As reported on Friday, Jan. 14, in the St. Thomas Source, the employment contract of Dee Dee Byas who was a legislative employee, was not renewed. The fitness reports of contract employees are reviewed when the term of their contract expires and from this review a determination is made as to whether or not the contract employee will be retained. Miss Byas also happens to be one of the women who came forward to file a complaint against Senator Usie Richards. If her fitness reports have been satisfactory and if there still exists a need for the duties she performed, then there are in my mind some serious questions as to what scenario may be playing out in the 26th Legislature. Is there some skullduggery at work?
It appears as though that at the same time Senator Richards and the 26th Legislature were taking the oath of office on Monday, Jan. 10, Miss Byas who was urged by Senator Lorraine Berry to come forward, was reading her termination letter. It would seem as though Senator Richards has not only been allowed to engage in inappropriate behavior with little redress, but he has been able to enlist the help of Senator Berry to exact his revenge. Furthermore, that Senator Richards has filed a lawsuit challenging the procedural process resulting in the letter of reprimand he received appears to be a clever spin on the old defense in which the accused seeks to discredit the victim.
If the reward for those courageous persons willing to come forward to expose questionable behavior in government turns out to be retribution, then we will have lost one of the most effective tools in the fight to maintain openness and integrity in government. The damage is potentially far reaching. In my mind the fact that there has been so little public comment coming from the other members of the 25th Legislature makes me wonder, who is hiding what? The answer may well be nothing, but what i would expect is that the group would be forthright and vocal in its condemnation of the alleged behavior. Both federal and local laws speak clearly to the issue in an effort to achieve a zero tolerance policy. How did the legislature come to find itself caught in the open without a written policy in place?
The issue of harassment in the work place or any place in the community is thorny. Some accusers have used charges of impropriety out of vindictiveness and or a desire for personal gain. That 6 legislative employees came forward to speak out against Senator Richards does not suggest that such is the case here.
Roger Aaron Dunn
Editors note:We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to firstname.lastname@example.org.