The citizens of Charles County, MD, ask for the resignation of District 2 Commissioner Thomasina Coates –Effective Immediately!!!
According to Brad Bell of ABC 7 News, and other reliable media outlets, local public television channels and substantiated evidence from a special investigator:
In Charles County, an elected official, District 2 Commissioner Thomasina Coates (censured and accused of discriminating against a county employee), was accused of racial discrimination, and after a special investigation, said accusations were substantiated, and now legal action has been taken. It’s a battle among county commissioners over an effort to fire the county administrator by a commissioner who’d been forbidden from doing just that. The ugly rift was revealed during a mid-December meeting of the Charles County Commissioners.
Allegations of racism and discrimination by one of the five commissioners were made public by two others on the panel. “It’s repeated harassment and bullying,” Commissioner Amanda Stewart (District 3 Commissioner) said. “If we have a colleague that’s willing to be so brazen and disregard federal civil rights laws, then we need to take a stand,” Commissioner Bowling stated (District 1 Commissioner). The newly filed 26-page complaint makes public what had been a secret -- that County Commissioner Thomasina Coates, who is a person of color, was found by an independent investigator back in 2020 to have bullied and discriminated against County Administrator Mark Belton, who is white.
The investigation revealed “many examples of direct racial bias and lack of credibility on the part of” the commissioner, forcing the other commissioners to censure Coates and forbid her from any vote or discussion about Belton’s employment. The complaint asks a judge to affirm that the censure is still in force, even though Coates was recently reelected. “The issue is the one commissioner that was censured should not be part of the conversation,” Stewart said. “I believe the judge will recognize that we have a responsibility to protect all employees from being discriminated against or bullied.” Multiple sources have told the media that additional employees have come forward complaining of harassment. Coates has not responded to our requests for comment and Commissioner President Reuben Collins has declined to discuss the dispute. The next step will be a day in court.
Commissioner Coates is one of five members at the very top of the organizational chart and the chain of command. As such, she is a key influencer of the organizational climate. A recent study concludes that the organizational climate is the most potent predictor of harassment in the workplace! She helps set the tone for how people throughout the organization interact with one another. If the tone she is setting is disrespectful, inhumane, or dysfunctional, then that behavior will be modeled and replicated throughout the organization! No one should want that, but it is apparent that such bad behavior has been the norm for Commissioner Coates and it has been, as of late, overlooked by the Charles County Commissioner President, Reuben Collins, and Commissioner Ralph Patterson (the newly elected District 4 Commissioner in Charles County). No one, including Charles County’s citizens, wants this.
Additionally, Commissioner Coates and the aforementioned should care more about the rogue actions that occurred, rather than overlooking the misconduct of a sitting Commissioner, as the higher up in the organization a harassment issue surfaces, the more difficult it is to deal with. Because of legal requirements and public expectations for transparency, one must necessarily conduct most of their work in public. An harassment allegation at this level, obviously can’t be dealt with behind closed doors.
Risk Factors of Harassment:
The EEOC has been doing some interesting work around harassment issues in recent years. Risk factors have been identified that, if present, increase the likelihood that there will be harassment issues in the workplace. You can view the complete list on the EEOC’s website, but some of the risk factors include: Homogeneity – lack of diversity, “currently only one minority among us.” Workplaces where some employees don’t conform to workplace norms – “rough and tumble” or single-sex dominated workplace culture. Cultural and language differences – arrival of new personnel with different cultures, nationalities; segregation of personnel with different cultures or nationalities. Workplaces with “high value” personnel. Workplaces that rely on customer service or client satisfaction.
To Protect the Constituents and the County as a Whole, the removal of Commissioner Thomasina Coates is demanded, effective immediately due to her ongoing misconduct and inability to fulfill her role as Commissioner effectively.
Charles County Constitiuents (taxpayers), of whom the County's elected officials work for, want to legislation referenced as Amotion. Amotion is a valid and legal way of removing an elected official.
With amotion, just as in the state of North Carolina, the trial court is bound to follow the holdings in those cases; 3) state law provides that common law principles are in full force absent extraordinary circumstances; and 4) the power is equally available to cities and counties.
This referendum will be written for the Charles County, Maryland municipality and reference, just as in North Carolina law, the following:
Requirements for a Valid Amotion Proceeding
A valid amotion proceeding must include notice, a hearing, and fact finding by an impartial decision-maker based on evidence presented at the hearing. This may sound familiar as they are the basic requirements of a quasi-judicial hearing. In a North Carolina hearing in which a County Commissioner was being removed via amotion, the judge drew these standards from the earlier North Carolina amotion cases. These protections typically accompany a government action that implicates a constitutionally protected property or liberty interest. It’s important to note that an elected official does not have a property right in his or her office. This has been the consistent rule in cases where removal occurs because the office itself is eliminated. See, Mial v. Ellington, 134 N.C. 131 (1903). Elimination of an office is a legislative decision. The removal for cause while in office, however, is considered a quasi-judicial action, and courts have consistently required that the basic elements of due process must be afforded.
