Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

July 5, 2013

Grievance vs Grievance

Oglesby withdraws grievance while city waits on legal opinion on Miller's filing

By Jim Young
Chronicle correspondent

— Accusations have been made in both directions and grievances filed by and against the interim Crossville city manager and city clerk.

There is a question if the grievance filed by interim city manager Jack Miller against City Clerk Sally Oglesby, a subordinate, is allowed or if Miller, not considered a full-time employee because of his interim appointment, falls under the grievance procedure.

In a memo issued June 28, Crossville Human Resources Coordinator Sandy Gruber advised members of the personnel board the city had contacted the Municipal Technical Advisory Service legal counsel for guidance and direction on the grievance filed by Miller.

Oglesby withdrew her grievance in writing July 2, stating that she was not conceding that “the actions of the interim city manager were appropriate,” but that she felt that the decision to remedy the situation lies in the hands of the city council and not the personnel committee.

Oglesby's original grievance outlined a pattern of harassment dating back to 2007 when she was called into a meeting with Miller, Gruber and city Finance Director Fred Houston. At that meeting, Oglesby relates that Miller called her “abusive, a liar, not respected, a gossip, and considered poison by all employees and the city council.” Oglesby said those in the meeting were told not to discuss it but, within a short period of time, the story had spread all over city hall.

Oglesby's grievance continued, saying that following Bruce Wyatt's resignation as city manager, a few members of the council asked if she would serve as interim. Oglesby said she has never sought that position nor applied for the regular city manager position. She relates that on April 12, 2013, she and others received an email from Councilman Jesse Kerley requesting a copy of a written reprimand Miller had allegedly given her for “having a tyrant attitude toward employees.” Kerley's email alleged the reprimand had been removed from Oglesby's personnel file. Kerley also was seeking a memo Oglesby had supposedly written about her having the “power and money” during a previous period when she served as interim manager.

Gruber reported no such reprimand had ever been in Oglesby's personnel file and that she had never seen a memo like the one Kerley described.

Oglesby reported after the email from Kerley, she called the council members she had spoken to and told them she “did not want to serve as interim and be the subject of harassment and attacks on her personal integrity.”

Oglesby reports after Miller was hired, because of the harassment she felt she was subject to during his previous tenure, she maintained her distance and communicated with him electronically and through intermediaries.

On April 29, Miller called a staff meeting to discuss the subject of rumors of his hiring as a “hit man” for the council and that “firings, reassignments and restructuring of employees were planned.” Miller questioned department heads as to “morale, sources of the rumors and what concerns were out there. Hearing very few comments, he went down each row and demanded a response from everyone in attendance.” Oglesby described the action as “very intimidating.”

Later in the meeting, she told Miller she felt a lot of the morale problem had to do with the “chaos amongst the council and that their dysfunction was causing a lot of concern.”

Oglesby described the June 7 staff meeting that has previously been discussed in a city council meeting and a story and audio of the full meeting is available on the Crossville Chronicle's website. Oglesby describes it as “the most humiliating, embarrassing and harassing meeting I have ever encountered.”

Oglesby countered Miller's accusations with memos, her job description and other back up documentation.

Miller's grievance against Oglesby is titled, “An unorthodox approach to restoring ethics and integrity to the city of Crossville bureaucracy.” Miller sates the personnel issue should have been handled by internal administrative processes but, “due to the unique relationship of the employee with a member of the governing body, we are compelled to seek redress via external means.”

Miller's grievance continues, “It appears that this often belligerent, insubordinate, autonomous employee is being protected by certain members of city council.” Miller states he hopes “this very talented individual can be rescued from the ill-advised actions and rhetoric of her agenda-driven supporters and detractors. Our altruistic objective is to, indeed, educate/re-orient this high ranking city employee.”

Oglesby's memo withdrawing her grievance stated the process has deteriorated to “name calling, intimidation, defamation of character and chaotic situation among the city council, the employees and the entire community.” Oglesby said she was concerned about members of the personnel board who have ties to the city and whose decision could be seen as not impartial, even though she feels they would be.

Oglesby added while she originally thought Miller's attitude toward her was left over from his previous time as manager, she says she has received information it was retaliation for information she provided to attorneys on behalf of the city's insurance carrier defending former city councilman Boyd Wyatt from the lawsuit filed against him by Miller over Miller's previous firing. That lawsuit was dismissed after an initial action and has been appealed by Miller.

Wrote Oglesby, “I try to live my life positively by building people up not tearing them down. Normal people don't go around destroying other human beings.”

Oglesby's memo summed up saying, “It is my desire to take the high road, hold my head up high, continue to treat my fellow employees with respect, and continue to serve the council and citizens of Crossville to the best of my ability.”