training initiated by RHS. Then she waits for over a year to file the complaint? Seems odd, just saying. Didn’t the woman have any friends to confide in, make a cell phone recording, something that would pin Scott Feller to the wall in the year of employment. I know, I can’t put myself in that woman’s place, but that’s not what this is about.
        One last observation, just how effective of an employee was the woman? The reason I’m asking, and I know that this won’t make you happy, Linda, but one fairly regular element that was reported when examining the 6,000 reported sexual harrassment cases was that the employee was quite often seen as under performing or not up to the task. In these particular cases the employee reported sexual harassment not because it occurred but because the employee felt threatened about possible job loss.
        Just a few things for you to consider before the board burning. Oops, I guess it already happened.

        1. Seems with every opinion piece written by Linda Sutter, we read it and then wait for the comments so we can hear the factual side of the story. Thank you Samuel Strait.

        2. Linda, a couple of other things you may wish to consider are the Workforce Center was part of DHHS not RHS and had their own funding apart from RHS. In fact they contributed a fair amount to RHS on a monthly basis. Not much room for financial funny business with regard to the Workforce Center. Also, I was unaware that RHS failed an audit, do you have anything to support that claim?
          Except for the supervisor, the employees of the Workforce Center all were women, as well as there being many other female employees who were not connected to Harrington House but RHS. I can’t seem to have read about or heard of any other sexual harassment complaint surfacing with regard to Scott Feller prior to the one filed by DFEH. Nor at any time before he came to work at RHS. So he suddenly woke up one morning and decided to start? Like I said, the more I think about it Wes is right, WAY too many holes in Both of your narratives. If RHS can clear themselves or receive a finding that the allegations are unproven, the City is going to have a lot of egg on their face along with the DFEH, the Triplicate and a whole host of witch burners. I believe some one else said “Judge not, lest you be judged”.

        3. Please provide a link or evidence for the following “studies show that 90% of the people interviewed favor the woman’s side of the story,yet when over 6,000 cases were investigated less than 12% were found that it actually could be proven that it happened. Nearly 50% of the cases found no sexual harassment period had occurred and in another 25% of the cases there was no evidence to support the claim”.
          Thanks,
          Jason

  4. Linda, to quote you in your reply, “ALL BOARD MEMBERS WERE AWARE that Mr. Feller was behaving inappropriately in the workplace prior to the complaint”. If you have facts or documents to show the RHS Board knew of the allegations while the complaining party still worked there, I’d like to see it. Right now my understanding is that the complaint was filed after the complaining party no longer worked there. Therefore, putting Feller on administrative leave prior to an investigation would be pointless and there would be no breach. But then again, this is just an opinion piece, right?

    Also, if I’m understanding the severance clause of the contract correctly, it is the City that breached the contract by ending the entire contract without demanding compliance with the discrimination clause.

    You also state “That press release generated by DFEH is very powerful and told people what is really going on at RHS.” But again, you’re basing this on an assumption of guilt just because it is alleged. That’s pretty scary. Again, due process is skipped over which in my opinion is very bad practice. But, it is just an opinion piece, right?

    Last, I must side with Mr. Mavris. Had the case gone to federal court, the case probably would have been swiftly disposed of. These cases require evidence and I haven’t seen any. But, it is just an opinion piece, right?

    1. Wes I have been involved in two class action lawsuits while working at pelican bay state prison, I do have some experience in what it takes to get through DFEH BEFORE they pick up a case. I can tell you this as my own opinion, after reading the press release of the DFEH, they do not do things half ass, and they not do things half heartedly. There was just cause for this case and not all the facts were spelled out in the press release but some main points were. I’m sorry you missed those points. The case is done and over. There was damning evidence toward Mr. Feller. Had that not been true he would not be moving from this area, and there would not have been a settlement.

      1. All I’m really hoping to find out is if the RHS Board was aware of a contractual obligation and refused, whether the problems could have been corrected without cancelling the contract, and whether the City may have breached the severance clause. Any ideas? Just curious because it goes to the heart of the alleged breach of contract.

  5. Katie King Physicians Assistant of curry county was the only person to resign from the Board of Directors because she recognized what was occurring and did not want any part of it. I lost my train of thought and didn’t finish her in the response.

