October 7, 2008

The city's response to Tingle: All the gory details

Over the weekend, the city released its 18-page response to Sandra Tingle's complaint that she was sexually harassed and fired from her position as the mayor's administrative assistant due to her gender.

The city vigorously denies all of Tingle's charges in the brief by attorney Mark L. Olson, of Davis and Kuelthau law firm, submitted this weekend to Christine Brunow, the civil rights investigator in the Equal Rights Division of the State of Wisconsin, Department of Workforce Development. We posted Olson's response yesterday.

Today we have more: all the gory details contained in the 126 pages of exhibits that accompanied the city's response.

The exhibits include:
  • city employment policies
  • copies of reprimands given to Tingle
  • email exchanges between her and City Administrator Ben Hughes regarding job performance issues like confidentiality and whether meetings were being convened in a timely manner)
  • memos, policies, even City Hall's telephone tree, as part of a detailed back-and-forth over whether phone calls were being answered or sent to voice mail
  • details of two apparently bogus sick-pay claims by Tingle
  • the letter and filing made by Nola J. Hitchcock Cross, Tingle's lawyer, in her initial Aug. 8 Discrimination Complaint submitted to the state
  • the city's detailed 56-page investigator's report examining one-by-one each of the 47 allegations Cross and Tingle made
  • and Atty. Cross' July 16 letter --"Confidential Settlement Communication" -- sent to Robert K. Weber, City Attorney.
Be forewarned: It's a big file: a 3.5 megabyte PDF. You'll need Adobe Acrobat to open and read it, and plenty of time.

Here are some of the points worth looking for look for.

-- Exhibit 6 (Pages 17 - 18), a reprimand from Hughes to Tingle from Jan. 14, 2008, regarding the makeup of the interview committee to fill the vacant MIS Director position. Hughes wrote that Tingle spoke to an alderman and questioned why he "was not selected for the committee and you expressed concerns to him about the overall ability of this 5-person committee to make an informed decision. Later that day, your husband proactively called this same alderman... to question the composition of this committee."

"On a related matter...I recently learned of conversations you had ... in November 2007 with more than one alderman concerning the Mayor's 2008 proposed budget. Evidently, you questioned the need and wisdom behind his proposal to establish a new Grant Administrator position...This is yet another example of possible insubordination. It is my full expectations that no such behavior is displayed by you in the future."

-- Exhibit 7 (Page 19 - 20) a reprimand from Hughes to Tingle from June 23, 2008, regarding the abuse of sick time.

The reprimand states that Tingle called in sick on May 5 and 6, and when she returned to work recorded the two days as sick time. "It has since come to my attention that you lied to me on both days and that you were in vacation with your husband in Florida during this period. Indeed, your husband, Frank Tingle, helped facilitate this fraudulent use of sick time."

The reprimand says Tingle also abused sick pay on Feb. 15, by attending a Milwaukee event for Obama and claiming sick pay for it.

-- Exhibit 8 (Page 21), the May 2 email exchange between Frank Tingle and city employee Kelly Graham. Graham wrote Tingle, "Just so you know, I will be making and bringing in a trifle on Monday for Sandy T's birthday, if you would care to come in and partake at some point. :-) She's going to be 29, right?"

And Frank Tingle's response: "Shhhhh... Ummmm...she is planning on being sick on Monday and Tuesday."

-- The largest portion of the Exhibit is the Confidential Investigation Report (Pages 29 - 85) submitted by Susan Love of the Davis and Kuelthau law firm. Love writes that she interviewed all individuals named in the letter by Tingle's attorney (Tingle herself refused to participate) "and searched thoroughly for corroborative evidence of any nature." In all, Love conducted 18 interviews.

More of the points discussed after the break:

Henry and Wanda's (Page 33): Hughes said he stopped attending the Friday evening socialization after, "On one evening, Ms. Tingle pointed out another female in the bar and stated that the female was going to be the Mayor's next mistress and would be hired for the new grant administrator position. Mr. Hughes stated he believed her comments were inappropriate. He left shortly after her comments. He never went to another Friday gathering at Henry and Wanda's."

Hughes denied he ever "sat uncomfortably close" to Ms. Tingle.... "He asserted, and several witnesses corroborated, that Henry & Wanda's is very crowded on Friday after work and everyone is generally in close proximity.... Other individuals who attended the gatherings stated they never saw Mr. Hughes act inappropriately toward Ms. Tingle and never heard any inappropriate comments."

Gifts (Page 35): The box of chocolates Tingle claimed Hughes gave her. He said it came from the president of a local bank and he told the banker he would share it with the office. "Witnesses verified" that "Hughes brought in the candy at Christmas for the office."

Tingle told a witness that Hughes had given her a "tote" bag. Hughes said it was the Mayor's 'tote' from a conference. "He believes he handed the Mayor's tote bag to Ms. Tingle. It contained conference materials. He expected she would give it to the mayor."

Harassment of city employee Liz DeWitt (Page 36): Tingle alleged that Hughes was harassing DeWitt "by repeatedly warming his coffee in her work area," in the City Attorney's office. Hughes and DeWitt both said there was no harassment, and she produced records of the number of visits he made daily to use the microwave. (Yes, it seemed strange to us that she kept track! For those of you not familiar with City Hall, Hughes' office is isolated, in a far corner of a large empty room away from the Mayor's office and the coffee pot.)

Alleged affair of Mayor Becker (Page 40): "Both the Mayor and the female employee identified as being involved in an affair deny there was ever an affair. The accused female employee and her husband have socialized with Mayor Becker and his wife... The employee has never travelled with Mayor Becker. She did not travel to Oshkosh with the Mayor. City records indicate the employee was at work in Racine on the days the Mayor was in Oshkosh."

