Dora clerk suspended, files complaint against mayor
May 17, 2013 | 4367 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DORA — Dora’s City Clerk Cindy Vines Pritchett served a three-day unpaid suspension last week for disconnecting the security camera in her office.

According to a disciplinary letter signed by Dora Mayor Randy Stephens and Mayor Pro-Tem Gary Thomas, the camera was unplugged on May 1 and the issue was discovered on May 2. Pritchett was suspended from May 6 to May 8 after she admitted she unplugged the camera.

The disciplinary letter goes on to state that the camera in question monitors the security system itself, meaning there would be no log of who accessed the security camera.

The letter also highlighted the three grand jury investigations into what it called “improprieties in the city government” as proof of the city hall security system’s importance. Two former city employees — including the city clerk who preceded Pritchett — have been indicted in the last year for stealing money from the city and there was a third, unsolved incident in which money went missing from the clerk’s office last year.

“I stand by the decision to suspend the city clerk,” Stephens said. “She disconnected the security camera in her office without authorization. In light of the previous security issues this city has faced, I could not ignore her actions.”

The official disciplinary letter, dated May 6, 2012, said that Stephens approached Pritchett about the camera system on May 2 and was told that she unplugged it. The next day, May 3, Pritchett filed a five-page complaint against Stephens with each member of the Dora City Council.

In her complaint, Pritchett said she unplugged the camera because it made her uncomfortable that Stephens was able to view her on the camera at any time, from any location. She also alleged that Stephens would send her messages related to the activities in her office that made her uncomfortable about his viewing. She alleged the mayor also questioned her whenever a member of the city council was in her office, asking why they were there.

Pritchett added she believed she was being discriminated against, because she is the only female department head and only department head under surveillance.

Pritchett said stress over the camera surveillance and the environment of city hall had caused her health to decline.

“...I have had to increase my blood pressure medicine, and I am having trouble sleeping at night,” Pritchett wrote. She added that it is also having a negative impact on her job performance.

She also asked the camera be removed from her office to protect her and the other female employees, as well as having the remote access feature to the cameras disabled, since the in-house system records and stores data for 30 days.

Pritchett further alleged that she was uncomfortable being alone in city hall with the mayor because of the degree of attention paid to her and he called her about city business during her personal time off.

Pritchett also said in her letter Stephens accessed her office without her present, which caused her concern because of the sensitive nature of documents in her possession.

“Because of the breakdown in trust, I cannot be assured that Randy Stephens would not remove files for which I, as city clerk, am responsible...” Pritchett wrote. She also asked that her locks be changed to prevent that from happening.

She also alleged that Stephens interfered with her ability to do her job or manage employees under her supervision. According to Pritchett, that includes an employee who is friends with the mayor who made errors and does not maintain a formal schedule.

“I believe I am being discriminated against due to my gender, as well as being harassed,” Pritchett wrote to close. “I am requesting that these matters be addressed immediately.

Stephens called the accusations “lies” and issued a written statement.

“I categorically deny the accusations against me stated in the complaint that was written after I spoke with the clerk regarding the disconnection of the security camera,” Stephens said. “We have met with her once in an attempt to work out these issues, and we have another meeting scheduled. I will not comment on the details of this complaint as it is an ongoing internal matter that we are attempting to resolve. There may be more information available at a later date.”