The doors outside the Senator Hearing Room, where the Marion County Board of Commissioners hold weekly meetings. Marion County revealed Wednesday details of an upcoming review of its workplace culture. (Troy Brynelson/Salem Reporter)
A review of Marion County’s workplace culture, stemming in part from recent accusations of sexual harassment within its ranks, is coming into focus.
The county on Wednesday sent out a request for proposal to hire an independent auditor to conduct a “cultural audit,” to gauge how county policies and behaviors impact its workers.
“The review shall examine the county’s cultural characteristics as experienced by a wide range of county employees, including norms, attitudes, and values, to determine how current organizational culture impacts service delivery,” the document said.
According to the request, the county hopes to choose an auditor by February to start the audit in March. The contract would last through mid-July but it could be extended up to six months. Ultimately, a report will be made to the board of commissioners.
The contract wouldn’t cost more than $30,000, the request said. County officials say they budget for internal reviews every year.
The document shows the county specifically wants the auditor to conduct focus groups. The focus groups would include “all individuals at all levels, across all departments and divisions of the organization, to assess workplace culture.”
Lisa Trauernicht, senior policy analyst for the county, said the auditor may also interview workers and spend time in county offices, but said the auditor will have room to develop its own plans.
“I think we’re looking to the auditor for the best way to collect that information,” she said.
At a board meeting in October, county public works employee Jamie Namitz took to the microphone to testify that her supervisor told her in a job interview that she would not be respected if promoted because she is a woman, but that she had her “sexuality” as an asset.
Namitz, her sister and union representatives said the supervisor, Don Newell, had not been punished despite Namitz’s complaints and other people in the interview coming forward as witnesses, they said.
Newell was then fired, according to records obtained by Salem Reporter. His last day was Oct. 4, the day after Namitz’s testimony and the day the cultural audit was brought up in a meeting of department heads.
County spokeswoman Jolene Kelley told Salem Reporter less than a week later that the comments "did a play a part" in calling for the audit.
But Namitz’s story isn’t the only one of harassment, according to the Marion County Employees Association.
A survey in October of 151 union workers – about 20 percent of total members – found that 15 percent had experienced “unwanted sexual attention in the workplace.” Twenty-four percent reported witnessing sexual harassment, according to the union survey.
Kelley said Marion County has not seen that survey and said she could not comment.
The audit, she said, is not a direct response to concerns of sexual harassment. It aims to address any problems workers may face, she said.
“This is very much not about a particular issue, but about any issue that might affect the workplace,” she said. “We want to make sure it’s a broad look so if there’s anything that might impact how an employee is doing their job, we want to know what that is.”
Have a tip? Contact reporter Troy Brynelson at 503-575-9930, [email protected] or @TroyWB.