‘Without cause’

Former employee with Trustee’s Office claims wrongful termination

After taking over the office of Anderson County Interim Trustee on July 1, Myron Iwanski immediately began making personnel and organizational changes to the office of trustee. Included in the changes was the decision to fire a long-time county employee.

The termination of the employee occurred on July 25, and now the former employee is asking County Commission to reinstate her job based on the fact that her employer failed to provide “sufficient evidence” to warrant her dismissal.

Pam Sain—one of two employees Iwanski has terminated since taking office—claims she was fired without cause.

She says Iwanski never indicated to her there was a problem.

“There were no verbal warnings, no write-ups, and no indication there was a problem of any kind,” explained Sain.

Sain was present last Monday during the Nov. 17 County Commission meeting where she requested Commissioners to reinstate her job in the trustee’s office.

Sain worked under the guidance of former trustee Rodney Archer for nine years and said the entire time she worked with Archer they had a good working relationship.

According to Sain, an investigation of her termination by the Tennessee Department of Labor determined that Iwanski had not provided “sufficient evidence” to prove her actions constituted “work-related misconduct.”

Her notice of separation stated only “involuntary separation” and did not specify a cause.

“I feel that I have been treated unjustly,” she said. “At the June 19 County Commission meeting, Iwanski said there would be no major staff changes, that he would keep everybody there who wanted to be there. Within three weeks of taking office as trustee, he fired me.”

Before she received notice that she was going to be fired, she got a phone call on July 24 from former Anderson County Human Resources Director Russell Bearden. Bearden requested she come to the HR department and speak with her.

She did.

“He [Bearden] began to question me. He said I was in ‘a safe zone.’ My previous interactions with Russell [Bearden] had always been pleasant but on July 24 I saw a different side of him. He kept repeating, ‘This is a safe zone. What is going on?’ At one point he even asked me to go out on the courthouse steps and tell Kim [Whitaker] what was going on. I was blindsided. I was confused. I didn’t know what this man was wanting,” related Sain.

The next day, on July 25, Bearden called her back into his office and informed her that Iwanski had asked him to speak with her the previous day.

“Again, I was shocked. I said, ‘Russell, you never told me Myron Iwanski requested the meeting. That was when he told me that Myron had decided to let me go,” she said.

At the Commission meeting Monday, Commissioners received copies of some additional documentation Sain provided and did not make a motion to take action on the matter as of now.

The Courier News contacted Iwanski Monday for comment and received the following response from Iwanski: “This was the only full-time employee terminated in the Trustee’s office since I have been in this position. There was a part-time employee that worked here very briefly that was terminated.”

Iwanski also stated that his department’s policy is not to discuss personnel matters publically and he is directing any additional questions regarding personnel issues to the county’s Human Resources department.

Since taking office on July 1, Iwanski has made, in addition to personnel changes, some organizational changes to the Trustee’s office.

Changes include reorganizing the office staff to three teams and three team leaders; hiring two full-time and one part-time staff to replace the two who left; conducting ongoing “on-the-job” training to ensure employees are cross-trained; the completion of a trustee website; and making changes in how the Trustee’s Office invests its idle funds.

“I am very pleased with the progress we have made in putting a top notch staff in place that is working as a team to provide an efficient and responsive service to the public we serve. We will continue to look for ways to improve our services,” said Iwanski in an email to county officials in September, updating them on the changes that had taken place in the department in the last few months.