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

ex employee (An...

Lets hope the trouble makers that worked for Jon and Marla get a grip on reality and realize they will be doomed, especially Beth Barlett who comes in late, does not turn on her computer and does nothing all day. But Marla always defends her and protects her. Wonder why, maybe they are more than friends. Wonder why neither have married again.

a flocker (Anon...

To cut and paster...Baaa-hhhaaa--haaaa! Ewe r so funny.

re ex employee ...

hey jan boyd, how is arizona treatin ya?? could you be anymore obvious that you are the ex employee...talk about looking like a man??

ex employee (An...

Wow are you way off base. I am not Jan Boyd, I still live and work in Norwalk and I see some of you almost everyday. I have even had conversations with you.

asking the wron...

Instead of calling people names and tattling, it might be nice if employees of this agency DID THEIR JOBS!! Please think of all the clients that you are supposed to serve. No wonder phones are never answered and calls are never returned and deadlines are missed. Enough of the drama. If you don't want to do your job the right way please find another job. Where is your work ethic? Plenty of people need good jobs with benefits and might be willing to actually do the work. This agency has worse problems than I imagined!

employee (Anonymous)

Wow this is getting bad. It does not look good for Nicki and her friends. The commissioners still need to clean house. Just try looking at the people that Marla and Nicki was hanging around with and just flush them and the county would be better off. I have heard all the small talk about what was going on and how they wanted to screw Erich and well they did. As for them I hope you never get a job around the city again.

Ray @ The O.B. ...

As I mentioned to "ex-employee" in a similar thread: the people you mentioned have not been in The Office Bar in several months.

him (Anonymous)

if the allegations are true we will find out--maybe--i am afraid this just shows that this and other agencies, in huron county, are rife with
top bosses that are god-like and worthless--but make a lot of money. i am sure there are good people in these agencies--but they are just the peon workers that have to put up with a****** Bosses and supervisors. look at the gravelle and efhaw cases---
the good old boys are still trying to cover their behinds on those cases.

Jan Boyd (Anonymous)

Duplicate posting, Thank my friend for e-mailing me on the use of my name. Please be assured that I am very happy in my new life. I miss Ohio and the fine people I have met but I get to see my children and grandchildren and that is more important. I feel bad not only for those who have lost their jobs but for the whole department. It is a good place to work with some wonderful people there and it is a shame that it has come to this. Please take a moment a reflect on how all this negative is hurting HCDJFS and the community. Norwalk is a wonderful place to live and to raise your family, this type of name calling a hurtful comments do not help heal. To Marla, Jon and Stacy I wish you well, you are all fighters and will bounce back and do well. For the rest of the Office and Huron county don't reval in the hurt of others, it could be you some day. God Bless all of you.

Lizzie Borden (...

The post of H. Nelson looks like a good assessment on what is going on in the HCJFS. Many of the posters have proved the point of H. Nelson about the factions within the agency. By the sounds of it some with their “horse blinders on” can not handle constructive criticism. One attacked the post by not trying to disprove it but by attacking his /her profession (attorney). By the sounds of it many of the people in the HCJFS will need attorneys before this is all said & done. The poster did not profess to know the details within the agency and was just expressing his / her personal experience dealing with other agencies like it. It is a shame that up until the past 3 years HCJFS seam to be above the fray. Take out a strong leader such as Judy that “had her ducks in line”; stick in a weak leader such as Erich and this is what you get. It is not rocket science, it is basic management principles. HCJFS faltering post-Judy is not a theory but fact! Compare the agency under Judy to the agency today. Look at the governmental benchmarks they are faltering on compared to a few years ago. Getting back to my point Judy was a strong woman who I think ruffled some feathers in county administration (i.e. commissioners). The county had 2 other candidates within the agency who were better qualified than Erich + 2 strong Judy-like candidates from out of the county. The good ol’ boy network did not want “another Judy” (strong female) or a Judy protégé to take the post. So they got this clearly unqualified man to take the position. Someone they THOUGHT could come in, maintain status quo (which at the time was exceptional) and would be a “yes man” (do as he was told). But noooooooo, right from the start he tried to reinvent the wheel” and turned the agency upside down. Tried to fix something that was no broke. Lack of management allowed the natives to get restless and old scores (suppressed under Judy) were being settled. I agree with H. Nelson who looks at Erich as being a victim also to the buzz-saw local politics. He was manipulated by stronger personalities within the agency along with the commissioner putting out his fires as they popped up (in essence enabling his incompetence). The commissioners should have obeyed that old adage of “where there is smoke there is fire”. You have an agency where nobody is taking accountability. I guess Erich resigning is tacitly taking some accountability by bailing when the county agency has faced its greatest crisis in its history. Everyone is finger pointing. Sounds like Iraq with insurgencies popping up wreaking havoc. Instead of killing people as they do in Iraq, they have perfected the art of character assignations. This “cleaning house” is equivalent to ethnic cleansing where given the opportunity personal hatreds are being interjected over common sense. For an agency that purpose is to serve & help people in need are acting like they are the ones that need counseling. Just look at the post coming from people from within the agency. Former employees such as myself are piping up to say YOU ARE EMBARRASSING US AND YOUR FELLOW WORKERS THAT ARE NOT AIRING THEIR “DIRTY LAUNDRY” WITH YOUR BEHAVIOR!!!! Is this a blog thread from a Jr. High chat room? I need to look into buying the rights to this saga and call it “HCJFS Gone Wild”

