Monday, May 13, 2013

Settlement Agreement In Sexual-Harassment Case Points To Dishonesty In The Riley Administration

Melissa George Bowman
The settlement agreement in a sexual-harassment case under the administration of former Alabama Governor Bob Riley contains nonsensical language that strongly hints the governor's office resolved the matter in a dishonest fashion.

Melissa C. George filed the complaint against Riley communications director David Azbell, and it was settled for $53,000 in December 2003, according to a report last week from Bill Britt of Alabama Political Reporter. Britt's investigative piece included a copy of the settlement agreement and related documents, which can be viewed at the end of this post. (Melissa George since has married, and now is Melissa Bowman George; she serves as public relations manager for the Alabama Hospital Association.)

The settlement agreement itself is brief--less than three full pages--and it contains curious language that does not seem to add up. Here are key provisions in the agreement:

* George made a complaint of "harassment and discrimination" against a state employee, Azbell;

* George decided that "the best course of action to secure her professional future" was to leave her state job;

* The Riley administration agreed to "facilitate George's transition to the private sector" by providing a letter of reference from Chief of Staff Toby Roth, placing a copy of the letter in George's state-employee file, providing a re-dated version of the letter to any prospective employer, providing "only favorable and positive references" to any future inquiries regarding George's past employment, and ensuring that George was classified as eligible for re-employment with the state.

* George was allowed to maintain her state retirement account in the same fashion as all other employees who leave state service voluntarily and in good standing.

* George acknowledged that Riley and Roth "did not participate in, and deny any awareness of, the conduct giving rise to" the settlement agreement.

* George retained the services of Bobby Segall, an attorney with the Montgomery firm Copeland Franco Screws & Gill.

What is nonsensical about the settlement agreement? Let's consider what the Riley administration apparently would have us believe:

* Language in the agreement consistently indicates that George was an excellent employee. She was to exit in good standing, with only favorable and positive references, and she was eligible for re-employment with the state. And yet, it was George's idea to leave her position in order to "secure her professional future"?

* Higher ups in the Riley administration were unaware of Azbell's boorish behavior toward George, according to the agreement. And yet, the problem had become severe enough that George hired an attorney?

As a former state employee myself, with almost 20 years of service at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), I know this agreement almost has to include a heavy dose of horse feces, probably inserted at the insistence of the Riley administration.

State employees generally do not bring down mega salaries, but their jobs come with solid benefits that one does not lightly give up. We see no reason to doubt that Melissa George was an outstanding state employee; after all, she started in the press office under Democratic Governor Don Siegelman and was in the process of staying on under Riley. But we see plenty of reason to doubt that it was Ms. George's idea to leave her state position. Why would a state employee--who was good at her job--decide that "the best course of action to secure her professional future" was to quit? Answer: she wouldn't. That idea almost certainly came from the Riley administration. The implication in the settlement agreement is that someone was going to make Melissa George's work life a living hell if she stayed--and her professional future was going to be jeopardized by unjustified negative references. In other words, Bob Riley and Toby Roth bullied Melissa George into quitting a job that she probably enjoyed until David Azbell came along.

Here is another oddity: Riley and Roth could have helped George transition to another state job; any number of departments probably would have been happy to have her. But they wanted to make sure she was forced into the "private sector." Why?

As for the notion that neither Riley nor Roth knew about Ms. George's problems with Azbell . . . I find that highly unlikely. I was the victim of harassment and discrimination from my UAB supervisor, Pam Powell, so I know what the complaint process is like in a state job. I verbally complained to Powell's superior, Dale Turnbough, and filed a formal, written grievance with human resources. I made numerous efforts to resolve the situation internally, as suggested by our employee handbook, long before lawyers entered the picture. I feel certain that Melissa George took a similar course of action, especially since her employee handbook probably read a lot like mine did.

It's certainly possible that Bob Riley, as governor, was not aware of Azbell's behavior toward George. But it's hard to believe that Melissa George went straight to an outside attorney without first trying to resolve the matter internally. And that means Toby Roth, as Azbell's superior, probably knew about the situation--and, like higher ups at UAB in my case, failed to correct it.

We are left with a portrait of an administration that did not take workplace harassment and discrimination seriously. David Azbell's treatment of Melissa George was bad enough. But Bob Riley and Toby Roth made sure she was victimized a second time.


Anonymous said...

When was the Riley administration ever honest, about anything, starting with election theft in 2002?

Anonymous said...

Great reporting, LS. Thanks for digging on this.

legalschnauzer said...

Gotta give Bill Britt credit for all of the digging on this. I was able to piece the settlement agreement and related docs together into one Scribd doc, and I hope that will be easy for readers to follow. But Bill and APR did the real work on this one.

Anonymous said...

Settlement agreements, by their nature, tend to be filled with BS and cover-my-ass language. They almost always include dishonest and untruthful statements. This one is no different from many others I have seen.

Anonymous said...

Surely there was a complaint filed prior to a settlement being reached. I'd love to get my hands on it.

legalschnauzer said...

I would, too. I can only imagine how crass Azbell's behavior must have been.

Anonymous said...

This is classic "blaming the victim" behavior. The Riley admin knew that if Ms. George remained a state employee she eventually would talk with someone about her experience in the governor's office. She should not have been forced to leave her job, and she certainly should not have left her status as a state employee. A classic case of what Republicans actually think of women.

Anonymous said...

Riley thinks the public is stupid enough to believe it was Melissa George's idea to "transfer to the public sector." What a crock. I bet this was Rob Riley's idea. Sounds just like him.

jeffrey spruill said...

