City Employee Placed on Paid Leave Used Homophobic and Racial Slurs, Threatened to Beat up Co-Worker

City Employee Placed on Paid Leave Used Homophobic and Racial Slurs, Threatened to Beat up Co-Worker

Update:  The original article stated that John Swantek had been put on leave Dec. 4, 2015. The correct date was Dec. 4, 2014.

by John Ball

Click here to download a copy of the AFSCME Discipline Report and pay records for John Swantek.

THE ANN ARBOR Independent, using the Freedom of Information Act, gained access to the AFSCME Discipline Report for city staffer John Swantek. Along with the city’s former development manager, Ralph Welton, Swantek was put on paid administrative leave on Dec. 4, 2014. City Administrator Steve Powers told the Ann Arbor News that he would not release any information about the investigations into the conduct of either Welton or Swantek. Likewise, Powers refused to provide details to City Council members who asked about the investigations.

One day before city officials were obligated to respond to The Ann Arbor Independent’s Freedom of Information Act asking for the investigation records, Powers sent Council members an email about the investigation into the conduct of Ralph Welton. Powers did not include any information about the investigation into Swantek’s conduct, or the eventual findings documented in a Mar. 30, 2015 Employee AFSCME Discipline Report.

The Ann Arbor Independent used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a copy of Ralph Welton’s Separation Agreement. Details of the Agreement, signed by Welton and Robyn Wilkerson, director of Human Resources for the City of Ann Arbor, outlined an arrangement whereby Welton was required to do no work for six months, paid his full salary and benefits and kept on the city’s payroll in order to vest in the city employee pension plan.

While City Administrator Powers told Council members in a Jan. 2015 email about the deferred resignation of Ralph Welton, Powers also referred to the Separation Agreement as “standard.” In addition, important details about Welton’s Separation Agreement were not shared with Council members. For instance, Council members were not told Welton’s Separation Agreement would permit him to cash out hundreds of hours of vacation and sick time, or that he was offered compensation should it be necessary for him to testify on behalf of the city in the case of any future litigation. Welton’s Separation Agreement also imposes a de facto gag order on him under pain of repayment of all of the money paid to him as outlined in his Separation Agreement. Plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the city’s Footing Drain Disconnect program are seeking to depose Ralph Welton.

The Ann Arbor Independent filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to the investigation into the conduct of Ralph Welton, as well.

In Dec. 2014, Swantek, a Development Services Inspector, stood accused of “using a racial slur while representing the City of Ann Arbor.” He was also accused of making “comments regarding a co-worker’s sexual orientation on City work time.” The Discipline Report goes on to say that Swantek “has also used bullying behavior to intimidate his co-workers including calling co-workers derogatory names and threatening to beat up a co-worker.”

The Discipline Report shows that in August of 2014 Swantek received “counseling” for “use of language offensive to a co-worker.”

Swantek remained on paid administrative leave between Dec. 2014 and Mar. 30, 2015. During that time, he was paid a cell phone allowance of $110 per month, his full salary of approximately $5,000 per month plus approximately $600 per month in benefits.

That it took almost four months to investigate and discipline Swantek has raised questions about the City Administrator’s leadership. John Swantek did not return messages seeking a comment.

2 Responses to "City Employee Placed on Paid Leave Used Homophobic and Racial Slurs, Threatened to Beat up Co-Worker"

  1. Curious   May 18, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    Is there going to be any further investigation into this? This seems like obvious malfeasance by or more parties. This seems serious enough that we would not want people getting away with this. 6 months full salary and benefits, to get to the pension vesting almost TO THE DAY??!! Shouldn’t there be some investigation and people taken to task here?

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    • The Ann Arbor Independent Editorial Team   May 19, 2015 at 11:08 am

      The employee is a member of AFSCME and discipline was administered under the auspices that contract. It does leave questions about why threatening to assault a co-worker was dealt with internally and not reported to the AAPD.

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