Mayor: Former HR Director 'Has a Lot of History'

Acting city manager 'comfortable' with how council was notified of Vargas's resignation.

Rockville Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio says she hopes that city officials won’t have to talk to Carlos Vargas, the city’s former human resources director, about harassment and discrimination claims by former city employees.

“He has a lot of history,” Marcuccio said last week. “It may be necessary to talk to him when our investigation is finally completed. I hope it won’t be necessary.”

The city has of former city employees’ claims that they were subjected to harassment and discrimination by their supervisors while employed by the city. , some of the former employees criticized Vargas, who recently resigned.

“He’s naturally going to be mentioned because he’s director of personnel,” Marcuccio said.

It’s unclear whether investigators spoke with Vargas before his last day at . City officials have been tight-lipped about the claims and about the investigation, citing city policy not to comment on personnel issues.

Asked about the “history” to which she was referring, Marcuccio said Vargas could be able to flesh out details about how employees were treated.

“There are [personnel] files,” she said. “It’s beyond the files.”

Vargas’s resignation “was a bit of a surprise,” Marcuccio said.

in a letter on May 11, acting city manager Jennifer Kimball said. He resigned, effective June 1, to take a job with a nonprofit organization, she said.

“It was a nice opportunity for him,” Kimball said, adding that she did not know whether the new job was local.

Kimball and Marcuccio both spoke to Rockville Patch in brief interviews at  on Wednesday, where they attended .

Kimball said she informed the mayor and City Council of Vargas’s resignation in an email on June 2, a Saturday and the day after Vargas's final day with the city.

“I wanted to respect Carlos’s interest in managing the process and letting him complete his final weeks here in a pleasant manner,” Kimball said. “And I was comfortable with that timing.”

Kimball said she could not comment on the ongoing investigation into former employees’ claims.

“[Vargas] did not indicate that his decision was related to that,” she said. “He just indicated that he had been offered a new opportunity that he wanted to take advantage of.”

Kimball said she and Vargas had a standard exit interview “to include a plan for the interim period.”

Colette Anthony, a labor and employee relations manager with the city, is serving as acting director of the Department of Human Resources.

“We will wait for a new city manager to come on board to do a recruitment to fill that position and Burt Hall’s position,” Kimball said.

Hall, the city’s longtime director of recreation and parks, will retire on Friday after 39 years with the city.

The mayor and council have narrowed their search for a new city manager to . The mayor and council met Tuesday to discuss the finalists, but won’t likely announce their city manager selection for “a couple more weeks,” Marcuccio said Wednesday.

