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JFS worker canned for porn, threats

Cary Ashby • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:51 PM

A screener with the Huron County Department of Job and Family Services was fired Tuesday for threatening one of the agency's clients and using computer equipment to access pornography.

Nichole "Nicki" Baker had been a screener since March 7, 2005. She was hired as a HCDJFS clerical specialist Jan. 12, 2004.

Baker was fired effective immediately for acting inappropriately toward a client while on the agency's time and making "repeated remarks" and using profanity toward the client, HCDJFS Interim Director Lowell Etzler said. She reportedly used agency telephones to threaten the same woman and violated "common decency" standards by calling the client a vulgar name via text messaging, Etzler said.

Between June 8 and 22, Baker excessively used her Yahoo! e-mail account and used agency computers to access pornography, he continued. Etzler, who became the interim director June 1 to replace Erich Dumbeck, said he didn't have any knowledge of other HCDJFS employees doing similar things.

Baker's job as a screener was to make the initial contact with someone who reports a complaint to the agency, Etzler explained.

"They get the information from the individual and turn it over to a case worker," he added.

Three other HCDJFS employees were told Friday their jobs would be eliminated, effective Aug. 24.

The positions held by assistant program administrator Marla White, eligibility/referral supervisor Jon Kelley and public information officer Stacia Badovick were eliminated due to staff cuts to save about $173,000.

Only one of those people, Kelley, was offered another job to follow cvil services rules and regulations.

"She is exercising her displacement rights," HCDJFS Assistant Director Bonnie Richards said, and has decided to be an eligibility specialist. Kelley could start the case worker position as soon as Aug. 27.

Richards said earlier the agency was "looking at a lot of other avenues before cutting staff." She also had said the three cuts were part of a "reorganization for the entire agency."

Etzler wasn't sure if HCDJFS would hire someone to take over Baker's position.

"We're in the process of doing some reorganization so that (decision) will fall under that," he said.

In January, a Huron County Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) officer dismissed a employment discrimination complaint Baker filed against Dumbeck, the agency's director from May 2004 through June 1 of this year.

The EEO officer concluded that evidence didn't support Baker's "claim of adverse employment decisions." However, she said Dumbeck's conduct during various phone calls and e-mails to two administrative employees was "unwarranted and unwise."

In April, Baker filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit against Dumbeck, HCDJFS and the county commissioners, saying she had been passed over for five promotions because of "Dumbeck's infatuations with her." She accused Dumbeck of making "unwelcome physical contact" by reportedly touching her on the hips, shoulders and back and said he made an "unwelcome advance," all between January and 2004 and January of this year.

Baker and Dumbeck had a personal relationship starting in January 2004, when they were co-workers supervised by different administrators.

"There's nothing going on (now) I know of," Richards said about the lawsuit. "It's still pending."

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