Off-with-their-heads approach not working | In Our Opinion

The fallout from Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley’s spate of firings continued this week as his former executive assistant settled a wrongful termination claim for $182,500.

The exact amount Dudley’s actions have cost the city and its insurance provider is a matter of debate, but what’s clear is that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been wasted and it has affected the city’s ability to attract talented employees.

Renee Recker and her attorney Chris Skinner argued that Dudley violated state and federal protections for ailing and disabled people.

Recker, who is recovering from cancer, was granted a year-long medical leave effective Oct. 5, 2012. The Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees to take time off intermittently as “medical leave” up to the 12 weeks per 12-month maximum.

Recker was fired Oct. 4, 2013, the same day her medical leave expired.

Skinner said the timing of the termination and other evidence lead to suspicions about Dudley’s bias against someone who claimed federally protected medical leave.

Obviously, the city’s insurance provider felt Recker had a point and settled the case with a healthy sum.

Dudley also fired the city supervisor, two city attorneys, the fire chief, the police chief and the human resources director. The police chief sued and received a settlement.

The former city engineer quit and then claimed that Dudley had created a hostile work environment. He also settled.

The total tally on the settlements is more than $220,000, which the insurance provider is picking up. But the result could be higher rates in the future.

While Dudley came into office as a self-proclaimed “reformer,” there are other ways to make changes that don’t include costly  terminations — both wrongful and rightful. Several council members who were upset over the cost of providing oversized severance payments to fired employees argued that the mayor could have worked with the staff members on smooth, less-expensive transitions. And they are right.

Who wouldn’t be in constant fear of losing their job under Dudley? Recker was terminated in October and her position is yet to be filled. The city had trouble finding a qualified applicant for the city attorney position and the human resources director.

Dudley’s propensity for firing people is getting very costly, and his “off-with-their-heads” approach to management needs to stop. It’s not the kind of leadership that will serve the city now or in the long term.


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