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: email@example.com
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.