Ousted worker cries foul play Attorney: Firing JFS worker is 'suspect,' symbolizes possible 'smear campaign'

The attorney representing a fired Huron County Department of Job and Family Services employee said the timing looks suspicious. Toledo attorney Marilyn Widman also believes the county is involved in a "smear campaign" against her client. Nichole "Nicki" Baker was fired Tuesday based on allegations she threatened an HCDJFS client, used profanity repeatedly with the same woman and accessed pornography using the agency computer, HCDJFS Interim Director Lowell Etzler said earlier. Baker, a screener since March 7, 2005, was hired as a clerical specialist Jan. 12, 2004.
Cary Ashby
Jul 25, 2010

The attorney representing a fired Huron County Department of Job and Family Services employee said the timing looks suspicious. Toledo attorney Marilyn Widman also believes the county is involved in a "smear campaign" against her client.

Nichole "Nicki" Baker was fired Tuesday based on allegations she threatened an HCDJFS client, used profanity repeatedly with the same woman and accessed pornography using the agency computer, HCDJFS Interim Director Lowell Etzler said earlier. Baker, a screener since March 7, 2005, was hired as a clerical specialist Jan. 12, 2004.

Agency screeners make initial contacts with a complainant, gather information from the person and then turn it over to a case worker.

Widman said "any investigation of the underlying facts will quickly show that the termination is not supported, that the county misused its equipment in setting Ms. Baker up with charges." The attorney explained that HCDJFS officials used printouts of pornography shown on a computer screen during Baker's disciplinary hearing.

The attorney, who wasn't at the meeting, stressed it's difficult to tell if the printouts came from Baker's computer or someone else's.

"Nicki absolutely, positively did not do what she is accused of doing with her computer," Widman said.

Huron County Sheriff's Major Greg Englund said Baker filed a complaint early Wednesday afternoon, accusing someone of tampering with her work computer. Englund had no further information because he hadn't seen the actual report as of this morning.

HCDJFS Assistant Director Bonnie Richards said the chief inspector's office of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services monitored Baker's computer from June 8 through 22. That's the same timeline for the allegations Etzler cited against Baker.

"The printouts came from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services," Richards said.

Widman, Baker's attorney, said her client's deposition in a sexual discrimination lawsuit filed against the county was canceled Monday, the day Baker was to be questioned by attorneys. That is one day before the agency fired her.

"I think the timing of the firing is suspect," Widman said.

In April, Baker filed the lawsuit. She has accused former HCDJFS Director Erich Dumbeck, the agency and county commissioners of passing her over for five promotions because Dumbeck reportedly was infatuated with her. Baker also accused Dumbeck of making "unwelcome physical contact" by reportedly touching her on the hips, shoulders and back and making 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.

Richards said she didn't know why the deposition was canceled, adding: "I have not heard word one about it."

Widman, in an e-mail to the Reflector, said the county is using "the age-old tactic of discrediting an adversary" by firing Baker and three other HCDJFS workers.

"The timing of (Baker's) termination is clearly retaliatory and meant to force Ms. Baker into an economic position where she cannot afford to continue her case against the county," Widman continued. "Shame on them, and how foolish they are to think Ms. Baker will simply fall down in defeat."

Assistant program administrator Marla White, eligibility/referral supervisor Jon Kelley and public information officer Stacia Badovick were told Friday their jobs would be eliminated, effective Aug. 24. Richards has said the positions were cuts were staff cuts done to save about $173,000.

Kelley has decided to take another agency job as an eligibility specialist.

Widman called the three workers hard working, knowledgeable and "loyal to the purpose the agency."

"I think there's definitely an effort by the commissioners and the employees of the department to disempower the employees who are willing to stand up for themselves," the attorney said. "They want sheep and all these women are not sheep. That's why we are proud to represent them.

"The citizens of Huron County should be outraged that their tax money is being spent on this kind of effort," Widman said.

She further cited the Reflector online comments on the recent HCDJFS stories as more evidence of the county's "smear campaign." There were 90 responses to the story about Baker being fired as of this morning.

"I'm not worried about the stories themselves," Widman added.

The attorney said the comments symbolize the "further harm" HCDJFS is trying to inflict on the workers. Richards declined to comment, saying she was unsure of the context.

Comments

joe (Anonymous)

Good job getting a attorney but maybe you should think about what you have done. You got nailed and you again are crying. How many times do you want to try to get money out of the county for what you have done. You should of tried just doing your job and then going home and not looking for a way to make fast cash off the county. As for your attorney maybe she should look at your past. Nicki just be honest with everyone and lets get rid of you like the job and family services did.

again (Anonymous)

what's up with nikki's past???

Some of you are...

