Sunday, March 24, 2013

NWACC-What Happens to Their Whistle Blowers

This blog entry contains a letter from NWACC Whistle Blower, LTC Jim Parsons, to NWACC's Board of Trustees, a response to Parsons from NWACC's attorney, George Rhoads, and a news article published in The Benton County Daily Record, all pertaining to the same subject.

For more information on LTC Jim Parsons, read our blog entry titled, "Why NWACC Board Members Keep Quiet" and "Our Board Picks".

State Affiliate of Christian Educators Association International
Jim Parsons, State Director ACEA
December 22, 1994

Dear NWACC Board of Trustees Member:
I tried to tell you some of these things and you fired me for it.  Pamella Midgette tried to inform you of some of these issues and you fired her.  Now is another group of whistle blowers and I suppose that you will want to kill these messengers, too.  Is your method of solving problems one of silencing everyone and then there will be no more problems?

It seems that you do not welcome anyone on campus that might have a difference of opinion than your own.  In today’s Arkansas Democrat Gazette Governor Jim Guy Tucker in responding to questions regarding the Joycelyn Elders issues was quoted as saying, “Obviously, what you do on your own time is still your business in this country.”  Apparently, you do not agree with that and you want all NWACC students and employees to agree with your opinions 100 percent or you will remove them.  And, by Don White’s being Chairman of the Benton County Democrat Party, we know what those opinions are.

In an editorial titled Judge Teaching Abilities in The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas dated December 18, 1994 the article states, “It should be noted here that colleges and Universities are places to exchange diverse ideas, not limit them.  Liberals and conservatives alike should have the right to hold and express ideas on college campuses”.  We know for a fact that this is not the philosophy of the NWACC President or the Board of Trustees.  I hope that you will give me more than two minutes this time to try to resolve some of these problems.

Jim Parsons
State Director ACEA"

On December 3, 1998, LTC Jim Parsons received this letter from NWACC’s attorneys, Matthews, Campbell, Rhoads, McLure & Thompson of Rogers, Arkansas, stating…

“Dear Mr. Parsons:
Dick Trammel has forwarded your November 27 letter to me for reply.  You requested to have two minutes on the December  [1998] Board agenda to talk about freedom of speech.  That is not a proper agenda item.” 

Are these NWACC attorneys suggesting that our red, white, and blue American first amendment right to freedom of speech is not our legal right?  Do they not understand that our first amendment right is as important as our second amendment right?

This letter continues with, “By removing the Trustee Comments item from the agenda a few months ago, the Board of Trustees expressed its desire not to have speeches of a personal, political nature on the agenda.  You may discuss your personal, political issues at any other time, but you may not clutter the business of the Board with your personal issues”.

Our first amendment right to confronting NWACC with their corrupt practices is not of a personal or political nature.  NWACC changes its policies and procedures whenever they need to hide their corrupt personal agendas.  NWACC did not want these issues to be publicized, which would have been had LTC Parsons been able to present his story to the board.  This letter is signed by Attorney George R. Rhoads

On December 9, 1998, The Benton County Daily Record published this article, “Parsons’ complaint not on agenda… Jim Parsons, a Northwest Arkansas Community College Board of Trustee member [who was fired for whistleblowing], contends that two official letters from NWACC administrators to staff members are “concrete” examples of First Amendment freedom of speech suppression at NWACC.”

“Parsons’ complaint about freedom of speech, though, will not be placed on the December board agenda.  In a letter dated Nov. 27, addressed to board chairman Dick Trammell, Parsons requested two minutes on the December agenda to discuss the two letters.”

“Nwacc attorney George Rhoads addressed a reply to Parsons stating that freedom of speech is not a ‘proper agenda item’.  Rhoads went on to explain that by removing the trustee comments item from the agenda a few months earlier, the board expressed ‘its desire not to have speeches of a personal, political nature on the agenda’”.

LTC Jim Parsons was eventually fired for attempting to right the wrongs of NWACC.  Are there not "Whistle Blower" protection laws?  And if so, then NWACC, once again, clearly broke the law.

NWACC Ex-Employee Sues College

By Dave Perozek
Posted: March 21, 2013 at 5 a.m.
Benton County Daily News

BENTONVILLE — A woman fired last year by NorthWest Arkansas Community College has filed a lawsuit claiming her dismissal was in retaliation for complaints she made about the college.
Susan Gidney had worked as a fixed-assets accountant for five years before she was fired in July. She seeks an unspecified monetary award that would include back pay for lost wages and benefits. She also wants her job back.
The lawsuit names the college; Becky Paneitz, college president; and Wendi Cadle, human resources director, as defendants.
Steven Hinds, a college spokesman, declined to respond to the allegations in the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in federal court in Fayetteville.
“We have turned it over to our attorney and have been advised it is best not to comment while this matter is in litigation,” Hinds said.


