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County settlement prompts changes in hiring process

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Goodhue County will review its hiring practices and make changes to the Veterans Service Office under a settlement made public Tuesday stemming from a harassment complaint by a county employee.

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The compromise ends a monthslong controversy in the Veterans Service Office, where longtime employee Heidi Krause alleged county administration discriminated against her after she forwarded a tip from an acquaintance that her new boss, Veterans Service Officer Lyman “Robby” Robinson Jr., had a history of sexual harassment at his previous job in Washington County. She also alleged Robinson stared at her breasts March 21.

The tip was later verified by Washington County documents showing Robinson was disciplined for staring at the breasts of co-workers in 2010, but not before Goodhue County Board unanimously approved hiring him March 18.

“The county takes responsibility for its hiring process and will conduct a review that includes examination of its background investigations and reports to the board,” according to the settlement, which was signed by County Board and Krause early last week.

“The county regrets the impact that Ms. Krause suffered due to the ineffective investigation of the prior work history of the county veterans service officer,” it continues.

An independent background investigation was conducted on Robinson during his hiring process, but it did not turn up his record at Washington County.

The county is further required to determine and implement best practices in the Veterans Service Office and hire a facilitator to improve communication for its staff.

The agreement also calls on Krause to request the withdrawal of a discrimination charge against the county by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a union grievance made after County Board voted to dismiss her internal complaints in April.

Krause, who took several weeks off from the county citing health problems caused by the ordeal, will have her vacation leave, sick leave, doctor visits and comp time used between April 12 and June 6 reinstated under the agreement. Her 12 weeks of Family and Medical Leave Act time will be reset as well.

She also will be paid $4,031.20 for unpaid leave taken during that time.

“I’m happy with what we agreed upon,” Krause said following the release of the settlement terms.

She had stated previously that she was not seeking to collect monetary damages from the county.

“Congress needs to take a strong look at increased funding for the EEOC. Their employees were excellent. But when I was told that an investigation can take over two years, I knew we needed to settle in mediation for both my and my family's mental well-being,” she said. “It is good to be back at work and I look forward to continuing to serve my veterans. I have the best job and am grateful for it.”

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Michael Brun
Michael Brun is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program. He has worked for the Republican Eagle since March 2013, covering county government, health and local events. 
(651) 301-7875
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