ESC commissioner accuses agency of cover-ups, calls for reform

Becky Richardson, one of the state's three Employment Security Commissioners, fired off a two-page letter this afternoon which criticized the agency's leadership and calling for reforms to be made in the agency.

In the letter, which was shared with the Blogland, she laid into the quality of management and accused the agency of working to keep her in the dark on issues:

        I am shocked at many of the things that have come to light since Mr. Sam Foster was hired as the Employment Security Commission’s new interim executive director. I have long complained about how this agency was run, but the situation is even worse than I could have imagined. Information has been withheld and even hidden from me. It appears that I have purposely been kept in the dark. Every day, there is a new revelation and I find more and more evidence of just how dysfunctional the agency has been allowed to become. Moreover, I feel that I may have been somewhat “muzzled” by recent events.
        Last year my concerns and frustrations became so serious that I realized it was time for me to air my concerns.

In case you're wondering, yes, we've got the entire letter ...

Since none of the Commissioners have testified before the Legislature, I felt it incumbent upon myself to issue a statement. These are my own personal observations.


I am shocked at many of the things that have come to light since Mr. Sam Foster was hired as the Employment Security Commission’s new interim executive director. I have long complained about how this agency was run, but the situation is even worse than I could have imagined. Information has been withheld and even hidden from me. It appears that I have purposely been kept in the dark. Every day, there is a new revelation and I find more and more evidence of just how dysfunctional the agency has been allowed to become. Moreover, I feel that I may have been somewhat “muzzled” by recent events.

Last year my concerns and frustrations became so serious that I realized it was time for me to air my concerns. I was not sure how much I could air my disagreements with the director and the other two Commissioners, so I had a conference with the agency’s attorney to ascertain my rights.

A meeting was held with the attorney, myself and the other Commissioners. During this meeting, I was repeatedly instructed that I could speak “only as my position allows” and that the Commission could speak with “only one voice”. Disturbingly, it was made clear while I could cast dissenting votes and freely discuss my opinions in meetings before actions were taken, that afterwards, the majority would rule and that I could not express myself individually. Whether this advice was correct, it was very clear and as a result I have not to this point expressed myself individually on many issues.

It reached the point as the problems became more evident and persistent that I recently sought my own legal counsel who advised me that I have a right to express myself personally on issues, even when I am in the minority and that it is my right as an appointed public official, so now I feel free to do so.

I know that I invite criticism in issuing this statement, but I truly believe that those who know me will receive it in the vein that it is intended. I have always been honest and above board in any position I have ever held. Given the high profile of this situation, I find it inherent upon me to say some things that have needed to be said for quite some time.

Our former director ran this agency as his own personal little “kingdom”. The agency was “ruled” by fear and intimidation and shamefully, this was allowed to happen. I have questioned his management style since my first days on the job. Any constructive criticism that I offered fell on deaf ears and in fact was challenged. I even suggested management training, but all of my suggestions were rebuffed. I was repeatedly asked “How dare I criticize our executive director?” The animosity became very great and I now learn that certain decisions were made without my input or knowledge.
The director had total control: Whatever he wanted, whichever direction he wanted to go, whoever he wanted to promote – he did. Qualified people were passed over and unqualified and incompetent people were put in place and protected and shielded from any consequences for their bad behavior, poor performance or mistakes, mistakes which have cost the state and our clients dearly. I have been told that employees of the agency were discouraged from coming to my office to complain. They were afraid to because there would be repercussions. Morale was in the tank. It was apparent that my vote alone could accomplish nothing.

I have expressed to the other two Commissioners that we have a different mind-set, really opposing philosophies. It is a basic difference in how Government is supposed to work – or rather how it should work.

In my opinion the agency has been allowed to flounder under poor management from the top. There are some very capable and loyal employees within the agency and I do not mean to criticize or demean them in any way. That is not my intent. I feel rather that the Commission has failed them by not providing the proper leadership that they deserve. We should have made sure that they worked in a supportive and productive environment, and given them the proper tools for success. I think we failed at that.

As far as I’m concerned, there has been no leadership. There were no good management skills or Administrative skills or professionalism displayed from the top. One person was allowed to make all the decisions. Those decisions have obviously proven to be most serious and detrimental to the Agency.

There is one other subject that needs to be touched on and that is how the benefits are awarded. In the appeals process, I have disagreed on numerous rulings and refused to sign the orders. I was told over and over by our Legal staff that the Legislature would have to change the way the benefits are awarded. I have now been told by several Legislators that the Commission has the discretion to make those changes. Hopefully the changes that need to be made will be made and will be made by either or both bodies.

I don’t say any of this to absolve myself of the responsibility that was entrusted to me. I bring this to light because it the right thing to do and I believe true reform of the Agency is needed. The current structure obviously doesn’t work. The Legislature and the people of this State deserve better.

Becky Richardson
February 22, 2010

2 Response to "ESC commissioner accuses agency of cover-ups, calls for reform"

  1. Anonymous 25/2/10 09:17
    Ask the employees how we feel and how we have been treated unfairly. Only certain people get raises while 90% of the employees have not had a raise in 7 or more years.......NO RAISES,NO FLEX TIME,CAN'T EVEN WEAR JEANS ON DRESS DOWN FRIDAYS..NO MORALE IN THIS AGENCY...
  2. Anonymous 25/2/10 09:27
    The morale at ESC is so low. We are not able to have Flex-time, No pay raises but u sit back and watch different one's being promoted(upgraded)every month. 90% of ESC hasn't had a pay raise in 7 or more years. Instead of allowing employees to be promoted, ESC will allow TERRI people to retire and turn around and rehire them back to work one or two days a week instead of allowing the opportunity for a ESC employees to be promoted....WHY???

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