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Socorro Village board is accused of discrimination August 26, 2006

Posted by C.A.R.D in breach of contract, Citizens Against Racism and Discrimination, Discrimination, Housing.

A former board member of Socorro Village and the president of the management company running the low-income senior housing facility have accused the board of employment discrimination.MacManagement Inc. President Scott MacLennan said some members of the board refused to hire his choice of a new on-site manager because they didn’t feel the man could do the job due to a disability that left him using a wheelchair or two canes. MacLennan believes the candidate, Paul Fredrickson, is qualified.

“Paul’s not stupid,” he said. “He has a disability that affects his legs, affects his mobility.”

Socorro attorney Lee Deschamps, representing the board, has sent a breach of contract notice to MacLennan for his insistence on hiring Fredrickson. In return, MacLennan sent a breach of contract notice to the board for interfering with his decision to employee the man.

The board hired MacManagement to run Socorro Village on July 1. The contract included a statement that the company had full authority in hiring and firing.

Former board Vice President Glenice Simmons resigned from the board Wednesday.

Simmons said other members have excluded her from meetings and ordered her away from the property because of her refusal to consent to the board’s decision on Fredrickson.

MacLennan had included the board in a search for a manager. The position mostly requires deskwork, with small amounts of physical duties.

MacLennan knew Fredrickson from the man’s volunteer work at other facilities and brought him before the board.

The next time he met with the group, Secretary/Treasurer Donna Shiloh expressed concerns about Fredrickson’s ability to perform the job, he said. Not all board members attended the meeting.

At the meeting, Shiloh questioned whether Fredrickson could respond to after-hours emergencies quickly enough, MacLennan said. He replied that he thought so because Fredrickson was agile despite his disability.

Even assuming he couldn’t move quickly enough, MacLennan said, they could make reasonable accommodations for him to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Shiloh then said Fredrickson wouldn’t be able to set up tables for a potluck. MacLennan said that wasn’t a significant part of the job and he had seen Fredrickson set them up before.

Shiloh questioned Fredrickson’s ability to wash dishes after a potluck. MacLennan said he had taken care of himself despite having a disability basically all his life,

“I repeated that this too was not a significant part of the manager duties and hence not a legitimate reason for denial of employment,” MacLennan also wrote in an e-mail telling his side of the story to Deschamps.

At the meeting, MacLennan also suggested a 90-day probation period for Fredrickson.

He said some members present thought the idea was good. Shiloh responded that, “once you hire one of those people, you can never get them off the payroll,” MacLennan said.

He then brought up discrimination and asked if they had an attorney on the board.

The board later called for more applicants, MacLennan said. Simmons said members had discussed the action but never officially voted on it.

She said no one invited her to another meeting after that point.

MacLennan suggested hiring Fredrickson as a service coordinator, an equal job for equal pay. He thought that would satisfy Fredrickson and avoid the discrimination problem, he said.

The board didn’t allow it.

In the breach of contract notice, Deschamps said MacLennan’s attempt to hire Fredrickson as service coordinator showed he didn’t think Fredrickson was qualified as manager. MacLennan said he was trying to save the board from a discrimination lawsuit.

Deschamps said with no budget for the next fiscal year and the property in need of repairs, the Village couldn’t afford creating the service coordinator position even if the federal Housing and Urban Development agency increased its rental payments on the property. MacLennan said in a reply e-mail the current budget would support the position and the agency favored the position so much that it would fund it with increased rent.

Eventually, after no manager was chosen, MacLennan decided to hire Fredrickson. He advised the board Fredrickson would start work Sept. 1 and move into an apartment allotted for the manager before then.

Aug. 19, Fredrickson had packed his belongings and was planning to move that day when MacLennan received an e-mail from Deschamps. The e-mail said the board had the locks changed on the apartment Fredrickson would have occupied, at Deschamps’ advice.

“Since (Fredrickson) does not qualify as a resident and he is not an employee as of (Aug. 19), this would seem to constitute either embezzlement by you or by Mr. Fredrickson, in addition to creating significant liability exposure for the Village should anything happen to him while residing here,” Deschamps said in the breach of contract notice he next sent.

MacLennan said the contract gave him authority to hire Fredrickson, so he sent notice to the board that they had breached contract by not allowing the choice.

If they allow him to hire Fredrickson, he plans to honor the rest of the contract but not renew it. If they don’t, he said, he will quit.

“I just want to get away from these people before they get me embroiled in some kind of civil rights complaint,” he said.

In the breach of contract notice, Deschamps said Fredrickson isn’t qualified for the manager position because he only held jobs as an insurance salesman and telemarketer in the past.

“The directors have had their fill of management personnel who will shine them on with fancy talk while doing little if anything to promote the interests of the Village and its residents, and are of the opinion that a telemarketer/insurance salesman is the last type of experienced individual to manage the facility,” Deschamps wrote.

MacLennan said Fredrickson has a good education and held other types of positions. He also said most people in entry-level positions, such as the manager’s job, don’t have experience but are trained on the job.

He said an “army” of his employees would have supervised Fredrickson anyway.

Source: dchieftain.com

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