Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Dankprofessor is staggered by widening Georgia sexual scandals

Georgia’s State Department of Transportation has been shocked by two major sexual scandals that involve the ruling powers that be at the DOT.

Gena L. Abraham, Georgia’s state transportation commissioner, who is the first woman to run what is one of the most powerful government agencies in the state, is likely to step down as the commissioner.

Such is likely to be the case since the NY Times reported that on

“last Thursday evening, the transportation board chairman, Mike Evans, shocked members in an executive session with the news that he was involved in a romantic relationship with Ms. Abraham. Department policy forbids intimate relationships between subordinates and their superiors.”

Both Ms. Abraham and Mr. Evans, 47, are single.

Mr. Evans, a developer from Cumming, Ga., who had recently won a bitter re-election battle for the board, resigned his post and his seat on the board. The board announced that he would be replaced by the vice chairman, Garland Pinholster, until a new chairman could be elected in May.

By Monday, however, Mr. Pinholster had also stepped down as chairman as news spread of a sexual harassment complaint filed against him by two department employees.

Ms. Abraham had said on Friday that she would resign. But she backed away from that position after Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle raced to the department’s offices and called her into a meeting in a stairwell there, with a guard posted outside the door.

On Monday, the board voted 8 to 3 to reprimand Ms. Abraham for failing to report the romantic relationship in a timely manner, but not to dismiss her.

The revelations about Ms. Abraham and Mr. Evans surfaced just three weeks after she sent a memorandum to all department employees saying she would not tolerate misconduct or violations of department policy.

“The sheer number of offenses that we are discovering is staggering and embarrassing to the department,” she wrote in the memorandum, which was dated March 31, and she added that she would not hesitate to fire employees for unethical or unlawful behavior.

Ms. Abraham later admitted that when she sent the memorandum she was already romantically involved with Mr. Evans.

“I was very hopeful for Gena Abraham, and I still am,” Mr. Lewis said. “It won’t be easy for her to come out of this, but before everyone found out she was falling in love with the chairman of the board, it wasn’t going to be easy either.”

But others believe that Ms. Abraham’s days at the department may be numbered.

Still, other longtime employees were philosophical about the drama surrounding the department.

“It’s a little surreal, obviously,” said David Spear, a department spokesman. “But I’ve been around for a long time, and affairs of the heart have their own agenda.”

The dankprofessor puts Gena Abraham in the same category as Eliot Spitzer- utter hypocrites.

Ms. Abraham may find the behavior of her subordinates at the DOT as embarrassing and staggering, but such does not compare to the staggering and embarrassing behavior engaged in by Ms. Abraham.  In fact, the dankprofessor is staggered.  I am in a Lloyd Price state of staggerlee.  Threatening to fire employees for the same behavior that she was engaging in is just not acceptable.  She should do the same thing that Spitzer did, resign.

Of course, the dankprofessor does not hold that her having a consensual relationship with the Board Chairman of the DOT is wrong or unethical.  It’s simply no ones business when adults are engaged in a consensual sexual relationship.  Policies banning sexual relationships in the workplace or the university place simply do not work.  What they work to do is to facilitate lying, dishonesty and fraudulent administrators.

University administrators, corporate administrators, administrators in the public sector are not competent to supervise the sexual lives of their employees, and some like Ms. Abrahams are not competent to supervise themselves ethically or sexually. 

Both the University of Georgia and the State of Georgia are not competent when it comes to dealing with the sexual lives of others.  The only policy that would appear to be a viable policy for both the state and university is a laissez faire policy except for those behaviors which function to directly sexually constrain others.  And even in this area, we must have administrators who are constrained by due process of law.

I agree with David Spear, a DOT spokesman who said ” …I’ve been around for a long time, and affairs of the heart have their own agenda.”  Amen, and lets stop others from imposing and preaching and hypocrising their own sexual agendas on others.