People? I ask you...Is it not possible for a nice woman who might be easy on the eyes, to just get a good job, work and support herself or a possible family? I have known so many intelligent nice looking and average women who lose out on their good careers because some stupid bone headded nucklehead boss or other employee man, can't leave the women alone. Here is a classic example of some dipstick sex crazed man, who can't keep it in his shorts, causing problems for many a young woman who just want to be a good employee, be work related friendly, do her job to the best of her ability, so she can advance in her career just like any man would, go home nightly after a long and nerve racking day, and live a nice quality, good income life without all this grief? Is this too much to ask? If this lady was sitting at work looking at these naked sites all day, I am positive she would'nt be able to do any searching let alone looking at these sites, without all her fellow workers and bosses in and out all day long watching her every move. I think this is all a big farce! A big coverup has been going on since this man took it upon himself to cause all this trouble to begin with. After this office screw up that he performed, and the lawsuit began, I am sure the company needed to stop the lawsuit somehow and so the big wigs from this company had been told by their pinhead attorneys, to cause a big diversion and make this poor woman, and many others who believed she was telling the truth, look like gypsies, tramps and thieves. Somehow they had to try to stop this lawsuit. Pretty lame there folks! Let's put the focus on the real culprit here......Mr. hot pants where are you now? Hey buddy, don't you have a wife at home? Shouldn't you put your attentions toward her?

Re some of you ...

Um, this was not a sex crazed man who forced himself on a woman. It was a man and woman who both were into each other, and they carried on their affair for over a year. She was as much at fault as he was, she knew he was married and I persoanlly think she liked it that way.

ex employee (An...

No I did not work in the Admin department, I worked in the same department that Nikki did and when you work closely with someone day after day you know when they are there and when they are not. As far as sex crazed man, it take two to have an affair, they are both at fault.

Re:Re: some of ...

Married men are just that....MARRIED!!! Most of them have a good woman at home waiting for them. She loves and cares for him and maybe their offspring, and he is legally attached to her by not only a marriage certificate, but emotionally also. Does he not care that he is hurting the one important woman in his life he chose to be married to, by screwing around with a woman who is not his wife? Does he not know or give a rats bass, that he making this woman he is married to feel like she is dying inside watching him give his attentions to someone else? Watching him make a complete jerk out of himself and embarrassing her in front of her friends and family? What kind of man would do this kind of thing? If a man is married.....STAY WITH HIS WIFE! And for Pete's sake, Keep it in your drawers Buddy! You ain't that great and what do you, have to offer a single woman anyways? SECURITY? Hah, Hah, Dream On! Let some nice single man, see the nice single lady. If you aint happy being married Bud, I am sure a nice attorney would be happy to assist you. I am sure you too can be a single sort of fella again. You aint no rock star!

RE: My 2 Cents ...

You are indeed correct. Continuously mismanaged County Departments, and the inept leadership of those departments, are the responsibility of the County Commissioners. They are accountable for every lawsuit awarded, and every dollar spent in litigation or defense, of management that they put in place, and support. Theses commissoners were: Mike Adelman, Terry Boose and Ardeth Chupp. Current Commissoners Adelman, Fegley and Bauer said in January of this year that "they are satisfied with Dumbeck's growth into his job." One indeed wonders how this three ring circus could have gone on for so long, with so many apparently in the know. It does indeed make one wonder how every other County Department is run. How could County officals know about this mans affair, and have him in charge of placing children? How could they have known of his affair, the pending internal complaints with respect to sexual harassment, and his ineptitude with respect to the Paul Efaw? Then the whole caged kid " we didn't know anything..." debacle. Indeed makes one wonder what must be going on everywhere else. That said, the taxpayers certainly could use some objective journalism in this town. The type that asks pertinent questions, and holds publicly elected officals accountable to their constituents. A paper that serves its community. Unfortunately, no such resouce exists in Norwalk.

Jasper Jacks (A...

I don't know about all this screwing around going on at HCJFS but let's focus. We've got people drinking beer after softball games and 16 year olds passing for 21 at Charlie's.Let's take care of the important stuff first.

Previous Reflec...

" Quotes from the April 11th Reflector: The commissioners will discuss how to proceed in hiring a new director. They also have other fish to fry at HCDJFS: "The board is very aware of an element, a very small element, at job and family services that seemingly takes great pleasure at causing problems, not only for the administration but for other people who work out there as well," Adelman said. "We will get to the bottom of that." He declined to elaborate further on the situation at this time. It would appear, he is indeed getting to the bottom of that! "

Hey Cary Ashby!...

