Wellness Center Questions Go Unanswered
By Josh Resnek
Councilor Michael McLaughlin’s laudable attempt to get to the bottom of the difficulties both past and present facing the city’s out of control Wellness Center was met by derision and hostility by Dr. Omar Easy, Human Resources Director Lara Wehbe Ammour, and City Solicitor Colleen Mejia.
Watching the show and approving of it was the mayor.
Personnel matters can’t be discussed, they all said in their own inimitable way, while at the same time evading any responsibility for the goings on at the troubled Wellness Center.
One official yelled at McLaughlin and said she had offered to allow him to answer written out questions that he presented to her.
“You didn’t answer me. I called you twice and you didn’t return the call,” said the city’s feisty Human Resources director.
McLaughlin said he called her back at 6:00p.m.
“What good is that,” she said in so many words in a derisive and hostile tone of voice.
She quite often looked at the mayor seated at the back of the chamber as if seeking for his approval.
All the mayor’s chiefs said there was nothing wrong at the Wellness Center, that McLaughlin’s questions were ridiculous and didn’t need to be answered.
“Its a personnel matter,” they all said.
“You can’t talk about personnel matters,” they repeated but neither could they speak about the obvious public difficulties at the center.
Karen Avila, one of the heads of the center, and alleged to be a no show employee for her $90,000 a year job, was either red by the mayor or ordered to resign last week after it was found she had faked her college credentials and her dietician registration.
Not a word about this was said by the mayor’s team.
In addition, there have been repeated charges during the past three months, and for months before that, by two different women of sexual harassment, bullying and retaliation by others not yet disciplined or fired from the center.
Not a word was said nor was the validity of the statement alluded to in any way shape or form.
They used an old political strategy that goes like this” admit nothing, deny everything, blame it all on someone else and that someone else was Councillor McLaughlin.
If the mayor treats this crisis of leadership like any other crisis caused by friends working city jobs he gave to them, and failing miserably at them, not much can be expected to change.
The mayor has no stomach for ring friends, and Avila was a friend.
Both of the women alleging harassment and bullying at the center have told the Leader Herald they have lawyers who are preparing law suits against the city.
City officials have been rounded up to all agree, the goings on at the Wellness Center as reported is fake news.
Fake news indeed.
What was fake was the response to McLaughlin’s prescient questions.
No attention was paid to McLaughlin’s reasoning about wanting to know what is going on, has anything been done, or will anything change?
McLaughlin’s concerns and questions about a key department under the mayor’s aegis were ridiculed by the mayor’s paid staff who sat next to one another at the end of the long table where the council was seated at Monday night’s meeting in the council chamber.
In response to a question from McLaughlin Easy admitted he had not written a report in nearly 1 1/2 years on the job.
McLaughlin was especially ridiculed by the staff for raising questions about the Wellness Center as though something was wrong with him and that they, the mayor’s paid mouthpieces, were the good guys and gals.
Human Resources Director Wehbe Ammour was especially vehement in her effort to degrade Councilor McLaughlin.
At one point when things seemed to drag on interminably she complained, “I’ve had to wait here till 9 o’clock,” as if saying to McLaughlin, what are you complaining about, look at the time I’ve wasted having to be here to answer your questions!
McLaughlin was entirely deserted by his colleagues on the council who apparently had not an ounce of interest in pursuing the matter while the mayor was in the council chamber.
Such is the power of the mayor and his ability to stifle free discussion for fear of his retribution.
All the matters McLaughlin wanted to discuss were put off for two weeks.
During that time, he will be submitting written questions to Wehbe Ammour as she demanded after scolding him for believing she’d answer anything he asked in the public forum.
McLaughlin made his point but no one was listening, and it appeared that no one cared.