  6. wes let me see if I can put this in perspective, and this is how I understand it. The CDBG FUNDS are received by the state from the Federal Government. The city must of applied for the original CBDG grant money and RHS is a subrecipient. According to the contract there are several laws, that must be abided. Within the contract it speaks to litigation which states in pertinent part, ” If any provision of this Agreement, or an underlying obligation, is held invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction, each invalidity, at the SOLE DISCRETION of the department, shall not affect any other provisions of this agreement and the remainder of this agreement shall remain in full force and effect. Therefore, the provisions of this agreement are, and shall be SEVERABLE. THE GRANTEE shall notify the department immediately of any claim or action undertaken by or against it which affects or may affect this agreement as is consistent witht he terms of this agreement and the interests of the Department.

    If you read the press release from Department Fair Employment and Housing, the last sentence or paragraph states, ” DFEH also takes seriously our new responsibility of ensuring that public funds do not flow to discriminatory programs.”

    That press release generated by DFEH is very powerful and told people what is really going on at RHS. ” the DFEH filed suit with the California Superior Court in Sacramento County (Case No. 34-2017-00209832) alleging multiple violations of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which prohibits discrimination and harassment against employees based on their gender, and a violation of the Ralph Civil Rights Act, which prohibits violence or intimidation by threat of violence based on gender. Because the nonprofit organization is a recipient of state funding, the lawsuit also alleged a violation of Government Code section 11135, a law that prohibits discrimination in government-funded programs and activitibes that the DFEH was charged with enforcing beginning on January 1, 2017.”

    BUT WHAT IS EGREGIOUS ABOUT THIS WHOLE SITUATION IS THE FACT ALL BOARD MEMBERS WERE AWARE that Mr. Feller was behaving inappropriately in the workplace prior to the complaint, yet failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent the discrimination and harassment from occurring.

    The only person who was on the board at that time was Katie King PA from curry county. It is unreal how unprofessional these people are. The board members tried to cover this up in my opinion based on political affiliation (Republican) an because Crescent City is so far removed from any major newspaper reporting the people in these valuable positions are not held accountable for their perpectual actions.

    I think George Mavris is a great attorney, but had this gone to court it more than likely would have gone on a federal level for sexual harassment (maybe not) Once you get into that arena it is all over but the crying the RHS would have lost a lot more than $150,000.

    In the meantime it is necessary to force the current board members to resign because they all are solely responsible and they all failed miserably. Now many people are affected by their actions and the buck needs to stop somewhere.

  7. Hugh gaps in this story, Linda. I’m just trying to get the whole picture.

    First, does the contract specifically require RHS to place someone on administrative leave when allegations are made? I’d like to know because if the contract does not call for administrative leave before an investigation is complete and evidence of sexual harassment is found, maybe someone can explain the basis of the “breach of contract”. If the contract requires action and the immediate administrative leave, then I would agree it was breached.

    Usually a party in breach is placed on notice of the breach and a short period of time given to correct it. For instance, in rental evictions the renter must be served with notice of the breach and three days to correct it. Did RHS receive notice and opportunity to correct the alleged breach in this matter? If contractual or legal provisions require notice and opportunity to comply, then did the City breach the contract? Just wondering, I haven’t read the contract.

    From everything I’ve read so far the allegations of sexual harassment are not proven and the insurance company (not RHS) paid a settlement. The attorney believed the allegations would be defeated at trial. So if there is some real and tangible evidence of sexual harassment that you’re aware of, please let us see it.

    It appears someone hired an investigator? Who hired the investigator? If it was RHS, or the insurance company on RHS’s behalf, then action was taken, eh?

    Last, the City took action which appears based on the assumption of guilt. Perhaps they have real good evidence. But if Feller can disprove the allegations, many butts are left uncovered. I’d hate to think all this happened based on assumptions.

    Any additional facts you can uncover would be appreciated. Can a copy of the contract be attached?

  8. WTF? Why is Mike Riese on the RHS board? He’s a major f*ck up who should never be allowed in any official position again, especially in concerns relating to managing resources decided to help those in need.

    Who the hell allowed Mike Rise on that board?

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