unknown (Anonymous)

when they hire someone from the outside, what do you think they are doing? They are CLEANING HOUSE! there is more to this story.... Beth is a hottie!

AlterEgo (Anonymous)

Human Services in Huron County has been a joke since at least the 80's Remember Baby Charlie, and the problem with child support has been a constant source of ridicule, and the Efaw thing was approved under his predecessor, so don't make it seem like Dumbeck out to be the source of the problems. This agency is doomed to continued failure as long as the current midset is going on out there. I think someone needs to go in and clean house and re-evaluate the need for every position and evalute the competency of the peopl in those positions. I know there are some good people out there who truly care about their jobs and are very much worth keeping, but those who have to make work to justify their positions need to go.

newshound (Anon...

OK, let me get this straight. Some posters want a good house cleaning at the HCDJFS and are critical of those in positions to carry out the house cleaning. Yet, when a re-organization and evaluation is being put into place and some positions have been done away with (and it appears that more may be coming), the critics continue howling away. Plus, an employee that has total disregard for the rules should have and is fired. Yet the critics continue, some to the point of defending the actions of the fired employee. I don't get it. I'm out.

Re: ex-employee...

geeeeeeeze! you've really got some deep problems, don't you?! if there were pics next to your names yours would certainly be that of a pit bull. (sorry, not to degrade pit bulls or anything...)your teeth would be gnarled and spit dripping out the sides of your mouth...once this is past history, I hope you can find a better chew toy than the people in the article who lost their jobs. gggggrrrrrr-ggggggrrrrrrr

re B Cup (Anonymous)

Is this your bra size or the size of your brain. Maybe it pea brain. Ex employee seems to know what they are talking about. You must be a Jon and Marla clone

AlterEgo (Anonymous)

I am sorry if I gave the impression I was defending Dumbeck. He was definitely not ready to be in charge and he was stupid for cheating with Nicki, I was just trying to point out that HCDJFS is a long running cluster**** and not to blame it on one individual administrator. This has gone on out there for years.......

B'Cup (Anonymous)

no, then I would be an A'Cup. it's short for Buttercup. I hope you know who I am...And I quote YOU..."Maybe it pea brain." Who's the idiot here...com'on. Do you talk like you write? I'm just saying whoever "ex-employee" is has some serious problems that go deeper than "Marla and Jon". "Marla and Jon" are just a release for this person now, but what will happen to that poor sap once this story is water under the bridge? They'll dig into someone else, I'm sure. Ex-employee apparently has nothing better to do than to make nasty comments. If I were any of these fired people I'd go after ex employee for slander. Oh, that's right, too afraid to fess up and give a name. Ex-employee should go look for a job. Maybe Job and Family services can help you. Good Day.

get rid of em' ...

I don't understand why any of them have jobs. ( or what we
call jobs) sitting on your a** all day gossiping to one another, getting paid is just WRONG! and yes all of them
do hang out after work geting wasted, Sorry Ray maybe it isn't at your establishment ( because it's purely BORING...
one more time of yor mother's KAROKE tunes is enough to make anyone PUKE) but try to find them at the Shamrock...
and thank God Lisa "gossip hound" McCoy- Hivnor is no longer working there either. Who needs the Relfector when you can just ask Marcy, Beth, or Sara the town drama..
and are they supposed to be telling outsiders client's personal information?????

I need the Refl...

"Who needs the Relfector when you can just ask Marcy, Beth, or Sara the town drama.. and are they supposed to be telling outsiders client's personal information?????"
I need the Reflector!! The 3 of them don't yet have a free public forum, hosted and instigated by the areas only daily print newsource, which lacks any editoral guidance, whereby providing us with a virtual playground where we can anonymously slander people's character, without registering our name, or even an e-mail address. It's one thing to gossip among freinds in between bad karoke at the Office Bar. It's a whole different level of unbridled excitement to share your maligned and misinformed viewpoint anonymously with the world, while listening to good streaming radio!!

re: get rid of ...

Note to self: correct someone's erroneous facts and earn the right to an unprovoked personal attack. Pleasant.

--Ray @ The O.B.