It appears that Bobby Segall-- of the Montgomery firm Copeland Franco Screws You & Gill --was working for the Riley administration while poor Miss Melissa George-being naive & completely innocent of how these Machiavellian pols work- was metaphorically bending over.


Acker stated,"I know the people at UAB are anxious about this case.

Anonymous said...

I bet the Riley admin was worried that other victims of harassment might follow Ms. George's lead and step forward. That's why they had to get rid of her, as a form of intimidation for others.

Anonymous said...

For the record, I think Melissa George Bowman is cute. The thought of a greaseball like David Azbell giving her a hard time makes me want to puke. It also makes me want to kick Azbell's ass.

Anonymous said...

Corruption rules, Republicans started the screwing of US, but the Democrats, especially "Liberal" are about as Orwellian as it gets.

It's a common practice, dirty low down predatory games.

Courts learned how to be the best at the developed world's lying, cheating, stealing and all for the owners' that happen to be the Federal Reserve System that is the so called "banks".

The banks do what is done to Siegelman, George, and whatever victim can be preyed upon.

The banks own the so called government USA, and that means any people are gov property.

James Greek said...

anon at 11:08 true that. I don't trust Governor Riley as far as I can throw them. I respected him up until this casino stuff. But then, I lost repsect for him. May one of his skeletons bite his fat ass.

Anonymous said...

How many of yall have seen the Vegas video that Azbell produced while on the Speaker of the House's dime? Wonder if any state money was involved? Mr. Family Values.

Robby Scott Hill said...

According to Muslim tradition, a convert to Islam may choose to take on a name of Islamic significance upon becoming a Muslim. It is also traditional for many Muslim names to contain the geographical origin of the individual appended to it in a byname (This is called ‘nisba’ in Arabic). Many converts with ancestry from either of the Iberian countries (Spain & Portugal), tend to take on the Arabic name for the Iberian peninsula itself: ‘Al Andalus‘ which becomes the byname ‘Al Andalusi’.

In Moorish America, Al-Andalusi will become one of the common names for the mixed race families who will replace the Anglo-Saxon, Christian, neo-Confederates. Alabama even has a town named Andalusia. The future is devoid of Lilly White People & it's been a long time coming. Just ask any Black Dude whose family has survived 400 years of this crap. A fortunate few landed on Plymouth Rock, but for the majority, Plymouth Rock landed on us & Allah, PBUH, knows their suffering. The liberation of Oppressed Peoples will continue & this blog will encourage it.

Unknown said...

Robby Scott Hill, I always enjoy your posts, like Mrs. Schnauzer .. I look to read what you write.

Thank you very much for your eyes on the true past and genuine seeing how reality looks.

You have always fact checked your words. I like that you have introduced the Moors. Moorish PIGMENT is because of being born in a place where the sun demanded the skin to be protected.

I am a visual artist by a professional standard, been actually creating all my life, however, stone carved for no less than forty (40) years.

Carving stone means you go back, all the way, to where it begins.

Nature is not dumb, no, not by any stretch of our 'human' imagination.

Whites are pigment challenged.

In my understanding, the ancient tribes all originated in Syria region, or thereabouts.

That means skin color was in a majority, black, as a 'human species'.

Migrated to the other two Americas, even some floated accidentally to the South of North America in simply dug out logs.

Migrated here to "US" 'AmeriKKa' because the South American Natives spoke of the beauty of the land where volcano eruptions were not a daily occurrence.

Humans looking to safely procreate the species. It's a natural born 'gene'?

How the predatory of our 'human species' got hold of the non predatory?

Well, it does not take an artists' eyes to see how adorable Ms. George is and then know how much trouble she has to have had, from the predatory pigment challenged sub human mud people that are all white.

Unknown said...

The tribes that kept fighting in the "Pirate Cove England" - were from the hills of the Russian Steppes, history books read.

"... Starting with the conquest of Western Xia in northern China and consolidating through numerous campaigns, including against Khwarezmid Empire in Persia, Genghis Khan laid the foundation for an empire that was to leave an indelible mark on world history. Several centuries of Mongol rule across the Eurasian landmass—a period that some refer to as Pax Mongolica—radically altered the demography and geopolitics of these areas. The Mongol Empire ended up ruling, or at least briefly conquering, large parts of modern day China, Mongolia, Russia, Ukraine, Korea, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Moldova, Kuwait, Poland, and Hungary.


It looks like the predatory were indeed the conquerors in the 'European' 'Confederation' construct, that modeled after the Uniting the Central Asian confederations.

The pilgrim tribes that came and conquered the 'North American Natives' - 'white'.

Thus, why Putin who is of Chinese origin 'white' keeps doing his best to keep Europe and Russia together as a 'Confederation' against of course, USA, Israel, et al. AND WHY WHITE RUSSIANS ARE SO DANGEROUS, at least the history of their power is definitely not to be challenged.

Syria is supposedly where the first true discovery of "bones" were excavated, to identify our beginning.

But, who knows, other bones get dug up all the time with the modern sciences.

At least for our reference to how the abomination of mass murdering of humans continues, the path began with of course a single human - Genghis Kahn, for example, who was traumatized and therefore, not exactly 'well balanced'.

George W. Bush, Jr. ["W"], has been put in the category of Kahn, and the other brutal empire conquerors AND "W" did get traumatized - he said he went into Iraq because Saddam Hussein tried to kill his father.

Kahn's father was poisoned and thus, revenge.

"W" has had his revenge, too and USA lost the global war due to his idiocy equal to Kahn's - "W" without the benefits of Kahn's genius.