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Monday, July 21, 2008

Was I Fired Because of Politics? You Make the Call

We have UAB's two spinmeisters making public statements that my termination had nothing to do with blogging or politics.

Do Dale Turnbough and Gary Mans know what they are talking about?

Well, let's just say we have some evidence that begs to differ with the UAB spin machine.

This evidence comes from Anita Bonasera, director of employee relations at UAB. Bonasera conducted the May 7 meeting at which I was placed on administrative leave (before being fired on May 19).

At the close of the May 7 meeting, Bonasera asked for my employee badge and office key, told me I was not to report to work until further notice, and that I would not be allowed to return to my desk to gather my personal belongings. You might say I now know what it is like to be treated like a criminal. (By the way, more than two months later, UAB still has a number of my personal belongings--even though I have repeatedly asked for their return.)

Since that May 7 meeting, a UAB employee grievance committee has found that I never should have been terminated. I sat through the entire grievance hearing, and saw that not one shred of documentation was presented to support my termination, the administrative leave, or any other form of discipline.

In short, UAB's own committee found that the university screwed up royally. But I'm still waiting for an apology from Bonasera for seeing to it that I was treated like a criminal. I'm also still waiting to be reinstated to the job I never should have had stolen from me--and to have my personnel file cleared of bogus written warnings that never should have been there.

So far, UAB Human Resources Director Cheryl Locke has insisted that I can only return to UAB with two written warnings in my file and if I accept a position other than the one I used to hold. I've refused those conditions for reasons I cited here, so I expect to receive written notice in the mail any day that Locke is going to uphold a termination that her own committee found was wrongful.

But let's return to the subject of Bonasera. Before making sure I was treated like a criminal, she told me that I could file a written response to the administrative leave letter from my supervisor, Pam Powell. (The same Pam Powell against whom I had a pending grievance at the time I was placed on leave. UAB policy says an employee cannot be penalized for filing a grievance. But I was fired after filing a grievance. Policy, schmolicy.)

Powell's letter was so vague, and the issues raised verbally in the meeting had been so off-the-wall, that I needed to call Bonasera to ask her several questions regarding my response.

For one thing, I wanted to ask Bonasera for an extension of time to prepare the response. One of the most baffling charges in the meeting had been that I had engaged in excessive "non-work related activity" (NWR) on my work computer. I had never heard of the term NWR while at UAB and had never seen it defined in UAB policy. Also, I had no idea who made the determination that something was or was not NWR. (Bonasera informed me that Pam Powell made that determination, the same Pam Powell against whom I had a pending grievance. How's that for objectivity?)

For some reason, I thought it might be helpful to explain the nature of my job to Bonasera, to show that what Powell was suddenly calling NWR actually was activity that was part of my job requirements (as outlined numerous times over the years by Powell herself).

I thought it might be helpful to tape record my conversation with Bonasera. After sitting through the administrative-leave meeting, with its Alice in Wonderland qualities, I wanted to make sure I had a record of the charges being leveled against me. Seeing as how UAB had not given me a written description of these charges, I thought I had better get a tape recorded version of them myself. (By the way, it is legal in Alabama to tape record a phone conversation, as long as one party knows about it.)

Following is a roughly three-minute segment of my conversation with Anita Bonasera. It leaves little doubt about what was actually behind the process that led to my termination at UAB. The key statements from Bonasera--regarding the role blogging and Don Siegelman played in the investigation of my computer usage--start at about the 1:50 mark.

You can listen to the audio here:

Audio: UAB and the Cost of Blogging About the Siegelman Case

Do UAB's high-paid PR flacks have a clue about what really happened in my case? Or are they just "expert" liars? Did my termination really have anything to do with work performance? Or was it a political "career assassination," driven by right-wingers who were uncomfortable with the truths presented on this blog?

You make the call.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Word of the recording must have some of the goons spending some sleepless nights. Smart move.

Brandon said...

I would love to interview you for my blog.

Anonymous said...

This story is representative of the very long list of reasons I am no longer a republican. They are dishonest, untrustworthy, dirty tricksters that like to perform their crimes behind skirts, children, churches while sporting a veiled swastika

Anonymous said...

I feel terrible for you to have lost your job over these scum. By some force of goodness I hope good things come your way in return for your bravery and integrity.