Monday, August 11, 2008

Auditor violates confidentiality, exposes whistleblower.

From: Sadie Armijo
Sent: Tuesday, June 26, 2007 7:31 AM
To: 'Miller, Marla (ESC)'
Cc: Courtney Amonsen
Subject: RE: Questionable Property Decisions at


Thank you for forwarding this information in case our office gets calls on this issue. I am sorry to hear that a disgruntled employee is causing you so much trouble.
But I appreciate you forwarding this message. On his blog he mentioned our office. Since he mentioned us on his blog, I can tell you he did contact our office regarding the Old Woodway property sale, but as we have previously discussed we did not find any problems with the sale of that property. If you would like to discuss this in more detail, I would gladly discuss it over the phone with you. I can be reached today at 425-257-2137.

Again thank you for forwarding this information.

Sadie Armijo
Audit Manager, Team Everett
Washington State Auditor's Office
3501 Colby Avenue, Suite 100B
Everett, WA 98201-4794
(425) 257-2137

The blog was only two entries old at the time this email was sent to Marla. While I did mention the State Auditor, that does not seem to justify a violation of confidentiality.

Read the first two entries and see for yourself:

Blogging for a better tomorrow
Sunday, June 17, 2007 6:25 AM

Mark Zandberg & Hansa
Saturday, June 23, 2007 7:56 PM

How can the State Auditor reveal the identity of a whistleblower and still expect others to step forward. Sure, Marla may have suspected the source, but why confirm her suspicions?

Thanks, Sadie, I owe you one.


Anonymous said...

OK Everybody. Word of the day. Go to and type "Transparency" into the search box. The first entry will be a book called "Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor" by Bennis, Goldman, and O'Toole. Click on "Add to Cart" and get that book on its way to your house! About $13 plus shipping. (Later we can send them on to the district office for their use. Perhaps this should be the second book in our blog book club.)

"Even as many heads of corporations and even states boast about their committment to transparency, the containment of truth continues to be a dearly held value of many organizations."

The authors go on to posit that the new digital technologies-cell phones with cameras, internet, etc.-will serve as a light to shine on these secrets and will require organizations to become transparent in fact, not just in rhetoric.

This blog is an example of that movement. Managers can no longer hide their misdeeds and expect that no one will find out or that the information will remain with a "small circle of friends." People have an innate sense of right and wrong; given the tools, they will communicate their views of right and wrong far and wide. No amount of name calling or threats of job loss or sanctions will stop it.

Whistleblowing is a dangerous role to play; the authors point out that well over 90% of whistleblowers lose their jobs. Those who stay on face tremendously difficult work situations. Management is not set up to have truth spoken to power but rather are set up to speak power to truth. This is demonstrated by Brossoit's threat in another e-mail to get someone in the State Auditor's Office to intervene and stop the publication of information developed from a survey that might otherwise have looked bad for the District.

To quote the text again, "For information to flow freely within an institution, followers must feel free to speak openly, and leaders must welcome such openness."

I will state again that rather than being dismissed, I should have been thanked and rewarded for exposing the bullying pattern practiced by the office manager and principal, who had gotten so sure (or over-confident) of their position in the hierarchy that they had moved from bullying senior staff ("if you don't like it here, go someplace else") to bullying two students, threatening them with the punishment of going to the principal's house and roto-tilling his yard while dressed (sneer) in matching coveralls.

Previous attempts to go through "channels" to stop the behavior only resulted in senior administration giving the principal a heads-up that I was complaining, resulting in increased bullying. Basically, senior administration gave the go-ahead to the principal to continue and increase the bullying. If that was not their intent, they totally misjudged and mismanaged the situation. (This argument doesn't address the possibility that the permission to bully either originated or was approved by senior management in the first place. At the moment, that possible premise is unsupported by the current evidence; only they know for sure.)

As suggested by Bennis, et. al., the inability of the administration to "welcome such openness" on my part, indeed, the original closing of ranks around the principal, is just the opposite reaction to what is necessary to achieve the "transparency" needed in such an organization. If there is no trust, if there is the open or secret understanding that there is danger in telling the truth, there will be no "transparency." When an organization relies on "settlement agreements" which include a clause requiring silence from all parties, "transparency" will never occur. If you had "transparency" you wouldn't need "settlement agreements."

Name calling-"disgruntled employee"-and pulling up the bridge over the moat is totally inappropriate. It indicates a defensiveness and fearfulness that is counter-productive in good management. The correct reaction would be to stop and say, "OK. Let's look at this." Not just the employee and supervisor, but a wide range of eyes that will see the issue from many different perspectives. If that value of "transparency" is truly in place, what will probaby happen is that both sides of the issue will begin to see the perspective of the other side and be able to work a way to some resolution of the issue. If a principal is named who was not on the original finalists list, there will be a truthful explanation not total silence on the matter.