 —–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008

 

 

 

 

 

April 24, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, higher education, office romance, sex, sexual harassment, sexual politics, University of Georgia, workplace | Leave a comment

University of Texas Houston sued for alleged retaliation against porn investigator

It was reported in today’s Austin-American Statesman that Cynthia Davis continues to pursue litigation relating to her firing as University of Texas-Houston technology auditor who had investigated the pornography usage of university computers by faculty and other employees of the UT Health Science Center at Houston.

Based on her 2003 investigative findings, “officials of the health center fired one employee and placed a written reprimand in the personnel files of nine others. The officials never ordered a thorough investigation of as many as 300 other employees whose computer records suggested that they also had spent time viewing X-rated Web sites on the job. What’s more, officials acknowledged that the true number of employees viewing pornography could have been far greater.” As a result of her efforts, Davis claimed that she was fired.

The Austin-American Statesman reviewed the details from court records in a lawsuit that Davis “filed in federal court in 2005 against two prominent higher education officials whom she accuses of largely brushing aside the problem and retaliating against her for raising concerns in 2003.”

Excerpts from the Austin-American Statesman report follows-

A federal appeals court ruled last month that Davis can proceed with her suit against Mike McKinney, who left his position as senior executive vice president and chief operating officer at the Houston center in 2006 to become chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, and Charles Chaffin, the UT System’s director of audits. McKinney, a physician and former state representative, has also served as Gov. Rick Perry’s chief of staff, vice chancellor for health affairs at the UT System and commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Davis filed the suit against McKinney and Chaffin, the Houston health science center, the UT System and the UT Board of Regents. A district judge dismissed the case against all but McKinney and Chaffin, who declined through representatives to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.

Davis contends that she was pressured to quit her job in late 2003 in the wake of her investigation into the viewing of pornography by faculty members, staff members and students. She is seeking reinstatement, back pay and other damages.

Davis said the lax response by UT officials shocked her. “I thought, people are going to be outraged when they see this,” said Davis, now a computer and accounting consultant in Houston. She said McKinney “handled it the worst of all of them” by narrowing the scope of any investigation from the start.

McKinney said in a deposition supplied by Davis’ lawyer that when he was told how many people were possibly viewing porn, “My immediate reaction was I can’t fire 300 people.”

Davis said McKinney told her, “Bring me the top 10 abusers.”

Davis said she discovered that one pediatric dentist regularly viewed X-rated Web sites in the early morning before seeing patients. She said another employee posted to the Internet pornographic material he had videotaped in his own office.

Davis said officials refused to meet with her to discuss her concerns, even after she wrote a memorandum to James Willerson, president of the Houston center, and sent a copy to Mark Yudof, chancellor of the UT System.

Yudof is expected to be named president of the University of California System next week. A spokesman for Yudof said the chancellor was not available for comment Friday, and Willerson did not respond to a request for comment submitted to a spokesman.

No child pornography, the presence of which would constitute a violation of federal law, was found in the examination of the Houston center computers by UT System police. After being contacted by Davis, the FBI concluded in 2004 that none of the content on the computers constituted child porn.

It’s not clear whether employees who viewed pornographic material broke any state laws. No law specifically bars computer users from visiting pornographic Web sites, said Thomas Johnson, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Information Resources.

However, the Texas Administrative Code, which has the force of law, says information resources “shall be used only for intended purposes as defined by the state agency and consistent with applicable laws.”

…in the deposition, McKinney defended the decision to reprimand all but one of the employees. And he acknowledged that he did not order investigators to examine the computers of as many as 300 other employees to determine the extent of the problem.

Instead, he said, he notified all center employees that viewing pornography was prohibited, on the assumption that the problem was even wider.

“I can tell you that we took an approach that would address the issue for all 4,500 employees, not just those 10, not just the hundred that – they came up with 300, whatever the number was,” McKinney said.

In his deposition, Chaffin testified that Yudof never contacted him about the Houston pornography investigation. Yudof said in an affidavit that Willerson responded to Davis’ memo because this was “an institutional matter.”

