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

From Perspectiv...

The quoted text I provided from the Morning Journal provides a bit more insight and factual journalistic reporting into the matter at hand. I thought some readers might appreciate the "whole" story, and it's proper context. You may now draw your own informed conclusions.

Re; Interesting...

Thats my point. We've thus far only heard one side of the story via the "local" newspaper, and its been nothing more than sensationalized headlines followed by quotes from local officals. No questions, no background, no context.

seems to me (An...

It seems to me that she must have been interested in him to have an affair before he was director. Maybe she was not after and advances were made. We may never know the real truth but then again that is a personal matter and it should be kept so. I don't think this case should be tried in the newspaper. It make all look bad and ruins reputations. Both have a lot to lose. Shame isn't it, all for a few moments of pleasure.

Perspective (An...

In fairness to the Reflector, Matt Hutton did a nice job on 4/18/07: The complaint contends Baker made attempts to remedy the situation in 2004, contacting her union and Richards about the situation. The union did not file a grievance or take another action, and the complaint claims Richards "told (Baker) she was responsible for Defendant Dumbeck's conduct and that (Baker) was 'flattered' to have attention from a powerful man." Following those attempts, the complaint maintains two anonymous letters were sent to the commissioners later that year stating Dumbeck was "'having an affair with an employee of this agency' and that the affair 'had not been discrete and is causing many problems.'" Baker said the unwanted behavior continued and, after her fifth failure to obtain a promotion in October 2006, she filed a formal complaint of sexual harassment and hostile work environment with the Huron County Commissioners. The board assigned its EEO Officer Lynn Chapin to investigate the claim. Chapin found that the decisions to not promote Baker were not related to her relationship with Dumbeck, though Chapin did find that Dumbeck was contacting Baker in a manner Baker found unneeded and undesired.

Question (Anonymous)

Was Dumbeck the person dening Baker the advancement? It appears not, then the only complaint must be sexual harrassment. That is something that can not be tolerated. I wonder why the union and Bonnie Richards, the Human Resources Manager for the office did not do an internal investigation? I would have thought that would have been done immediately. Questions are now raised on the ethical behavior of the HR manager and the Union.

RE: Question (A...

Good points. It appears all levels of management at HCDJFS, their employees union representation,(Richards "told Baker she was responsible for Defendant Dumbeck's conduct) and ultimately, the county commissioners, deserve a great deal of criticism. One of Bakers attorney's contentions is that he WAS, at the very least, a part of the deccission making process in her promotions.

Wondering (Anon...

There are no dates for when their affair started or became unmanted by Baker. In fact looking at this it appears there was no affair,just the director constantly "hitting" on her. My only question would be if he was so "hot" for her why would he deny her the promotions? And why would she continue the affair after he had denied her the promotion 5 times?

beer thirty (An...

you could go back to your beer and drugs, or you could just go to wwII

re: wondering (...

Ms. Chapin's interview notes contain an admission by Mr. Dumbeck that there was "sexual contact" between himself and Ms. Baker but nothing more specific.

Re:re: wonderin...

If he was having "sexual contact" and wanted it to continue,wouldn't he have promoted her? And when did the contact become unwanted? After the 1st,2nd,3rd,4th or 5th time she was denied promotion? Did he use his position to force her into it,contrary to the EEO report? I guess it will all come out in court;it doesn't look like this is going away.

dirt mcgurt (An...

There may be some sexual contact at wwII but it will not be unwanted.

AlterEgo (Anonymous)

Ok, what the heck is wwII?

real-life (Anon...

folks-time to change the subject.if you are upset about the animal abuse at what the football player vic did,please take action!log onto www.Peta.org &send an e-mail out to Mr.Roger Goodell at the NFL.please these animals that are still alive need a voice! please do this for all the animals! thank-you!

AlterEgo (Anonymous)

If you truly care about animals then you would not mention PETA. This si a rougue organization that would rather poison dogs themselves than to see them in Dog Shows such as the Westminster Kennel Club shows. If you truly gave a crap about the animals you would consider working with the ASPCA, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,

what this is ab...

I don't feel sorry for someone who has an affair with a married man. Apparently she got a promotion while they were having the affair and now that it is over she thinks she is still entitled to benefits. How do we know that she was not dangling the affair over his head for promotions.