STICK TO THE TO...

What is wrong with you people?? What is the topic here? Is it the karoke at the OB? No, I think not! And what is your deal, "get rid of 'em"?? You are so hateful! Maybe you could hook up with "ex-employee".(by the sounds of it, ex-employee likes to stalk and watch people, too.) You both sound like stalkers. I TOTALLY agree with "I need the Reflector!!" Well said. I can't even imagine what these people have to endure having lost their jobs, let alone the SLANDER made against them at such a difficult time in their lives. Unprovoked personal attacks on people is uncalled for. Re-read the article. Get on the topic. I don't know any of these people, but I do wish them well. Keep your chin up! Ignore all the hate...move on with your lives.

~Common Folk~ (...

I am a young mother of a beautiful baby . I have been to JFS many of times for appointments and help that I needed this past year.. I would like to say the women that have my cases been super friendly, nice and treated me with respect in such a degrading situation as to ask help because it is hard for me at this time. When I read this page it makes me think how could a few women make it so disturbing for me to think that maybe they are telling my personal business?? Is it really confidental?? I am not proud of the fact that I get foodstamps, or any other kind of government assistance. My childs father is , the only family I have is a sister in Florida that has MS. So where else am I to go? I thought at one time JFS was there to help but im beginning to think its more like a chat building for gossip! I hope for the sake of "US COMMON FOLK NEEDING A LITTLE BOOST IN LIFE" that they get their act together and make people have confidence that they wont spread our business to outside ears!!

bittercup (Anon...

They talk about their cases with outsiders, make fun of people as they leave the office and make degrading remarks about people. Marla, Rhonda, Marcie, Sara and Beth love to put people who are going through tough times down, in public. All I can say people when you walk through the doors of HCDJFS your life is a open book and does go out to people within hearing distance of the local taverns.

re re question ...

the director has the final approval for any job applied for at JFS.

Re: Common Folk...

My child's father is? You didn't finish but obviously not your husband. If you finish high school and don't have kids until married you have a great chance of not needing assistance. I've got 4 kids of my own and I don't see why I should be supporting yours.

re common folk ...

Hey don't judge her, I hope that you never need assistance. Everybody does one time or another, maybe you get yours from family members and she may not have that available. Let me tell you something I was married for a very long time to an abusive husband who would not allow me to work or leave the house without him. I finally got BRAVE and left but I needed help and they were there for me until I was able to do it on my own. Don't judge until you walk in their shoes or maybe you need to look in the mirror.

Re re common fo...

I'm glad you got out of your abusive relationship but my point still stands. Why am I forced to pay for her and her kids? I am in no way responsible yet money is taken from me and given to her. Graduate high school and don't get pregnant until married and you are almost guaranteed an assistance free life.

Common Folk (An...

My daughters father past away when she was only 2 months old from anaplastic thyroid cancer. Im sorry that dealing with his treatments and my pregnancy was more important then planning a wedding. As far as education, I have already attended 2 years and yes did quit for the reasons ive mentioned above. But I will return when the shock of losing my soulmate, father of my child and the stress of raising my child on my own goes away. It amazes me how you can sit and boost your life on to others when you dont walk in others shoes. I never planned to loose my soulmate to such a horrible disease. I never wanted to ask for help. I never asked for you to put judge on me such as not finishing high school and not being married. I would like to tell you congrats on being mother of the year with your 4 children. I would also like to say thank you for helping me at a time of need for my daughter. I would also like to say thank you for making me know I would never want to be a mother like you. What I mean by that is, my child will know if she needs help in any way she can get it because thats what make us human. I think in your mind everyone that receives help that is provide is low-lifes out here. I can re-assure that I am not. I can re-assure you one day soon everything will change for me and again thank you for making me realize mothers like you think they are better then me... are really the ones lower then me.

re common fold ...

Key word in your comment is "Almost". First how do you know this person did not graduate from High School? Second did she ever mentioned she was not married? You assumed a lot, graduating from High School, not having children until your married does not guarantee that you will not need assistance. Look at our economy, people who have college degrees are in need of help. Don't judge les you be judged. Like I said, I hope you never have to go into that office to ask for help. It is the worst feeling in the world. Be thankful you have family that help you when you are going through tough times, not everyone has them. God bless you, you need blessing.

Re re common fo...

Yes, I assumed a lot but if you read the post before yours it seems my assumptions were correct. Many studies have confirmed that the 2 things I've mentioned are predictive of success in life.That's the way it is. Life is hard. We all make mistakes and must pay the consequences. Common folk you have my sympathy on your loss. But it seems you are judging me as well. How do you know I'm not kind and generous? I have hepled many family and friends in need as well as given to many chatities and am also generous with my time. I resent money being taken from me and used for purposes which only serve to encourage more non resposible behavior.

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