Chaffin also said he expressed concern about Davis’ ethics to her supervisor, Sharon Corum, but did not tell Corum to fire Davis. That contrasts with Davis’ and Corum’s views of the matter. In a 2006 deposition, Corum testified that no one directly told her that Davis should be terminated. But, Corum said, Chaffin asked her “on several occasions” whether Davis had been fired.

“I felt under pressure because he repeatedly kept asking me what the status was, and I knew that Charlie did not like it that I had not yet terminated her,” Corum said.

When asked by Shellist, Davis’ lawyer, whether Chaffin’s high-ranking position in the UT System caused her to feel pressure to fire Davis, Corum answered, “Yes, yes.”

“Because I believe he had the authority to impact my career and whether or not I had my job,” Corum testified.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld most of a January 2007 ruling by U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore of Houston that said Davis could pursue a wide range of free speech claims. The appellate ruling turned on whether Davis’ complaints were made as an employee or as a citizen who was raising issues of public concern. Davis’ claims could proceed only if she made them as a citizen, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit ruled.

The appeals court rejected two of Davis’ claims – both based on her concern about officials’ inadequate response to the disclosure of pornography viewing – and allowed four others to be heard in the trial court. Gilmore has scheduled a September trial.

The claims that were allowed to proceed were made either to outside entities or ones that didn’t relate directly to her job duties. They include complaints about excessive pay for UT-Houston officials, racial discrimination in hiring and firing, and concerns about the presence of pornography on health science center computers.

Davis filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about discriminatory hiring practices at the Houston center, but the agency didn’t issue any finding, Shellist said.

In the dankprofessor’s opinion, this case provides further evidence that pornography has become an everyday part of American life, including Americans’ working life. It would be fair to state that pornography has become normalized or, if you will, significantly de-stigmatized. Attempts to combat pornography has its limits.

Attempts to penalize or fire employees who have viewed pornography on the university’s or health center’s computers becomes a threat in itself, such could very well disrupt the functioning of the organization. Apparently, such even occurs at institutions that are committed to the health and well being of its citizen-patients. And what is ironic in the current investigation is that many of those who are anti-pornography invoke a health medical framework in articulating their opposition to pornography. Invoking a health rhetoric becomes increasingly difficult when as this case reveals that many health professionals are viewing porn at work, so many that efforts to limit pornography at work must be limited.

So when it comes to limiting porn availability, one can talk the talk, but if one really tries to walk the walk, one can end up walking the plank. This case reaffirms for the dankprofessor that the war on pornography is over. Advocates against porn are on the defensive since there is no defense; so-called filtering is obviously a stopgap measure, the effectiveness of which is severely limited. How to limit access to porn by children still remains a hard issue to resolve, but attempts to limit the access to porn by willing adults is a non-starter. And this is as it should be- adults having the freedom to choose what they view and read and where they view it as long as they do not force it upon the unwilling.

—–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008
 

March 22, 2008 Posted by | ethics, higher education, litigation, pornography, sex, sexual politics, sexual rights, University of Texas Houston, workplace | Leave a comment

THE HANDY HANDBOOK OF OFFICE LOVE*

The Sacramento Business Journal has THE solution; they know how to protect business owners, particularly small business owners,  from the pitfalls of intraoffice romance and sexual harassment lawsuits

Quoting from the business journal-

“Advisers to small businesses agree that a company can’t forbid romantic relationships in the workplace, but say they should consider policies that strongly discourage dating, especially between supervisors and subordinates. Experts also say companies should clearly outline policies on harassment and dating in an employee handbook — something many small businesses lack.

Love can bloom between coworkers at any time. Companies small and large would be wise to make sure an employee handbook is in place and policies on relationships are included, said Panda Morgan, director of the Greater Sacramento Small Business Development Center.

An employee handbook might seem like a trivial aspect of business, but it can be an important tool when relationships turn sour and harassment complaints or wrongful termination claims are made.