Swiss Family......

you know it is very possible that the reason that she did not get the promotions that she felt that she was entitled to , was because of her behavior ... maybe , because she used such bad judgement in having an affair with a married man , was the exact reason that the higher ups felt that she would not use proper judgement in the duties that the position would require , and i whole heartedly agree ... i think she displayed very poor judgement in her affair with a married man , as well as he did too, and if that is how she demonstrates her judgement , i feel that she is not qualified for any promotion...

re: Swiss Famil...

Yet he, a married man, having an affair with a subordinate, is not demonstrating the same bad/inappropriate behavior? Behavior that is on record via internal investigations and complaints. He is then rewarded with the job of protecting the welfare of neglected children in Huron County? Help me understand this logic......

re swiss family...

She did not work directly for him when they had the affair. I think all of us at one time or another has made a mistake and suffered for it. None of us sit at the right hand of God, we did not die on the cross and was it not Him who said he who is without sin cast the first stone. Pray you never do something that gets you in the paper and now a days it does not take much to get there.

Just For The Re...

Common Pleas Court records indicate that Nichole Baker was hired at the department as a file clerk in January 2004 and worked under Dumbeck's supervision until he was promoted to director in April, 2004. In November 2006, the county's equal employment opportunity officer concluded ''evidence did not support claim of adverse employment decisions'' although evidence ''does indicate that the alleged Offender (Defendant Dumbeck) continues to contact complaining party (Baker) in a manner perceived by her as unneeded and undesired.

re Swiss Famil...

You are right, if something illegal was done, it will be handled by the court. Moral issues are handled by a higher source. I hope the peoplr who are quick to judge go to church on Sunday and as the minister about they way they have judged these two people. Remember there are more than two hurting here, Erich has a wife and small children, family members and Nicki has a son and family. How do you think they are feeling right now. Would you take you nasty thoughts and air them at the inocent people who are also affected by this?

Just for the re...

The key words are alledged Offender. Do we know if she is just a woman scorned because he called off the affair. She was turned down for promotions based on her abilites and her absentitism. If you have worked for the County for 3 years you should have time built up, she was always in the minus column. That is not a promotable person, they want people they can rely on.

is Dumballs (A...

the father of her son?? It takes to to tango!!! she knew exactly what she was doing, she more than likely planned a lawsuit far in advance. She ruined her OWN reputation long ago.

re is duballs (...

No Erich is not the father of her son.

amazing (Anonymous)

you all assume you know what the heck you're talking about!!! you watch closely and all will be revealed....it's gunna be a shocker!!! and by the way heck no he's not her son's father!!! don't drag an innocent child into this now!!!!!!!!!!!

Why (Anonymous)

Why are you people so mean to her. He was/is married with children. I'm pretty sure he knew that when he got into the affair. I don't think she forced him.

swiss family .....

i am amazed at the way some people have attacted my opinion .. i have stated that BOTH of them were wrong in their judgement on having their affair ... if they want to cheat on their spouse , that's their business , and they will be held accountable to someone much greater than myself , when that time comes ! But , for them to have an affair with each other , and then to be shocked that they were passed up for their promotions , and ultimately "let go" is a hypocracy... your advancement is contigent on the abilities that you display on a daily basis .. and using poor judgement , is not a quality that is generally rewarded !!.. also some are talking and sympathetic with Erich's wife and children !! well i do feel badly for them for being embarassed by their father , and husband .. but it is hard for me to include them into this equation at this time , when Erich himself , left them out of the mix when he was making his own choices

re amazing and ...

Were you in bed with them, you don't know for sure what is fact and what isn't. Why is it always the mans fault, I think they both went into the afair with their eyes wide open.

Re:re amazing a...

It seems to me everyone is blaming her, and letting him off scott free.

It takes two and he for sure knew that he had a wife and children. Maybe that is why it some think he is more to blame. After all he was the one cheating.

re amazing and ...

She was also committed to someone during that period, he was working in Michigan at the time. She cheated on him.

Menopausal HCJF...

It is embarrassing when stereotypes are reinforced. My fellow female workers of the HCJFS are doing just that. The fact that the majority of the post in this thread reinforces the notions that: woman can not work together; need a strong man (which Erich was not) to keep them in line or all h*ll breaks loose; smile in your face then back stab you; arguing over petty issues while the big ones fall by the wayside. You are embarrassing me!!

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