Earlier this week, I learned about a blog on the Democrat-Herald website that prints in its entirety an inappropriate and offensive memorandum written to coworkers by a City of Albany employee more than two years ago. I believe the blog will be followed by a news story about the memo and allegations of similar types of misconduct in the Fire Department. The memorandum speaks for itself as an inexcusable example of poor judgment and bad taste. The employee responsible issued an apology for writing it soon after it was distributed, and my understanding is that Chief Bradner issued his own apology after learning about it. I would like to add my apologies to that list to anyone who saw the memo. I would also add that we have taken steps and will take more to help guard against anything similar in the future.
Sadly, the memo is not the only example I have seen in my career of people forgetting some basic principles of respect and professional behavior. I have written before about employees whose careers ended after engaging in work-related affairs, harassment, and other forms of inappropriate behavior. Until recently, I thought the worst of those examples were the product of another time when different attitudes and mores prevailed in the workplace. My perspective has changed after seeing examples of “sexting” on city time, an employee essentially propositioning another, a city manager in an Oregon city being dismissed after having an affair with an employee, and a number of other equally troubling events.
It should come as no secret to anyone that the days of crude jokes, pornography, sexual advances or innuendo, and gender bias in the workplace are over. Employees who violate city policies relating to this issue are subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination, and those in leadership positions are held to a higher standard than those they supervise.
I enjoy working at the City of Albany, mostly because I like the people I work with and have great respect for their abilities. I frequently write about acts of service and kindness I see nearly every day, and it is my preference to focus on what is best in people rather than on our failings. The hardest part of my job is confronting the mistakes of good people and making judgments about the appropriate response. I believe, however, I have a responsibility to all of us to act decisively when I become aware of behavior that threatens our ability to effectively do our jobs, free from the threat of demeaning remarks or other forms of misconduct from our colleagues.
Any employee who feels they have been subjected to inappropriate treatment or material should report the incident to their supervisor or to our Human Resources Department as soon as possible. Employees are also welcome to report problems to me, as a number of you have over the years. I would much rather know about a problem or concern and deal with it quickly than have it mushroom into something bigger over time.