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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Notes From SchnauzerLand

My Termination Lands on UAB President's Desk
UAB President Carol Garrison, Ph.D., now has my termination resting firmly in her lap.

As we reported yesterday, UAB human resources director Cheryl Locke had decided to uphold my termination even though her own employee grievance committee recommended that I be reinstated. Under UAB policy, I had five working days from receipt of Locke's letter to appeal her decision to Garrison. I hand-delivered my notice of appeal to Garrison's office last Friday morning.

A couple of interesting thoughts come to mind while we await Garrison's ruling. As we reported several days ago, Garrison already has issued a public statement in response to folks who had contacted her with concerns about what had happened in my case. Gary Mans, UAB's public-relations director, even posted the statement as a comment at The Chronicle of Higher Education Web site. Garrison's statement says my termination was based solely on my work performance, even though her own grievance committee has found I never should have been terminated at all. The statement from Garrison indicates she already has made up her mind on the subject, so one must wonder what kind of objective hearing I am going to get.

Bobby Barnes, of UAB Employee Relations, explained the appeals process to me--and in so doing, he made a revealing comment. He said that President Garrison "would meet with her lawyers" to consider my appeal. That seemed to be a strange way to put it. Why would Garrison need to consult lawyers about whether something was right or wrong--especially when her own committee already has determined that my termination was wrongful? Sounds like UAB is more concerned about its possible legal exposure than it is with doing the right thing.

Raw Story Is in the Running for a Big Honor
Congratulations to our friends at Raw Story for being nominated for an investigative-reporting award by the Online News Association. Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane are nominated for their series "The Permanent Republican Majority," which details the political prosecutions of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and Mississippi attorney Paul Minor (along with two former state judges).

The finalists in each category can be viewed here, and Raw Story clearly is keeping some impressive company. This nomination is richly deserved, and here's hoping the Raw Story folks come out on top when the winners are announced on September 13 in Washington, D.C.

What's With the Human Resources Game Anyway?
I've worked in professional environments for 30 years now, and until recently, I've never had much interaction with folks in human resources. Other than filling out the occasional form or asking the occasional question, I've left the HR types alone and they've left me alone. Most of the folks I had encountered in the HR field seemed like gem-dandy people.

So I've been more than a little perplexed at what I've experienced from UAB's HR mechanism over the past three months or so. They screwed up by putting me on administrative leave, they screwed up by firing me, they screwed up my benefits, they still have a number of my personal belongings after they refused to let me gather my own stuff, they've allowed the president of the university to make false public statements that contradict what HR itself has determined, they've issued written statements that are nonsensical at best.

I would be interested to hear from readers who either work in HR or have had extensive experience with HR departments. Is this how the profession is supposed to work? And what about Cheryl Locke, UAB's HR director, rejecting the recommendation of her own grievance committee and making proposals that clearly are designed to get me to return to work only to be fired again a few months down the road for some trumped-up third written warning.

Does the profession have some sort of ethical standards, and is Locke acting within them? What do other HR professionals think of a director who handles a situation the way mine has been handled?

Bill Moyers Shines Light on Abramoff Sleaze
I strongly urge Legal Schnauzer readers to check out the latest installment of Bill Moyers Journal from PBS. Moyers' "Capitol Crimes" series provides an in-depth look at the crimes of disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The Abramoff piece ran last Friday in many locations, but it is available online at the Bill Moyers Journal Web site.

Moyers focused on national aspects of the story, but the Abramoff case hits close to home here in Alabama. Moyers notes Abramoff's close association with Michael Scanlon, former aide to Alabama Governor Bob Riley. And he reports on the millions of dollars Abramoff and Scanlon squeezed out of the Mississippi Choctaws in an apparent effort to help the tribe avoid taxes on gambling proceeds.

Of course, it has been reported that a nice chunk of that money wound up in Alabama to help Riley "defeat" Democrat Don Siegelman in a 2002 gubernatorial race marked by Baldwin County vote totals changing in the middle of the night.

New Investigative Blog Makes Its Debut
Some good news on the investigative-journalism front. The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) has launched a new investigative blog called PaperTrail. CPI is known for doing some outstanding work, and this should be a welcome addition to the blogosphere. You can check out PaperTrail here.

My only concern is that the CyberJournalist story about PaperTrail says it is the "hard-hitting,
investigative blog Washington is missing." I hope that doesn't mean CPI intends to make PaperTrail a "beltway blog." Investigative reporting is sorely needed all over the country, not just in Washington.

Response From Tainted Prosecutors
Glynn Wilson, from Locust Fork World News and Journal, has a strong piece about the government's response to appeals in the Don Siegelman/Richard Scrushy case.

The government's brief is impressive for its girth, 170 pages. But Siegelman attorney Vince Kilborn says his client's primary contention--that the prosecution failed to prove an explicit quid pro quo as required by federal law--remains on solid ground.

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