Treasurer may face suspension by supervisors

Lee Fabrizio <br><br>

Lee Fabrizio <br><br>

County Treasurer Lee Fabrizio may be facing suspension during Monday's Board of Supervisors meeting.

On July 25, a letter was sent to Fabrizio from Board Chairman Pete Byers, notifying Fabrizio that the Board would be considering suspending him.

A hand written note, from a County Manger's Office employee, at the bottom of the letter stated that Fabrizio refused to sign the letter in acknowledgement that he had received it.

According to the report filed by the Human Resources Department and documents from the County Manager's Office, Fabrizio allegedly contributed to a hostile work environment, coerced political activity at the office, violated procurement laws and misused his office.

An investigation into the Treasurer's Office was started in April after employee Melissa Havatone, a candidate for the treasurer's seat, filed a formal grievance of harassment with the County Human Resources Department against Janet Barker, the former deputy chief treasurer.

Barker has since resigned her position and left the office earlier this month.

According to Arizona Revised Statute, the Board could suspend Fabrizio for financial mismanagement or neglect of duty for no more than 120 days.

"This agenda item is completely without merit," Fabrizio said in a prepared statement. "I feel this is a violation of my rights."

He has hired private counsel to represent him.

"It sounds like it was pretty much a chaotic situation," Supervisor Tom Sockwell said. He had heard rumors about the situation for a while.

"It looks like we're going to be the laughingstock of the state again," he said. The county consistently seems to have employees that are in trouble, he said.

Sockwell could not predict what might happen during Monday's meeting, but he did say he would request an outside investigator to look into the matter.

"I don't know where it goes from here," Byers said. "I don't have an issue or an ax to grind with (Fabrizio.)"

Byers said his job was to protect the county's money and the employees in the Treasurer's Office. The Board ordered that funds in the County Treasurer's Office be temporarily moved to the state treasurer's local government investment pool and the office's books to undergo an audit after Barker resigned and it was found that the office was using advice from a investment firm that was not pre-approved by the county.

"I believe the department is in disarray. There are a lot of allegations that have been made that can't be overlooked," Byers said. "This is not about the election."

"I don't work on hearsay," Supervisor Buster Johnson said, referring to the names of employees that were removed from the investigation report. "I think this is more of a personnel issue."

He did think it was coincidental that the grievance was filed during an election cycle.

"Havatone knew she got into a blood sport," he said.

Johnson also pointed out that, according to the ARS, the Board could only suspend Fabrizio for mismanagement of county money or neglect of duty, not for his management style.

In the complaint filed in April, Havatone alleged that Barker was "creating a hostile and abusive work environment and harassment."

According to the complaint, Havatone met at least three times with Barker in an attempt to discuss the situation before filing a formal grievance.

When Havatone was not satisfied with Barker's response to the formal grievance the matter went to the head of the department, Fabrizio. He requested that the County Human Resources Department investigate the matter, which included interviewing 28 of the 30 employees in the Treasurer's Office.

Once the Human Resources Department finished its report, it was passed on to the County Manager's Office, which brought it to the attention of the Board.

"During the interviews, the employees exhibited a significant degree of fear and distrust. ... The employees were very concerned about retaliation from Ms. Janet Barker and/or Mr. Lee Fabrizio," stated County Human Resource Director Ray Osuna in his investigation report. "Some expressed a fear of retaliation and losing their employment."

According to the report, employees said that Barker used foul language on a regular basis in the office.

Several said that the foul language started on the very first day Barker was in the office during a meeting.

Some employees said that she attempted to undermine and embarrass Havatone and that Barker spoke badly of former employees of the office and of Fabrizio.

"Ninety percent of employees report Ms. Baker and Mr. Fabrizio having no contemporary, motivational and inspirational leadership and management style. Mr. Fabrizio is characterized as motivated by politics only and not caring about his office, the department and its employees," the investigation report states.

"Employees report that he is rarely in the office, and when he is, he is not available to them or responsive to their requests for direction or support. Employees report he has totally given Ms. Barker all management responsibilities and accountability for the department's operations."

Many employees said in the report that Fabrizio had lost all respect from employees, he did not know the department's operations and admitted he did not know the department's operations. They also said that Fabrizio did nothing to control or eliminate the hostile atmosphere.

"Ms. Barker is described as autocratic, dictatorial and having total control of the department and its employees," the report states. "Her management style is described as managing the department through threats, scare and fear tactics, (with) violent and vulgar outbursts toward employees."

The report also stated that employees said that Fabrizio brought politics into the office, including circulating a petition to get his name on the November ballot.

The county has a policy that political activity is prohibited on county property.

The Board of Supervisors will meet at 9:30 a.m. on Monday in the County Administration Building, 700 W. Beale St., to discuss the situation.