Commissioners blame HR in Parks and Rec grievances

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July 19, 2006

Augusta Recreation and Parks employees sat down with city leaders today.

After claims of discrimination and harassment in the department, the workers opened up about their problems.

The employees did not hold back.

After years of filing grievances, they say they've been waiting for the opportunity to be heard.

They blame their department head...while commissioners are coming down on another department.

"I don't understand it," said 25-year employee Melinda Moody. "You all have the authority to tell him it's not going to be tolerated."

"It feels like harassment and retaliation," says 17-year employee Patricia Stracksoch.

As a part of an ongoing investigation, a committee from the Augusta Commission wanted to hear from workers who've filed grievances alleging discrimination and harassment by department head Tom Beck.

So far, city leaders say some of the employees' claims seem valid.

"It appears there are some improper hiring practices, it appears there are some improper promotional practices," said commissioner Calvin Holland.

Moody told the committee that when Beck took over Parks and Rec., he immediately tried to fire her. She says she's been threatened and says that she was told that even though she was nominated, she should forget about ever receiving Employee of the Month.

"Mr. Beck looked at me and asked, 'Are you a big girl? You a big girl Melinda, get over it. You'll never get it as long as I'm here. It ain't going to happen.'"

News 12 spoke with Beck about the allegations.

"Those allegations, as far as I'm concerned, are completely unfounded," he said.

But when employee Stan Brown showed the board nearly a dozen grievances he filed over a two-year period that were never responded to or investigated, the blame quickly turned to the Human Resources department.

"It appears the HR has not done their job," Holland said. "They dropped the ball on this one."

HR could not tell commissioners if they still had Mr. Brown's grievances on file, or what happened to them...leaving commissioners even more upset.

"I'm sick of it, I'm truly sick of it," said commissioner Marion Williams.

"It's troubling to think we have a department that hasn't been keeping up with the records," commissioner Joe Bowles said.

Again, these are all allegations. Commissioners have scheduled a meeting with other employees. After that meeting, Tom Beck will be asked to respond to these claims.

The HR department is not taking responsibility for the alleged ignoring of grievances. Spokesman Moses McCauley says any problems with records came under the watch of former HR director Brenda Byrd Pelaez.