College Pay Raises
NorthWest Arkansas Community College gave raises to some classified employees in 2010 despite a memorandum from the state ordering state employee salaries be frozen. Following an extensive review, the state found five raises totaling about $10,000 were invalid. The college’s foundation paid that money back.
An October 2010 letter to college President Becky Paneitz from the state Office of Personnel Management identified Susan Gidney as one of six employees who had received “additional duty pay” which hadn’t been authorized.
The college also granted pay raises totaling $93,000 to six administrative employees in 2011. The raises ranged from $9,939 to $18,379 per person. Paneitz said those raises were needed to keep pay at a competitive level; they also were needed because of administrative restructuring that led to more responsibilities for the six employees.
Source: Staff Report
During the last 15 months of her employment, Gidney sent a series of letters to government officials and the media expressing her concern about newspaper articles that reported several college employees had received raises in violation of a state wage freeze, according to the lawsuit. Gidney also complained about college management practices.
When Gidney applied for a different position at the college last year, she learned in July the job already had been filled. She then obtained all documents related to the job through a Freedom of Information request.
Gidney emailed officials at the state Office of Personnel Management expressing concern the college might not have followed state guidelines in filling the position, according to the lawsuit.
She later told Beverly Hill, a human resources employee at the college, she was considering filing an age discrimination complaint against the college with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“The speech by Plaintiff concerned misconduct of public officials and how to remedy that misconduct and discrimination, as well as public officials’ misconduct in (mis)spending public monies, (mis)managing publicly owned property, and in the education of youth,” according to the lawsuit.
Gidney was fired less than a week after her conversation with Hill, according to the lawsuit.
“The reason given ... was misconduct, in the form of failure to complete required assigned work in a timely manner,” according to the lawsuit.
Supervisors evaluated Gidney’s performance four times during her time as a college employee. She received a rating of “above average” or “exceeds standards” each time.
Gidney is in her mid-50s, said Charles Kester, her attorney. She still lives in Northwest Arkansas.
“She is unemployed and has been looking for work ever since she got fired,” Kester said. “This has ruined her life. She has no job and has no prospects. She’s a middle-aged woman with a very specific skill set.”
Gidney thought she was more qualified for the job she was seeking last year than the person who was hired for it, and that person is younger than her, Kester said.
The retaliation complaint is at the heart of the lawsuit, Kester said.
“Her main concern was she was fired because she was complaining about things of public concern,” he said. “It’s retaliation for her trying to do the muckraking and bring the muck to light.”

Sunday, March 17, 2013

NWACC Bullies and Their Targets

Bullies are often insecure individuals who feel threatened or out of control, and they externalize those feelings in actions toward others – the victim.  Bullies need to make themselves feel more powerful and secure by controlling, manipulating, frightening, and bullying the targeted victim.   Bullies also perceive their victims as being more competent or who seem uncertain by being calm, pleasant, cheerful or tolerant.  Bullies often mistake kindness for weakness.  And assertiveness repels bullies.
In most cases, the bully outranks the target. If the petty tyrant has a supervisor title or above, he/she can make good on the threat of ending somebody's livelihood, such as what is practiced at NWACC with their many wrongfully expelled students enrolled in their allied health programs.  These bullies have the power to expel, punish or misuse the performance appraisal process thereby taking a thoroughly competent student and disassembling him/her with a series of negative evaluations (grades tampering is the most commonly used tactic at NWACC, but they have many more tactics in their hat).  Additionally, NWACC does not address legitimate grievances.  Rather, NWACC retaliates with disciplinary actions, which is against their own policies and procedures.
Competitive environments can serve as petri dishes for such behaviors, say the experts, and bullying is often camouflaged.  It takes a system like NWACC’s hierarchy to allow bullying, otherwise the bullies would be slapped down, confronted, punished or fired.  NWACC’s group dynamics plays an important role in bullying.  It's a mix of personalities within this environment  who either condone the practice and/or inadvertently or explicitly reward it, such as is the case with NWACC’s President, Becky Paneitz, VP Provost, Steven Gates, and Dean of Allied Health Programs, Mary Ross.
In the case of the group bullying situation, the big hammer these bullies have is the withdrawal of social support and validation of the bully victim because the group holds the key to good social validation.  If the group decides to ignore the bully victim and ice him/her out by secretly and connivingly turning as many people as possible against the victim, the victim comes to doubt that he/she is a person.  How very cruel.  This is termed “academic mobbing” for which there is a significant amount of research posted on the internet.
Group dynamics holds some gender variables.  The only significant difference between male and female bullies in terms of tactics is the use of the group.  Women, such as Dean Mary Ross, tend to pit co-workers/classmates against the target, more so than using top-down power strategies more commonly used by male bullies, such as VP Steven Gates.
Regardless of the bully/target relationship, if you're of the mind to lodge a complaint against NWACC, think twice about going up NWACC’s  chain of command to obtain help in your plight.  Bully victims mistake NWACC’s higher ups role and responsibilities to right the wrongs. Victims falsely believe  that the hierarchy is part of the organization's support for victims.  When it's time in a lawsuit to write a defense, the hierarchy is involved on the defense side, not the bully victim’s side.
The consequences of bullying is brutal and often results in a negative impact on a target's health.  Thirty percent of the victimized women get post traumatic stress disorder.  We're talking about a severe war-like wound that changes a person’s life forever.
Advice imparted to bully targets is outlined at length in a book titled “The Bully at Work “, authored by Namie.