Jeff Hawkins June 11, 2012 at 07:47 PM
"Rockville Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio says she hopes that city officials won’t have to talk to Carlos Vargas, the city’s former human resources director, about harassment and discrimination claims by former city employees." I'm sorry, but it seems to me...........who better to talk to about it! This doesn't make much sense?
CP June 12, 2012 at 03:49 AM
I agree. Vargas was in the eye of the hurricane. It would appear the title "acting" city manager is very apropos of Miss Kimball. It is curious as to why city residents are so silent on any topic dealing with the employee allegations or the expensive investigation that Vargas lobbied so hard against. I am sorry, but the timing of his resignation speaks volumes.
Stephen Kelley June 12, 2012 at 04:29 AM
I would love to know why the Mayor hopes there's no reason to talk to the former HR director during an investigation of harassment and discrimination under her administration. In fact, according to the article, the Mayor hopes it won't be necessary to talk to him once the investigation is complete. So there are no plans to talk to him before the investigation is complete? How about he's interviewed DURING the investigation, Mayor? Perhaps I'm missing something but it seems to me to be another reason she is unfit to serve as Mayor of Rockville. It's there something to hide, Mayor?
Stephen Kelley June 12, 2012 at 04:33 AM
*Is* there something to hide Mayor?"
Joseph Jordan June 12, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Mr. Kelley, if you have been following this story, you would know the Mayor and Council were not told of Vargas' resignation until after his official last day of work. Certainly you aren't suggesting the Council should have interviewed him during the investigation, are you? The Council has no authority to do that. They are not conducting the investigation. The acting City Manager is not conducting the investigation. I believe the only City employee allowed contact with the investigating firm is the City Attorney. You nor I, nor anyone else, can read the Mayor's mind as to what she meant by her statement, “It may be necessary to talk to him when our investigation is finally completed. I hope it won’t be necessary.” I read that as saying it in fact might be necessary to talk with him, but Vargas has no obligation to talk to anyone, now that he is gone, and if there is a need to talk with him, it might take legal action. As you look for blame or fault in this story, you might consider the lapse in judgment shown by Ms. Kimball. Overall, she has been doing an excellent job in the acting position, but I think dropped the ball on this one. Allowing Vargas to orchestrate his own departure, and worrying about how pleasant his final days would be, flies in the face of what City employees have been saying for a very long time. I don't always agree with everything the Mayor says or does, but going after her specifically, on this issue, is a cheap shot without any basis.
Piotr Gajewski June 12, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Steve, The Mayor has honed her skills at being the victim, no matter what the issue. It is always about her not having the information because someone else withheld it from her and not taking responsibility for anything that goes on at City Hall. As far as the timing of Mr. Vargas’ departure: it is no mystery that several department heads made up their minds to leave after the last election. Mr. Vargas is gone and Mr. Burt Hall, the City’s Director of Recreation and Parks, retires today. I am pretty confident in predicting two to three more resignations over the next twelve months.
Jeff Hawkins June 12, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Piotr, I agree with your analysis. There does seem to be a consistant lack of accountability on the part of the Mayor. Something is just not quite right...........
CP June 12, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Former Councilman and mayoral candidate Gajewski, your first comment has nothing to do with the issue. Plain and simple, no one on the Council knew of Vargas' departure until he had "left the building". If the Mayor is a victim, so are the other four councilmembers, and to an extent, so are the employes and residents of Rockville. Your second comment, that department heads decided to leave after the last election sounds like nothing more than sour grapes and a sense of self-importance. The more realistic reason for the departures is because of the allegations and investigation that is going on. Mr. Hall didn't resign, he retired after 39 years of service. Mr. Vargas quit, knowing what was ahead for him. Many residents and employees hope you are right, that there are additional resignations. If they come, it will have nothing to do with election results...it just might be seeing the handwriting on the wall. Jeff, what accountability are you looking for on this topic?
Jeff Hawkins June 12, 2012 at 03:54 PM
@CP Accountability may have been the wrong word. I sat and pondered which word to use..........I may have chosen "poorly" (Indiana Jones :) Perhaps consistant lack of knowledge would be better? Her statement is still curious and there have been others if memory serves me, but that should be a seperate topic.
mark June 12, 2012 at 11:53 PM
This is one of those rare times when everyone on here is right. It's not that the mayor is not accountable, she's just not qualified or capable of handling the job. Nice person, however. As for Mr. Vargas and Ms. Kimball, they should have known better. I don't know whether he did anything wrong, but slipping out the backdoor as he did sure makes him look guilty. Remember Vargas and Kimball worked for the county government. They are not newbies. They knew what they were doing when they delayed notice of his departure. Much like the mayor, I don't think Mr. Vargas is qualified for any HR position if he thinks it's OK to pull a stunt like that.
Dan Cohen June 13, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Mr. Gajewski, it seems that you have honed your skills at becoming Rockville’s perennial gadfly. That fact is, Marcuccio was the winner and you were the loser. This fact has apparently made you so bitter that you find it necessary to continually lambast Marcuccio, who has shown leadership in the face of a dying culture of obfuscation and deceit, a culture in which you operated so well. As a close friend of a Rockville city employee (not one of the ones making $100,000+ ), I am delighted that Rockville is finally cleaning house. We haven’t seen the last of Ullery’s $140,000+ club members head for the exits. Thank God the house cleaning started with you.
Stephen Kelley June 13, 2012 at 02:14 AM
I could have been more clear in my comments. I didn't mean to suggest that the council was investigating the allegations of harassment. I would suspect, however, that the firm conducting the investiagation would have made its first stop at the office of the human resources director. You are correct, Mr. Jordan, I can't read the Mayor's mind. I often find it difficult to understand what the Mayor says and does. In re-reading my commments, I don't see where I blamed anyone, not even the Mayor, for anything. I find it interesting that you chose to find someone to blame.
