Attorney says city acted improperly in handling complaint against PCOC CEO
By André Coleman 02/21/2013
Did city officials act inappropriately in suspending Pasadena Center Operating Co. (PCOC) CEO Mike Ross?
Attorney Dale Gronemeier believes it did. Gronemeier said the city “panicked because the term ‘hostile work environment’ was being misused and inappropriately took the whole matter out of control.”
According to documents obtained by the Pasadena Weekly, city and state employment policies may have been violated when Ross was placed on paid administrative leave without having a formal written complaint filed against him. The city then released a statement about the suspension, which Gronemeier claims impugned Ross’ reputation when that statement was used for the basis of stories that appeared in the Pasadena Sun and the Pasadena Star-News. According to California state law, employee records, including disciplinary actions, are confidential.
“The whole process by which this whole thing was handled has a bad odor about it,” Gronemeier said.
Ross was placed on paid administrative leave in December, pending the results of an outside investigation, after an employee claimed a hostile work environment existed at the PCOC. According to Gronemeier, the complainant had previously threatened to make that complaint in an effort to get a raise, and later claimed that Ross had made an inappropriate remark to women at an after-work dinner meeting. Ross denied the allegations, which were not corroborated by other people at that meeting.
The PCOC is a city-owned nonprofit that manages the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and Pasadena Conference Center, as well as the city’s ice skating rink and the Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau. Since joining the PCOC in 2008, Ross and others successfully lobbied for a $150 million expansion of the Pasadena Convention Center.
“The victim in this case has been Mr. Ross. Because this matter was blown out of proportion, he has been suspended without justification. Even worse, a confidential personnel matter has been inappropriately plastered onto the front pages of the Pasadena Star-News, and thereby unjustifiably impugned Mr. Ross’ reputation. …
The sloppy, policy-violating handling of this complaint that bypassed the [human resources] professional at PCOC has allowed a fishing expedition under the cover of a ‘hostile environment’ claim.”