However, when management's first reaction (the blog had only two entries when this reaction came down?!) is to 1) circle the wagons, 2) start name calling and 3) attempt to poison the perspective of a potential audit team, there is something deeply wrong with the management philosophy.

The fact that the audit team responded with the same name calling should be equally disturbing. The audit team should be looking for facts, not being corrupted by personal opinions and prejudices. The correct response from the audit team should have sounded something like, "Your e-mail has been received and placed in your file for future reference. As you know we cannot reveal when your next audit will be (if that is the case-rr). Have a nice day."

A formal complaint to the attorney general regarding the audit team's response seems to be in order.

Anonymous said...

you are protected as a have to file the complaint with the state within 60 days. I think
we all need to start doing not saying.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, this is necessarily long.

When you and your fellow senior teachers have been subjected to three years of bullying; maintained contact with union officials in reporting the problem to no avail ("the building survey doesn't support it" as if the people standing in front of them didn't mean anything); reported the abuse to the principal's supervisor, Ken Limon, (as per board policy) only to be told that he backs the principal (on really specious grounds) and is including your 2 page complaint (which you had considered to be private) in his cc to the principal, thus giving the principal more incentive to bully you; lost sleep; lost weight; wound up in surgery for a plugged up kidney; endured renewed bullying while you are still on pain killers recovering from the surgery (you came to school 10 days prior to the beginning of the contract year and you're there on your own time while you are being bullied); been called "disingenuous" by Dave Woods when you show any glimmer of restored mental processing capacity; sought counseling from Far West, the "designated" psych services company for several districts ("oh, we get a lot of teachers who are depressed because they are being bullied by the principal"); been ridiculed for wearing ties every day to work because it is one of the few things you can control in your life to make you think you are an OK person; watched the principal start to wear his suit jacket because you are wearing ties and maybe he doesn't want to be challenged sartorially; been put on meds to control your high blood pressure; been criticized for doing what a student's IEP tells you to do; had a nationally recognized social studies curriculum sabotaged by principal, Limon, and teammates alike; and get put on administrative leave for trying to do something-anything-to get the bullying to stop and protect the students who were being attacked by the principal and office manager, you will not fully comprehend your situation. Your "perspective" will be skewed; you won't really give a dam_ any more. You will just want the pain to stop.

If I was protected as a whistleblower, I would have expected the union leaders, Dan Wilson and Dave Woods, to have protected my interests on that front. Perhaps that was an unrealistic expectation. Perhaps they never believed that the multiple complaints from different teachers were valid or that I was speaking for several other terrified teachers; they perhaps made a value judgement that nothing was out of the ordinary (and maybe there WAS nothing unusual about the treatment we received, perhaps it was standard operating procedure for senior staff). That doesn't change the fact that it was, at the very least, cruelly unfair, un-Christian ("do unto others..."), a poor example for the students (by law, we are to "model" appropriate behavior with regards to bullying), and unprofessional. If that were the case, they had ample time to tell me that they had no ability/inclination to intervene. I was in contact with union officials within 24 hours of the calling out of the office manager. They should have been aware that the situation at MMS was coming to a head; I have the e-mails. Most of the labor lawyers I contacted declared that they had a conflict of interest because they had done work for WEA and could not take my case when I said that the union did nothing. Where do you find justice when the lawyers are unavailable? Age discrimination is much harder to prove legally, than a "reasonable person" might think, too. Administration knows this; they have lawyers who tell them just what they can and can't do.

Besides, once you sign that "settlement agreement" (the thing you think will save your life by stopping the beating), you're legally dead in the water. Once you begin to come to your senses again and try to rescind it, the District will claim that you weren't coerced into signing. But that isn't true; because you were worn down to such a point that all you want is for the pain to stop, you will sign anything. That's the whole strategy of bullying; push, push, push until the target either leaves or blows up. Another sort of torture, if you will. And that is not a flippant remark.

I hope that if there are any other staff members in the district who are being treated in this manner that our experience will help them identify the tactics being used against them and allow them to deal with it appropriately before their health and welfare is affected. Hopefully, union officials will take their duty more seriously and protect their members from this odious practice and begin a lobbying campaign to outlaw it.

Anonymous said...

However the Bully in one department was the one who kept blowing up. Didn't quite work out for him. To hold all the cards and still fail must be a pretty good feeling huh? To have every advantage and still lose to your competition? I'd be questioning my Manhood! Strength in numbers only pertains if you can execute Buddy. Something decent could probably be said about the competition that outplayed you at a game of YOUR choice! MY TURN!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

SS dept. your bullying days will soon come to an end! What a relief for the rest of us that put up with you.