Former S/CE defends record regarding files
By RICHARD D. OXLEY
Bainbridge Island Review Staff Writer
December 9, 2011 · 10:48 AM
The former secretary/chief examiner of the Civil Service Commission Kim Hendrickson has been actively defending her record regarding the issue of lost files under her purview, creating yet another debate surrounding the commission.
At the Nov. 30 City Council meeting, as council was discussing the reasons behind placing the S/CE position with a city employee, it was argued by a number of council members that having a private contractor using personal and home-based equipment was contributing to insufficient performance by the private contractor — one example was the state of files for the commission.
It was revealed that some CSC files were missing, while others were simply disorganized. Both Hendrickson and her predecessor were private contractors, and not city employees.
One of the files missing from the CSC, and one that was pointed out at the Nov. 30 council meeting, is that of Officer Jeff Benkert, who was involved in the 2010 fatal police shooting of Douglas Ostling.
Since then, Hendrickson, who was terminated from the S/CE position in August, has been attempting to make her side of the story known in defense of her record, claiming that she is not the cause of problems with the CSC files. It has stirred another cycle of debate between the city, Hendrickson and the community.
“I remain extremely troubled by the assertion by City Manager (Brenda) Bauer that I lost (or withheld) the employment applications of officers Jeff Benkert and David Portrey,” Hendrickson said in a letter to Council Member Debbi Lester.” This assertion was made, without equivocation, at the Nov. 30 city council meeting. This is more than a critique of my work product: I have been blamed for lost evidence in an upcoming federal trial.”
Hendrickson further put forth that files under the police department’s responsibility, not the CSC, are missing.
According to Bauer, Benkert’s file from the CSC is the only file missing that relates to officers in the Ostling shooting, and that since Chief Jon Fehlman was hired in 2009, there have been no files missing from the police department.
While she was S/CE, Hendrickson said, she seldom visited the CSC files and kept all active files at her home office.
“I probably went in (to the CSC files) once every three months, maybe,” said Hendrickson. “The reason I would go in there would be because there was a public records request. That was really the only real reason.”
According to Bauer, files should have been organized when they were created and maintained in accordance with labor rules, case law and statute and it appeared that this was not being done while under the private contractor.
“The organization cannot ensure personnel files are appropriately managed when the files are being created at an individual’s home, on their personal computer, where they are developed through the use of a Gmail account that the city has no access to or back-up for, and where personal communications are mixed in with official city records,” Bauer said, further noting that these issues were all present with Hendrickson.
Files maintained by the S/CE for the CSC are only for candidates being considered for hire by the Bainbridge Island Police Department. The files only contain applications and tests, and constitute the initial qualification of applicants.
Since 2007 there were 12 civil service hires. Between 2007 and 2009, prior to Hendrickson’s hire, eight hires occurred, two of which have files that are complete. Three hires have incomplete records, and the remaining three have no files at all.
According to Bauer, the files covering these years are neatly organized aside from those that are incomplete.
Since Hendrickson took on the position in 2009, there were four total hires. The records on one of these hires is incomplete.
“The security of those files was pretty questionable when I took the job,” said Hendrickson. “(The police chief’s) secretary had a key, there was plenty of access with other people, and I rarely went over there. To suggest that it was me who lost the file is pretty irresponsible.”
According to Bauer, the chief’s secretary does not access the files and only maintains copies of keys in the event they go missing. Such an event occurred during Hendrickson’s tenure when her keys to the police station were lost and all locks had to be replaced. Hendrickson acknowledges losing keys to the front door, but cannot remember if the keys to files were also missing.
Bauer said that Hend-rickson’s missing keys were not reported “for months,” after which the police station had to be entirely rekeyed and new keys were made for all staff.
Hendrickson also has raised the issue that the S/CE is not the only corner of the city dealing with unorganized files.
She produced an email sent in April from Senior Executive Secretary Kate Brown, who asked if the CSC had application files on five hired officers. She said that she was able to find three, but did not have records on two officers, including Benkert.
Hendrickson said she asked to inventory the files before leaving the position, but said that she was denied.
“I don’t know how Ms. Hendrickson could have inventoried civil service files at the end of her tenure, since she did not have an account of the files under her control from when she started,” Bauer said.
Contact Bainbridge Island Review Staff Writer Richard D. Oxley at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206) 842-6613.