Perhaps the story should be on the County Commissioners, Are they not appointing and supporting the many directors we had there in the past 3 years. Are they not named in the many lawsuits. Will they not sign the settlement checks? This really appears to be a management problem and the buck stops with them. There elected to look out for us and our best interest and I for one feel they failed us. That whole management team needs overhauled out there at Job and Family Services. You can't keep promoting from within you just moving the cancer around. If you plate's are to full I'd rather see you hire a outside consultant than continue to pay out hundred's of thousand's in lawsuit's. There no harm in admitting defeat, fix the problem and move on. I'd rather my tax money be spent to fix the problem and avoid more lawsuits than paying out hundred's of thousand's of our tax dollars that could be spent elsewhere in the county.

Qustion?? (Anon...

I have some question's that maybe someone on here can answer. How many people work out there in that office? Is it mostly women? Is there work load so light that they can sit around and trash talk each other? What is it that they do out there exactly? Needless to say I never used there services

ex employee (An...

I always wondered what Erich saw in Nikki, she has bad hygeine, does not wash her hands after she goes to the bathroom and always looks dirty.

Sara, Marcy, Beth, Rhonda all need watch themselves now they won't have Jon and Marla to protect them and allow their 30 minute breaks and Beth may have to actually work.

Maybe they can still all meet at the Office Bar and cry in their beer

re: ex employee...

Beth is a hottie!!!!She needs transfered into a much more visible position with the county! Thats tax dollars well spent!

re ex employee ...

you're as classy as erich dumbeck!!!

Sam McCall (Ano...

Look, they're all adults. It is bad form to mix business with pleasure but it happens.I've slept with Jason,Sonny,Ric and many others(if they had enough $). Pretty soon I'll be with Lucky too. I only hope I don't get trashed on here for being a liberated woman.

Sonny Corinthos...

Some guys like women who "look dirty".

asking the wron...

Not one person has commented on the real services this agency should be providing to our community. I have never encountered a more disorganized agency- an agency that is rude to the clients that it should be serving. They have timelines that should be met, but aren't. They know that the people they should be helping don't have the resources to fight them and this is why this behavior continues. I find it ironic that the only person that ever kindly assisted my family at this agency is the one who is being fired for inappropriate work behavior! This agency is a mess. They are not doing the job that they should be doing.

Ric Lansing (An...

Right on Sonny. And the drunker the better.

Sunshine on a r...

Well, I see we once again arrive here with the bashing and the judging when the whole truth is not known.
Nicki and Erich were both at fault. They are both trying to move on and get on with life. At least they are both trying too. So glad that they don't have to worry about the stupid people who sit here and actually put time into it!
Good luck in your pursuit of fairness Nicki! And I commend Erich for trying to support his family no matter what it is he is doing to get by!
As for Nicki's lawyer; I think that she is very professional and I can't see what she has in store for Huron County next! Let her do her job and expose just what is really going on with Huron County employees/commissioners! I am curious to see if they aren't the next ones to go!

Logan (Anonymous)

I was just hired to do security work for a coffee inporter so there are jobs to be found. I did not need nor would I use the services of a "job store."

asking the wron...

Job and Family Services is not simply a "job store". They are involved in child support collection, medical insurance for the otherwise uninsured, cash and foodstamp assistance for those who are in need, and child protective services. This agency has a big job to do in this county during a time when things are not the best they could be. My point is that this agency needs to be doing a much better job than it has been doing. All of the other things going on out there need to stop and this agency needs to simply do its job and do it well.

newshound (Anon...

I find some critics on this site almost commical. Following the stories in this newspaper.. the former director of HCDJFS resigned (probably suggested to do so) and was replaced by someone from the OUTSIDE who was directed to evaluate the agency and make staff reductions to be more efficient and reduce expeditures. Seems that that process has begun. The current director in turn has hired a new administrator from the OUTSIDE who starts in Sept for Children's Services. I'm under the impression that these moves were run past and given approval by the commissioners. The current director also has the stones to call out an employee that trashing a client seeking help at HCDJFS and then uses a county computer to view trashing web sites and should and does fire her. I'd say some things have been and will continue to be straightened out. Keep up the good work and keep going guys! p.s. I haven't read were one dime has been paid on the lawsuite some keep harping on.

H. Nelson (Anon...

Bring the State investigators and let the chips fall as they may.

Being a HR attorney that use to work in the public sector, most of my time was involved with dealing with the political turf battles within the department. It was an atmosphere of “dog eat dog”, ALWAYS watching your back, continually shifting alliances. Not knowing the gritty details, it is pretty obvious that this is what is going on here within this agency. Add a few big scandals then you have everyone “looking out for #1” (themselves).To add to this is an obvious lack of leadership in the county (i.e. commissioners). Observing the timeline since the new director was appointed (Erich Dumbaugh), it was apparent that there were problems from the start. Now I do not know Erich and this is not to criticize him because I think he is a victim in a way and was set up to fail. The finger should be pointed at the commissioners. You had an agency that was left at the top of its game, agencies around the COUNTRY (not just state) picked up “best practices” prom the HCJFS only to have it fall in disarray due to the commissioners putting too much faith in their appointee that was way over his head. Erich’s inexperience, immaturity, lack of political awareness should have been apparent to at least one of the commissioners if not all. I know being a county commissioner is a very challenging job and they should not have to be too involved with day to day management of the HCJFS. BUT they hired him knowing his abilities, limitations and should be accountable for EVERYTHING that is going on in the agency. So far there is a lot of finger pointing and ‘scapegoats” with nobody standing up and taking the blame. In that case they should have micro-managed him.

