harassmentAn employee who was reassigned after a number of errors were discovered in her former bookkeeping arena has filed a claim against the Golden Valley Fire District (GVFD). Nicole Guerrero asks for $75,000 and legal fees, or threatens to will file a lawsuit against the GVFD. Much of the complaint submitted August 21 by Phoenix attorney Tyler Allen takes aim at Fire District Board member Rhonda Brooks. It alleges that Brooks bullied and harassed Guerrero through telephone, email and personal communication. “If she was ever dissatisfied about something, she (Brooks) would be extremely rude and harassing to Ms. Guerrero,” the complaint stated. “By November (2013), things  had become so stressful for Ms. Guerrero that she began having chest pains and shortness of breath and was taken to the hospital.” Brooks wonders why Guerrero waited so long to initiate a civil action over emails she concedes were terse. “They’re over a year old and they were probably a little bit curt, a little bit short,” Brooks said. “But when I asked questions about where the money went or asked about a money situation I got met by snottiness.”  Brooks said holding Guerrero accountable for various  payroll, accounting and billing blunders does not constitute harassment. “You can’t retaliate against math. You can’t retaliate against numbers. Nobody’s got any personal issues here,” Brooks said. “I think this is a last ditch effort by an employee that’s in trouble and I think they have to accuse anybody that’s around them of wrongdoing.”  In addition to the alleged Brooks harassment, the claim asserts that neither fire chief Thomas O’Donohue, nor the district did anything to protect Guerrero from unwelcome advances from a citizen friend of the fire chief. Guerrero alleges the man’s comments and questions constituted sexual harassment. “She complained directly to Chief O’Donohue about the behavior and Chief O’Donohue did not protect her in her workplace,” the claim alleged. It said stress over the sexual harassment led to another hospital visit for Guerrero in July.  The citizen accused of sexual harassment said it never happened. “It’s not the truth and that’s that,” the man said. “I mean come on.”  The man asked why Guerrero didn’t file a complaint with law enforcement, given the severity of her sexual harassment allegations. He asserted that Guerrero sat right behind him at a recent board meeting and argued she wouldn’t have done so had he really sexually harassed her.  Guerrero’s attorney declined to answer questions about the complaint. The same is true of Chief O’Donohue. The District has isolated O’Donohue to protect and ensure the integrity of an investigation being conducted by labor law attorney Stacey Gabriel. Assistant Fire Chief Jack Yeager will interface with Gabriel. “I’ve  been placed as the lead officer on this matter to maintain the purity of the investigation and remove speculation or accusation that Chief O’Donohue had influence during the process,” Yeager said in an email. O’Donohue first retained another firm to handle the investigation. Board Chairman Curt Hardy, however, said it was decided to select Gabriel instead, so that the Chief wasn’t hand selecting and hiring the person who would handle an investigation that is partly focused on himself.  Gabriel is being paid a $2,500 retainer and will be paid $250 per hour. The Board has authorized spending up to $13,000 for her services. `The investigation will include all evidence and data materials, complaint letters and face-to-face interviews with as many witnesses as deemed necessary by Ms. Gabriel,” Yeager said. “Following the investigative report from Ms. Gabriel the District will make a decision on their next step or steps, including a settlement or challenge to the accusations.”  More than a month ago Chief O’Donohue said Guerrrero was reassigned and would be working to support the district’s pending application to provide ambulance service. Some of her former duties are being assumed by Freida Huff, a financial consultant working for the district for $1,280 per month.
Photo: Nicole Guerrero