DECISION: Oneida Business Committee Chairs Ed Delgado and Cristina Danforth Harassed, Intimidated & Violated The Rights Of The Oneida Tribal Housing Director, But Dale Wheelock Won Reinstatement, Back Pay & Benefits

CONCLUSION

The Oneida Personnel Commission finds in favor of the Petitioner, Dale Wheelock, and OVERTURNS the Disciplinary Action of Termination and further ORDERS Mr. [Dale] Wheelock be made whole in terms of back pay and benefits due him.

The Oneida Personnel Commission, in understanding the Respondent’s reasoning for deviation from progressive discipline, allowed additional evidence. The Oneida Personnel Commission determined there was a course of action that took place that was harassing and intimidating to the Petitioner, Mr. [Dale] Wheelock. The means by which the Petitioner was first put on Investigative Leave in August 2012, was in compliance with the Oneida Tribe’s process; however, the issuance of that leave was erroneous in that it was a result of a complaint filed by Mr. Whitney Wheelock. The Investigative Leave Policy specifically states a leave cannot be issued as a result of a complaint. Further, the Petitioner suffered a harm in the case of the Temporary Restraining Order filed by the Respondent, Edward Delgado. While the Oneida Personnel Commission did not go into details about the case, there were events that occurred while that case was pending in Brown County Court that was also harassing and intimidating.

The fact that the Petitioner had a counseling session with a professional counselor, and that information was taken outside of that session was a breach of confidentiality. The counselor, Bob Fresen, reported his concerns to his supervisor, Barb Kolitsch, who then took it beyond the scope of confidentiality. This action ultimately resulted in the Petitioner being placed on what was first identified as a second Investigative Leave by the Respondent, Edward Delgado, and later identified as an a Involuntary Leave of Absence with a requirement to submit to a doctor’s report before returning to work.

In reviewing the length of time from the initial Investigative Leave up to the Petitioner’s termination, harassment and intimidation clearly took place on the part of the Respondents, more specifically, Edward Delgado. Evidence shows the Petitioner was placed on Investigative Leave on August 2, 2012, and was then issued an amended Investigative Leave with an Alternate Work Assignment on August 6, 2012. While the Petitioner received a hand-delivered, hard copy of the amended Investigative Leave, it was absent the required signatures. The Petitioner then received a letter dated August 9, 2012, in which the Respondent cited failure to report the Division of Land M\anagement could result in job abandonment.

While working at the Division of Land Management, the Petitioner was again placed on an Investigative Leave/Involuntary Leave of Absence as a result of information taken outside the confines of a counseling session the Petition had with his counselor. During this time, the Respondent, Edward Delgado, filed a Temporary Restraining Order, for an unfounded incident that occurred in which the Petitioner, Dale Wheelock, was barred from a General Tribal Council meeting and was escorted out of the meeting by the Oneida Tribal Police.

There was a series of events that created a great deal of confusion including termination of insurance and unemployment benefits, change of supervision contrary to information the Petitioner had received by way of memorandum identifying the chain-of-command, and refusal on the part of the Treasurer, Cristina Danforth, to contact the Petitioner’s attorney although such information was provided to the Oneida Business Committee. In addition, the Petitioner was requested to meet with the Treasurer, Cristina Danforth, at his place of employment, the Oneida Housing Authority buildings and projects.

The Oneida Business Committee, in assuming the responsibility of supervision over Division Directors, went beyond the scope of authority. Furthermore, the Oneida Business Committee, specifically, the Chairman, Edward Delgado, and the Treasurer, Cristina Danforth, lacked knowledge of the tribe’s disciplinary process. As a result, they made several errors in disciplining the Petitioner. It was evident there was a lack of communication between Edward Delgado, Cristina Danforth and Geraldine Danforth. There was conflicting testimony given by the Respondents which resulted in confusion for the Petitioner.

The Internal Security Report, conducted by Officer James [Sonny] Martin, Jr., was biased. Information gathered by the Officer was one-sided and opinionated. The report included information that supported the Internal Audit, but nothing further in terms of follow-up regarding missing equipment. Dollar amounts quoted in the report were a result of internet searches for average amounts of equipment. During testimony, Officer Martin stated the scope of investigation was limited to finding things missing; it was not his job to find them.

There is a vast difference between the political arm of the Oneida Tribe, and the departmental functions of the Tribe. There are employee rights that have been outlined in various laws of the Tribe, which were violated by the Respondents, Edward Delgado and Cristina Danforth.

This case was arduous. There was lengthy testimony given by witnesses which resulted in multiple hearings. There were volumes of evidence presented that all parties combed to verify validity. The Oneida Personnel Commission, in rendering its decision, focused primarily on the allegations provided by the Petitioner, Dale Wheelock, in his appeal to the Oneida Personnel Commission. By adhering to those basic allegations, procedural irregularities were found to have occurred. If taking into consideration the remainder of the testimony and evidence, there were numerous procedural irregularities as well, some of which were addressed in this conclusion.

Rendering its decision based solely on the allegations of the appeal submitted by the Petitioner, Dale Wheelock, to this hearing body, there were numerous procedural irregularities that caused harm to the Petitioner. Allowing additional testimony to both determine if there was harassment taking place, and to better understand the Respondent, Cristina Danforth’s justification for deviation from progressive discipline added to the procedural irregularities and contradictory information that was against the weight of the evidence.

The Oneida Personnel Commission ORDERS the termination of the Petitioner, Dale Wheelock, OVERTURNED. Any back pay and benefits are to be reinstated to the Petitioner beginning with the week of August 5, 2012, through his reinstatement to his former position as Executive Director of the Oneida Housing Authority. Furthermore, the Petitioner, Dale Wheelock, will be reinstated to his former position as Executive Director of the Oneida Housing Authority. Mr. Dale Wheelock’s employee record is to be expunged of this discipline.

By authority of the Oneida Personnel Policies and Procedures and the Oneida Administrative Procedures Act, Section 1.10-1, Contested Cases; It Is So Ordered.

 

Regarding the Temporary Restraining Order sought by BC Chair Ed Delgado against Dale Wheelock based on an unfounded incident:

 

UPDATE:

 

 


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