Re: the way the employees were dismissed – This is a text book case of how NOT to handle HR problems. In law school case scenarios this would be one of these highly unlikely, far out homework text book problems (next to defending Gandhi for “Jaywalking”) on how to handle problem employees while there is a pending lawsuit. Not being privy to the county’s case against Ms Baker, there are some glaring questions that should expose some embarrassing management policies in the agency. One that comes to mind is that web access should not be only monitored but filtered. Every governmental agency I have dealt with had a basic filter that prevented employees from accessing common sites used for checking web based emails with YAHOO being a standard url blocked built into the program. So is Ms Baker the only one in the agency using Yahoo on taxpayer time? The general allegation seems suspicious and on the surface does appear to be borderline conspiratorial if many were involved in setting up the conditions for her dismissal . If I had a pending lawsuit against my employer, I would be walking on egg shells knowing that any misstep would be used to discredit me. It is hard to believe Ms. Baker would be that stupid to do such a thing. I would find it hard to believe she could be spending that much time viewing thousands of p*rn websites and doing her job. I hope she exercises her rights to get records from the Yahoo corp. to compare with the time frame the county must have of Ms Baker use of their site. Then compare that with Ms Bakers time card (I am not sure if they have punch in time cards). That would be a quick check on who is telling the truth.

Bring in an outside investigator to clean up HCJFS because local politics may prevent a county prosecutor from “biting the hand that feeds him” (bring charges against the county) It is not fair that all the employees of that agency are being tainted by politics. It takes a big heart and commitment to be a public servant. I am tired of reading about Huron County in National & International Newspapers for the wrong reasons.

re nelson (Anon...

wow, there is at least one person in this county that has some sense. thank you!!!

re: H. Nelson (...

As a former employee of HSDJFS I can't tell you how far off base you are in your assessment of the agency. There were problems. Lots of problems. In fact the agency was a house of cards that was ready to fall, and now to a certain degree it has. The director at that time wanted no conflicts or appearances that anything could possibly be wrong. So some administrators were allowed to clean things up in their departments their own way. Through threats and intimidation. In one respect I was glad to be able to retire and get out, but have felt bad that the many good employees have inherited a pile of crap to deal with and have to still deal with a few employees that helped pile up the crap. So, unless you know the whole story, and judging from your post you don't, I can do without your "I've got all the answers" attorneys attitude.

karma (Anonymous)

Bonnie Richards, her side kick Lenora Minor, Amy Leibold, Lowell Etzler, Erich Dumbeck and any of the other evil trouble makers at JFS will get what's coming to them. They've had it out for Marla, Jon and Nicki and others since Erich resigned. Don't you worry though....once this starts coming out so will karma and we'll see who's let jobless!!!!!

re: karma (Anon...

Look into your cyrstal ball.. those that deserved it, already got what was coming to them.

re re karma (An...

I looked and they are next....including you!!! lol

Another Cut And...

Marilyn Widman, attorney representing Nichole "Nicki" Baker said the printout pornography looks suspicious. "The printouts are not loyal to the typical pornography viewed at the agency." "They want women and all these pornography printouts are of sheep." She believes the county is involved in a "smear campaign" against her clients hips, shoulders and back, based upon her superiors infatuation with her sheepish good looks. Nichole "Nicki" Baker was fired Tuesday based on allegations she sought to disempowered Erich Dumbeck, who appears infatuated with sheep and foolish physical contact. Richards said she didn't know why the agency computers accessed pornography of sheep and not women." Sheep are not women, that's why we are proud to smear them. They will simply fall down in defeat." Widman added, "The citizens of Huron County should be outraged that their tax money is being spent on this kind of sheep pornography." Showing that thus far county commissioners had unknowingly spent nearly $173,000 on sheep related pornography. Richards said: "I have not heard word one about it." The attorney said the pornographic printouts symbolize the "further harm" HCDJFS is trying to inflict on sheep. Richards declined to comment, saying she was unsure of the context of the fallen sheep, and unaware of whether or not the physical contact depicted was in fact unwanted. "Shame on these foolish sheep that simply fall down in defeat to unwelcome advances."

laughing (Anonymous)

that's hilarous

Pages