Mayor's language (Page 41): "Witnesses stated that the Mayor has used profanity in their presence, generally in meetings in his office. Witnesses denied ever hearing the Mayor use the words 'bitch.' The mayor admits that he has used profanity when in his office. He admits that he may have used the word 'bitch' ... Mayor Becker alleges that Ms. Tingle also used profanity and refereed to women as 'bitch.' " (There's another nasty word in the brief, but you'll have to read it yourself...)

Performance issues (Pages 42-47): Three of the most contentious issues between Hughes and Tingle were her "releasing confidential information which she gained from her position as an employee," her allowing too many calls to go to voice mail, and the scheduling of meetings. Attorney Scott Letteney and Kelly Graham also met with Hughes and said Tingle "engaged in behavior (which) violated City policy: making inappropriate comments at work, accusing the mayor of embezzling city funds to pay for a trip to Italy, making disparaging remarks about Hughes' sexual orientation and referring to him as "a lapdog, like a Mexican Chihuahua," sending a YouTube video of a British television show about an elected official and his gay assistant with a message, "And now it's time for another episode of Ben and Gary," and more.

Exhibit 14 (Pages 89-93) is the back-and-forth email exchange between Tingle and Hughes about phone calls going to voice mail.

Analysis of Allegations (Pages 56-85). Each of the 47 allegations made by Atty. Cross in her initial Discrimination Complaint is examined. In each case the investigator finds no fault. For example: Allegation 44 which charges, "Respondent maintains a sexually hostile working environment in which some female administrative employees must maintain a social relationship with the City Administrator or be held to higher standards and threatened with discipline while those female administrative employees who agree to have a social relationship with Mr. Hughes are rewarded and held to lesser standards." The investigator concludes: "There is no evidence of a sexually hostile work environment."

Settlement Communication (Pages 110-116) from Tingle's attorney to the city. In it, she asks that Hughes be removed as her supervisor, that other secretaries must conform to the same phone call answering rules as she, that reprimands from Hughes be removed from her personnel file and not used against her, that other female employees be protected from Hughes' "quid pro quo sexual harassment and the sexually hostile working environment he has created," that the city investigate whether there were complalints against Hughes at his previous employers, in Wrightstown, WI, and New York, and that the city reimburse Tingle's attorney fees and costs. "In the event the city is unable or unwilling to take these steps, Ms. Tingle would consider a severance package as resolution of this matter."

Discrimination Complaint (Pages 117-126): The formal complaint filed with the Department of Workforce Development.


  1. Racinepost you come across as obviously one-sided on this issue. How about trying to report stories in a neutral manner as it should be with a newspaper? I've seen people criticize you of being biased on different issues in the past, and I think they are correct.

    I have not seen your website list a detailed report of the complaint by tingle, but yet you go into great detail on the response as though the response from the City is of course the Gospel truth. I don't believe most of what I'm reading on the City's response, I know all the players all TOO WELL. I see the complaint which the city is responding to is here but buried at the end.

    If you want to run an opinion piece, stick with a blog but then please stop trying to operate as an actual news source.

    It's fine to put a link to the entire file, that's fair, but the way you have written your article is incredibly slanted.

  2. We're looking forward to writing about Sandra Tingle's complaint, and other aspects of this case as they develop.

  3. So, the City's policy is that the Affirmative Action officer and Commission investigate any discrimination/EEOC complaints. Was this done? Seems that would be more impartial than hiring an outside attorney to make the City's case.

    I also think it is very tacky for the City to release a report to the press which names other, not directly involved, City employees. If it was me, I would feel terrible about having my name dragged into this in public.

  4. Yes I think it is in incredibly bad taste on the part of RACINEPOST to include names of witnesses and ridicule them in their article.

    Shame on you Dustin, I now have a different opinon of your paper. These are real people you are playing around with.

    What sort of investigation could the city have done if they hired their own investigator that also works for the same law firm that is defending the city on this? Oh puuleeze, what a bunch of bunk. Wonder how much the taxpayers paid for this garbage.

  5. This would be the first time ever in the history of government that someone was held accountable in regards to when they actually used sick-time benefits.

  6. colt-
    where are you buddy. cat have your tongue? where's the recall you promised?

  7. I have a feeling this aint over yet. Colt may still be right on this one.

  8. Wait a second!

    When was it made allowable for a "President of a local bank" to give gifts to the City Administrator?

    Or for the City Administrator to accept such a gift?

  9. Colt is planing a public meeting and looking for a place to hold the recall meeting. But if the Mayor is going down and will resign soon why bother?

  10. I'm glad I don't work with that Kelly Graham woman.

  11. I agree Anon 01:28 A.M.; The Post has turned into the RJT. Sad, VERY sad.

  12. What's with shooting the messenger?

    The Post does fine.

  13. colt

    Please do your recall - it will be so entertaining to watch it flounder and fail.

  14. And it could easily fail the education of the public to stop another term is the most critical issue. Like I have said when all the facts are out on the Tingle case I feel that Becker will resign.
    City Hall is like a sinking ship, sure The City will get an "Award" for the downtown art project but has any building been sold NO, any real interest been noticed NO
    The no bid Web site updated no

  15. Colt -

    In case you missed it, all the facts on the Tingle "case" were just published in raw form in the media.

  16. Colt-
    You're delusional. If the emperor has no clothes then he won't resign. We saw the tingle complaint, we saw the city's response. Looks cut and dried, the mayor won't resign. So when and where is the meeting. Rally the bloggers. Maybe the green party headquarters?

  17. Looks to me like the city did their best to cover their butts. According to the report, their so called "investigation" was done by the same law firm they hired to defend them. Yes I'm sure it was completely factual and everything the city says, because it's in black and white and looks kind of legal, is the God's honest truth. (NOT). I don't buy any of it.