Stephen Kelley June 13, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Piotr, You hit the nall on the head! Blame, deflect, bllame. I am not an expert on which city employees have left over the years but, as a casual observer, it certainly seems there have been more of them, at higher levels, since Mayor Marcuccio was first elected. (Perhaps its just my perception.) But I don't think that can be a good thing.
Stephen Kelley June 13, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Mr. Cohen, The last I knew, Mr. Gajewski was a citizen of Rockville. I believe that gives him the standing to comment on our local politics. It is no secret that Mr. Gajewski and the Mayor saw things differently when they served together on the Mayor and Council. It is not unreasonable to believe that those differences still exist. I think you are wrong to say that Mr. Gajewski is bitter for losing the election simply for his voicing his opinion, which clearly is different from yours. p.s. I find your descrption of the Mayor as having "shown leadership" amusing!
CP June 13, 2012 at 04:08 AM
Given the Mayor and Councilmembers have no authority over City staff, and given they are elected for two year terms, it makes no sense that resignations have anything to do with who is elected. However, for anyone who is more than a casual observer, former City Manager Scott Ullery, and the people he brought in, were instrumental in many good people leaving City employment. Some were forced to retire, some demoted and eventually left, some demoted and decided to stay and some just pushed to where they could no longer stay. The allegations coming from current and former City employees bear this out. From what has been told the public, the investigating law firm is not conducting proactive interviews of directors, senior staff, or anyone else for that matter. For now, there is a hotline people can call to go on record with complaints and arrange private interviews. In every case, they must identify themselves and provide contact information. As for this thread of comments, the focus has shifted from the acting city manager doing what some see as obstruction, and justifying it, to criticism of the Mayor. Why not save that for another discussion or forum, and address the issue brought forward in the article.
Piotr Gajewski June 13, 2012 at 04:58 AM
Mr. Cohen: "Marcuccio, who has shown leadership..." The Mayor and Council performs two major functions. 1. Approves the City Budget. 2. Engages a City Manager, City Attorney and City Clerk. Not focusing on the budget process this year, which was a bit of a fiasco with 11th hour proposals with no opportunity for citizen input and marathon meetings in order to meet the deadline for budget passage.... The City Manager announced that he would be retiring in early July of 2011. Almost a year later the City is without a new City Manager and meanwhile the number of urgent issues hanging over City Hall is growing. Why does it take a year, (or half a term of a Mayor) to replace the City Manager? "Leadership?" Really? With the 2011 election, the Mayor finally got her majority on the Council, with two of the newly elected Councilmembers endorsing her cnadidacy. So, no more excuse about not being able to get her way. And what do we have? No City Manager, resignations and investigations. Just sayin'
Mark Parker June 13, 2012 at 11:01 AM
@Dan Cohen - I agree 100% with your post. Gadfly pretty much nails it.
Dan Cohen June 13, 2012 at 11:28 AM
Thomas Mercer June 13, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Pitor, Are you stipulating that because the 2011 election and the resignation of the city manager that the mayor is responsible for the investigation? I would agree in a very narrow minded examination that one could possibly cast blame on the mayor simply because she wanted to find out what is going on in city hall. However, the mayor has a responsibility to us citizens to see the person appointed as the city manager carries out the visions of the mayor and council. If one looks back prior to the appointment of Mr. Ullery the city had numerous city managers and once they left the city there was long gaps where there was no city manager. For the mayor and council to be in the position of choosing three candidates within a seven month period is exceptional. Examine the past history of hiring city managers and see how long it took the city to hire Bruce Romer and Mark Pentz then Scott Ullery. Cont below
Thomas Mercer June 13, 2012 at 01:25 PM
The resignations of Mr. Vargas and Mr Hall had nothing to do with the election of the mayor and council. All one needs to do is search the internet and see that the senior management in many cases did not change until a new city manager was selected. Also, supporting the actions of Ms. Kimball is beyond belief. Why does the city have as part of the contract a 30 day requirement for notification of resignation? For Ms. Kimball to allow Vargas to resign and only give three weeks notice sure sounds like a breach of contract. It also stinks to high heaven of a cover up. When the claims of abusive managers was first published in the Sentinel paper, many could not believe that he city could treat any employee with such disrespect and allow violations of peoples civil rights and many other violations of employment law. From what I have been reading here in this forum is that Both Mark P and yourself have no sympathy towards the horrific treatment of city staff, and even worse continue to show support for the actions of senior managers in the city. What will come out is exactly what orders the city manager received from the mayor and council to carry out his treatment of city staff. I find it very interesting that you and two others stood behind the city manager while the abuses were brought to your attention on several occasions
Joseph Jordan June 13, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Piotr, if you recall, the last Council, of which you were a member, agreed to let the to-be-elected Council go through the process of hiring the new City Manager. The former City Manager and former Director of HR took on the job of engaging a search firm. It has been only 6 months since Scott Ullery left his position, the current Council was elected, a recruiting piece was crafted, the search firm started looking for candidates, the Council interviewed those candidates, the Council narrowed the field to three and are now in final deliberations, after allowing citizens to meet and greet the three finalists. As Mr. Mercer points out, that is pretty darn good, considering the importance of the position and the process itself. There aren't any shrinking violets on this Council, so I am sure if anyone felt the process was dragging, we would have heard from them. As for resignations and investigations, get real, Piotr. We can all thank the Mayor for showing leadership in finally doing something about the serious allegations that were brought to everyone's attention because a few courageous employees got their story out via the Sentinel.
Not Taking Any More June 15, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Dan Cohen--have I finally found a hero in Rockville? Could it be you? I volunteer to escort out Kimball, the city attorney, and many more of em. If only some of the council members would go too. Wonder if Gajewski is paying them to act so unkindly and unfairly--was he ever cleared legally or morally of allegedly being paid for his last votes when he was on council; or for his allegedly illegal campaign contributions?


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