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MCCOG faces new legal challenge

A second lawsuit has been filed over alleged "abusive" management practices by the Mid-Columbia Council of Governments.

Pat Robinson, 57, who was fired in January, has issued a legal challenge in Oregon federal court that accuses the agency of discriminatory practices. She claims that Daliea Thompson, former director of MCCOG's senior service programs, used Robinson's age and medical disability to "intimidate and harass" her out of a job.

MCCOG's insurance agent, Michael Courtney of The Dalles, declined to release the name of the attorney handling the Robinson lawsuit. He said MCCOG would be forced to pay the phone tab for any calls from a reporter and directed further inquiries to claims processor Jim McWilliams of Eugene, who was out of the office for the week and unable to be contacted.

Because of the legal issues involved in the case, John Arens, MCCOG executive director, said he was unable to give further comment or information.

Although Thompson left her post abruptly in early October, MCCOG is also facing a court action from Lynn Bruce, owner/operator of Mosier Creek Adult Foster Care. Bruce is asking for $290,000 in lost wages and damages that resulted from Thompson's alleged mishandling of an investigation into her patient care.

Both Robinson and Bruce contend that MCCOG officials failed to intervene when they appealed for help after Thompson allegedly began to target them for speaking out against her administration.

"This is the third time I am asking for your help in dealing with the humiliating, threatening, demeaning, and hostile treatment I am experiencing at the hands of Daliea Thompson," said Robinson in a Sept. 18, 2000 letter to John Arens, MCCOG executive director.

Robinson, who served as Oregon Project Independence program manager, said she drew Thompson's ire when she approached Arens in the spring of 2000 to find out how much funding was in her operating budget and to question a lack of formal training for the complex job. She said her attempts to address these issues with Thompson had gone without response.

Shortly after her meeting with Arens, Robinson said her problems with Thompson began, beginning with twice-weekly supervisory meetings and an express order not to get resource information from co-workers. Then, in September of that year, she was handed a 48-page written warning that said she did not demonstrate the necessary skills for the position.

However, eight case managers for MCCOG immediately signed a support letter for Robinson outlining that she had never received formal training for the position and had been forced to "rely solely upon herself to seek out information."

Robinson, who took on duties with MCCOG in October of 1999, outlines in the legal brief filed by her attorney, Glenn N. Solomon of Portland, that she was hired as a disabled worker since she has learning difficulties brought by a serious head injury that caused permanent degenerative cognitive symptoms. She also claims to suffer from neuromuscular problems which bring some physical limitations. Robinson alleges Thompson agreed to provide her with special training to offset her disabilities but she never received that help.

She also charges that Thompson created a hostile working environment by treating younger co-workers better than Robinson and allowing other personnel to make derogatory comments about her age.

In addition to $40,000 in lost wages, Robinson is seeking to recoup her attorney fees and be compensated for the emotional and mental stress brought by Thompson's actions, which also aggravated her physical condition.

Last spring Robinson's discrimination complaint against MCCOG was dismissed for lack of substantial evidence by the Civil Rights Division of the Bureau of Labor & Industries.

In a letter dated Dec. 11, 2001, Arens informed Robinson said she faced termination for willful misconduct by engaging in personal business on company time and then lying about her whereabouts.

"As you know, you signed a document with this agency acknowledging that you are an at-will employee of this agency," said Arens. "As such, you can be terminated for any reason or no reason at all."

Solomon rebuts that claim by stating that MCCOG's actions against Robinson violate both state and federal disability laws. He is asking the court to order MCCOG to adopt court-approved and court-monitored, comprehensive and effective harassment training and policies.

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