Breaking News: Attorney Releases New Statements Regarding Dispatcher Case

Retrieved from uwlax.edu

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Retrieved from uwlax.edu

Noah Finco, Managing Editor

On March 13, 2017, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse police dispatcher, Kimberly Dearman, was terminated after a student employee filed a complaint to UW-L University Police.

The student, unnamed at this time, reported that on Feb 1, 2017, Dearman reacted to a series of emails sent by UW-L Chancellor Joe Gow regarding UW-L’s stance on the President Trump travel bans. The email to students and faculty sparked controversy with its first paragraph detailing the UW-L Leadership Team’s disappointment with the travel bans. Days later, Chancellor Gow sent an additional email to apologize for the political tone of his initial email.

The complaint, according to the student, states that the student debated with Dearman, their direct supervisor, about the integrity of the travel bans. In the employee incident investigation, the student claims Dearman spoke in support of the bans, stating, “Immigrants don’t belong here,” before telling the student, who is of Asian descent, “No offense to you.” The investigation indicated that Dearman was in a Performance Improvement Plan process for previous disciplinary actions.

The affected student subsequently resigned from her position and reported the incident. UW-L police placed Dearman on paid administrative leave before her ultimate termination for violating UW-L workplace guidelines in regards to abusive and threatening language and unbecoming conduct.

UW-L has offered Dearman her job back because of their alleged failure to hold a hearing regarding her dismissal. A letter from the UW-L Human Resources Department gave Dearman the option to either resign or to be terminated with no offer for a hearing.

In an interview with The La Crosse Tribune, Gow stated, “We should have investigated more fully. We should have had a hearing, and we were wrong on that.”

In an open letter addressed to students sent to The Racquet directly, Dearman’s attorney, Lee Fehr, stated, “Your government, in this case, the University of La Crosse, fired Ms. Dearman without due process. [This] should be extremely frightening to all UW-L students, employees and taxpayers, whether liberal or conservative. A Government official’s control of your free expression of speech is perhaps the greatest form of terrorism any citizen can encounter.”

“The government as an employer has a far greater right to limit civil liberties,” explained UW-L Public Administration Professor Dr. James Szymalak, who previously served as a senior member of the Pentagon Personnel Policy Legal Advisor within the Department of the Army. “The freedom of speech protections you’re used to as a citizen are greatly different than what you have as a government employee.” Symalak went on to explain that, “[The] government has an obligation to maintain the trust of the public and they cannot have public safety employees making derogatory comments that may make someone feel ostracized.”

Dearman and her attorney now seek a $250,000 settlement from the UW System and wrote a letter to the UW System Board of Regents requesting further investigation as to whether Chancellor Gow violated workplace guidelines in regards to the Jan. 30 email and the Feb. 1 response email.

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