Notice and Hearing
As in the state of North Carolina, since amotion is not a statutory procedure, the few existing amotion cases, and the general case law about quasi-judicial hearings, provide the only guidance about what process is legally required. In New Hanover County, North Carolina, for example, the process consisted of 1) adoption of a “Petition in Amotion to Remove a Commissioner, which included the basic allegations in support of removal, as well as affidavits and exhibits relating to those allegations, 2) delivery of the Petition to the Commissioner along with a Notice of Hearing and Rules and Procedures for the hearing, which was scheduled about a month later, and 3) conduct of a hearing at which the Commissioner was represented by counsel. Both the board and the individual Commissioner had the opportunity to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses. The court concluded that this procedural structure was legally sufficient.
Burden of Proof and Rules of Evidence
The order makes clear that the burden of proof rests with the board. The board lays out the basis for removal in the petition or motion for removal and provides evidence in support at the hearing. The board member then has the opportunity to rebut the evidence and provide additional evidence, and the board must, in the end, make an unbiased decision about whether there is a sufficient case, supported by the evidence, for removal.
The court made two important findings regarding the impartiality requirement. First, the very same board that initiates removal by amotion is considered to be an impartial decision-maker, as long as its decision is unbiased and based on the objective evidence presented at the hearing. It may seem a tall order for board members who voted to initiate removal to maintain an open mind about the evidence presented at the hearing. The order notes that a person is not considered to be biased merely because he or she has prior knowledge of the situation. Despite the challenge of remaining open to the possibility that the evidence does not support removal, the board is the only body that can make the final decision.
Second, the decision is invalid if any board member’s vote is based on or affected by personal opinions or impressions that are not supported by evidence in the record. To say a person is biased, in the context of a quasi-judicial proceeding, means that he or she has a predisposition to a particular result and is unable or unwilling to apply the legal standard to the evidence presented. As a separate matter, decision-makers must also be careful to apply only the evidence, and not their personal impressions about the matter at hand.
Standard for Removal
What evidence or behavior must be presented to make the case for removing an elected official from office? Cases have used the concept of “just cause” – a standard that is familiar to those who deal with due process hearings in the context of employee dismissals. It’s clear from the prior North Carolina cases (mentioning this state since amotion is actually used in said state) that removing an elected official requires more than simply poor performance. It may be appropriate to think of the standard as just cause “plus.”
The order articulates a good reason for a heightened standard: “[I]t seems clear that a court called upon to [review an amotion decision] will necessarily be faced with achieving the balance between the extraordinary concept of overturning the results of an election and a set of facts which can also be extraordinary in its presentation of how an elected official has acted or failed to act so as to hamper the functioning of the office to which he or she was elected or create safety, security, or liability concerns arising from his or her action or inaction in office.”
The order emphasizes that the “sufficiency and competency” of the evidence presented must relate to the duties of the elected office. The order states, “[T]he standard must be flexible enough that the governmental body has a reservoir of power to respond to that extreme set of facts that challenges the integrity of the governmental process. Ultimately, a court may be unable to draw precise dividing lines that define when amotion may or may not be appropriate. As in NC, the court concludes, however, that in all cases, a finding of cause to remove an elected official from office will depend upon conduct that is sufficiently tied to the duties of the elected office from which an elected official is being removed.”
Suggestions about evidence that may be more or less important:
Evidence about one’s personal life, viewed in isolation, may not seem relevant, but may provide context for issues that relate to the person’s behavior in office.
Evidence about criminal charges that do not result in convictions will not be particularly strong. The connection between the evidence and the duties of office should be explicit in the record.
[T]he burden of showing sufficient competent evidence in most instances would impose on the fact finder an obligation to make clear how it has measured the underlying evidence as against the duties and abilities expected of the office.
The order also notes, almost as a suggestion to the county, that boards have options short of removal to address the behavior of board members whose actions don’t meet the appropriately high standard for removal. ”In addition to removal, a governmental body may in appropriate instances be within its powers to implement extraordinary restrictions on an elected official’s access to government facilities, processes, computers, and e-mail systems.”
Elected boards sometimes perceive one of their members in a bad light. The prospect of being able to remove an uncooperative, annoying, absentee, or even truly misbehaving member may seem appealing. The aforementioned provides support for the notion that removal through amotion is an option, but also for the notion that it must be undertaken only in an extreme case, with sufficient evidence to support an impartial decision.
Removal of elected officers
It should be implemented that when an elected officer of a local labor organization is charged with serious misconduct and the constitution and bylaws of such organization do not provide an adequate procedure meeting the standards for removal of such officer, the labor organization shall follow a procedure which meets those standards.
References not cited due to page restrictions
Tina Wilson Contact the author of the petition
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