“The problem with small businesses is most don’t have employee handbooks because they don’t really see a need until something happens, and they realize their hands are tied and they can’t do anything about it,” Morgan said.”

After reading this article, The dankprofessor went out into the field in search of the handbook.  He found one entitled THE HANDY HANDBOOK OF OFFICE LOVE which was revised from the pioneer HANDY HANDBOOK ON UNIVERSITY LOVE*.  No date or publisher listed.  The dankprofessor will summarize the core handbook rules-

HANDS OFF

NO HANDS IN POCKETS

HANDS ON THE TABLE

HANDS UP

NO HANDY MEN

HANDLE WITH CARE

NO SHAKY HANDS

NO HANDSOME MEN

HANDS TIED

and if all else fails- KEEP HANDS CUFFED AT ALL TIMES.

—–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008

February 14, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, corporate dating bans, dating, love, office romance, Uncategorized, workplace | Leave a comment

Office romance in full bloom on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s day this year at the office may very well be better than the Valentine’s days of the recent past. According to many, romance in the office is flourishing.

Yesterday psychologist Susan Pinker reported that “surveys on office love affairs reveal they’re incredibly common, with about 10 million consensual romances developing between co-workers each year in the U.S. That’s the equivalent of the population of a small European nation meeting at the photocopier, year after year…In fact, studies designed to probe the private lives of executives, and managers by such august groups as the Society of Human Resource Management and the U.S. Bureau of National Affairs simply document the obvious: Now that we’re spending most of our time at the office, that’s the place to meet prospects, with a third of all romances starting out in the workplace.”

Workers aren’t just interested in dating their peers. PR News Wire reports “that twenty-seven percent of workers admit they have dated someone with a higher position in their organization; female workers more so than males, at 37 percent and 20 percent, respectively. Ninety-eight percent of workers said their relationship with someone at work did nothing to progress their career.”

Pinker goes on to report that “half of the romantic relationships that begin at work last, resulting in marriage or a long term relationship, while only 5 per cent provoke formal complaints…Let’s face it: offices are “natural theatres” for social and sexual interaction, a phrase coined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild. As such, there’s great potential for drama, but also for applause…If the new couple has even a chance to be happy, the team should back off and just let these folks be.”

 Unfortunately it’s that 5 per cent that gets upset when love is seen as blooming in the workplace. And they have at their disposal lawyers who are at their call and become united with the Linda Tripps of the world in their love of money.

But in any case, Pinker gets it right. If only we could “just let these folks be”. Or in the words of the Beatles, “Let It Be”.

—–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

February 14, 2008 Posted by | dating, love, office romance, workplace | 1 Comment

1.5 million spanking verdict overturned

A California Appeals Court has overturned a 1.5 million award to a female employee who as part of her employment as a sales person for a residential alarm company was subjected to “team building” spankings. Spankings were employed for both male and female employees “as a form of penance for not meeting sales quotas” .Employees were paddled with rival companies’ yard signs as part of a contest that pitted sales teams against one another. The winners poked fun at the losers, throwing pies at them, feeding them baby food, making them wear diapers and swatting their buttocks.

The appeals court overturned the claimant’s appeal in part “‘because of sex element’ is alive and well and must be satisfied in order for plaintiff to prevail on a sexual harassment cause of action. The jury should have been instructed that it could find for [the employee] on the sexual harassment cause of action only if it found that [the employee] was subjected to the harassing conduct because she was female,” the court said.”

The dankprofessor finds this practice to be somewhat alarming since sexual harassment law in California has been interpreted to find workplace spanking to be OK and not subject to litigation if both female and male employees are spanked.

I am sure that the complexity of this case is greater than has been presented. For example, is spanking OK if the spanker is in a higher power position than the female and male employees who are spanked? Does differential power preclude spanking? Certainly, employers should now consider hiring specially certified spanking trainers.

—–
If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008

February 14, 2008 Posted by | litigation, sexual harassment, workplace | Leave a comment

   

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