Havatone speaks out

Candidate for county treasurer addresses investigation

KINGMAN - Melissa Havatone is standing by her statements and Mohave County Human Resource Director Ray Osuna's investigation.

Both candidates for the Treasurer's Office, Havatone and Treasurer Lee Fabrizio, have taken a beating since a report detailing an investigation of the treasurer's former Chief Deputy Janet Barker was released by the county last month.

"People don't understand what happed with the grievance," Havatone said.

She originally filed the grievance against Barker in April.

"It was like a family before she came," she said, referring to the relationship between employees in the office. Havatone has worked in the office for more than 20 years.

Things changed drastically after Barker was hired toward the end of 2006, she said.

Employees titles and job descriptions were changed.

The office no longer had supervisors; it had "team leaders." Job duties were shuffled around as Barker saw fit.

Havatone said her own job duties change numerous times. She normally took care of balancing the daily cash sheets, did tax roll corrections, bank reconciliation reports, lien cancellations and more.

In January of 2007, she was made an assistant team leader on top of her other duties.

In June of 2007, she and everyone else in the office were put to work on the tax bills.

Barker told everyone in the office to put their phones on voice mail and to only work on tax bills, she said. Everyone would try to sneak their regular work in on the side. One day, Barker caught Havatone working on her normal work during one of the tax bill periods.

Barker walked down the row of cubicles and said loudly that everyone in the office better be working on tax bills, Havatone said.

Another time, Havatone said, Barker yelled at her for answering a phone when she was supposed to be working on a bank reconciliation report.

In November, Barker gave Havatone a new employee to train on tax corrections.

"November is one of our busiest times of the year," she said, because tax bills are due to go out.

And then in January, Barker added delinquent taxes to Havatone's list of duties.

Barker was also taking some duties away from Havatone. She took the daily cash sheets away from Havatone, after Havatone raised questions about how Barker was entering the investment data on the sheet.

Employees were also told not to go to Havatone for help on completing their duties. It wasn't uncommon for newer employees to ask other employees, such as Havatone, who had worked in the office for a number of years, for help.

Barker didn't like that, Havatone said. She theorized that Barker saw the older employees as a threat to her authority because they knew how things were supposed to work in the office and Barker wanted to run things her way.

In the first six months that Barker was at the office, three senior employees left, Havatone said.

Everyone in the office was afraid to approach Barker to ask her questions, she said. "You didn't know how she would react."

"We were always whispering to each other."

Havatone said she was afraid when she first noticed changes in how Barker was reporting interest from the investments on the daily cash sheet. It was a coworker that broached the subject to Barker.

Normally, the interest from the investments would be listed in a separate area on the cash sheet. Barker simply lumped it in with whatever changes were made in the investments on the investment area of the sheet, Havatone said.

Barker told the coworker that it was none of Havatone's business how she entered information onto the cash sheet.

That's the way Barker liked it, Havatone said. "She liked to create conflict between people in the office."

"It was so chaotic in the office," she said. No one really knew what they were supposed to be doing because job duties had changed so often and everyone was afraid to ask.

Fabrizio didn't seem to want to help, she said. Any time an employee tried to go to him he would tell them to talk to Barker.

Havatone said she knew the employee that went to Fabrizio and told him that there were several other employees complaining about Barker. Fabrizio asked for the names of the other employees.

Havatone said the employee was afraid to give Fabrizio the names because she was afraid that he would turn around and give them to Barker, who would then retaliate.

Havatone said she really started to have problems with Barker after she filed to run for treasurer. It was then that the rules were changed for when requests for paid time off had to be in and Havatone's desk was moved to another spot in the office, closer to a group of employees that seemed to constantly be in Barker's favor.

In May, she asked for two weeks of time off. When she tried to follow up on the request, Fabrizio seemed to be avoiding her.

Eventually, she ran into Fabrizio during an event in Dolan Springs and asked about the time off. That is when she, her fiancé and Fabrizio got into a confrontation and the f-word was used.

Fabrizio claimed in an earlier Miner story that he felt threatened by Havatone's fiancé and that he wasn't the first person to use the word.

Havatone and her fiancé dispute that. They claim that it was Fabrizio who first used the f-word.

The Monday after the incident she went to Human Resources. After she filed the grievance with Human Resources, Havatone said every little thing she did was questioned. It was after she filed the grievance that her request for time off was denied. She was later put on administrative leave by the county.

When Human Resources started investigating Havatone's complaint against Barker, employees started volunteering information about Fabrizio as well.

"This was not politically motivated," she said. "If he hadn't neglected his job and his duties as a treasurer this wouldn't have happened, but he chose to listen to Janet (Barker)."

"The things he is saying in the paper are false accusations," she said.

She said she's never had a rocky relationship with former Treasurer Dora Goodmiller. Goodmiller has actually endorsed Havatone.

She also disputed Fabrizio's claims that it was not the Treasurer's Office's decision to close the satellite offices in Bullhead and Lake Havasu cities.

Barker wanted to close them, Havatone said. Barker deliberately started to pull work from the offices toward the main office in Kingman. After a few months, the offices had to be closed because there was nothing for the employees to do.

Havatone also said it was not unusual for the bank reconciliation reports to be two months behind. She usually didn't get the bank statement for the reports until the middle of the following month. For example, she would get January's bank statement in mid-February.

When Barker dumped more work on top of what Havatone already had she began to fall behind in the statements. That was why she was placed on special observation.

"She purposely loaded me up with work so I would fail," Havatone said. "How could I do my job with the pressure I was getting from Janet?"

Havatone said she had tried to stay out of the mudslinging and wanted to run a clean campaign from the start. Havatone was contacted by the Miner.

"The truth has been revealed on how he (Fabrizio) has mismanaged his office," she said. And now he's backed into a corner and trying to get out of it.