On May 6, Candice Shepherd sent a 4,030-word letter to the former General Manager of Basin Transit Service.
The letter was what she described as a rambling call for advice about a work environment that she said was out of control.
The letter was full of accusations about management at BTS.
“This is a vicious, hateful, gossip filled, racist, sexist organization and Mike (Stinson) appears oblivious,” transit employee Shepherd’s letter said.
The former manager forwarded the letter to the BTS board of directors and it was then sent to the current manager, Stinson.
Because the letter implicated him, Stinson started an investigation by outside legal counsel. The investigation focused on Stinson and Assistant General Manager Paula Quinn.
The investigation revealed that Stinson may have been too lax in his enforcement, but did not indicate that he had acted in a way that warranted discipline.
The story was very different for Quinn. The investigation revealed that Quinn had used the N-word to refer to a black employee at BTS, lead mechanic James Barnes.
Shepherd said she heard countless instances of overtly racist remarks from Quinn.
Quinn denies that she ever made the remarks.
“Candice opened up a whole can of worms when she sent that letter,” Quinn said.
Stinson said he and the board have reached a decision on disciplinary action for Quinn because of the racially charged statements, which will be announced soon.
However, there is another issue that is yet to be resolved.
The union representative for BTS, Bart Worrell put together a document of statements that Quinn allegedly made about the second highest-ranking mechanic, Wade Millett.
“Watch me f... with Wade,” the document said. “I want that f...er gone.”
Employees interviewed by the Herald and News stated that Quinn had a problem with Millett and treated him unfairly.
After Millett was dismissed from the company on May 1, the union fought to reverse the decision.
“We’re currently fighting to get his job back,” Worrell said. “We feel that he’s been targeted and he’s been set up.”
Millett said in the nine years he worked for the company he had no disciplinary issues until Quinn started working at BTS.
“I feel like I didn’t really do anything wrong,” he said.
One incident in which Millett was disciplined for at work was when he asked two Hispanic mechanics to speak English.
Millett said he is in good regard with at least one of the mechanics. He said he thought the mechanics may have been speaking about him in Spanish, so he asked them to speak English.
He was suspended for three days as a result of the incident.
Several BTS employees expressed concern that Millett was suspended for that incident and Quinn has yet to be punished.
“We have had people that have been going through disciplinary action on far less of an offense,” Worrell said.
“When I see people lose their job over problems that could have been handled in a much better way I want to fight for that individual,” he said.
Stinson recommended sensitivity training to the entire 31 person staff at BTS. He said he has seen issues related to sensitivity since he began working at BTS. The board agreed to implement the training, despite its lofty cost.
“I think the board wants to take us to the next level as an organization so we are better, we have better customer service and we’re just a better organization,” Stinson said.
He said not only will the training help the staff avoid conflicts among themselves, it will help employees avoid conflicts with passengers on the buses.
Stinson also recommended adding more positions to BTS management, namely a human resources person and a financial expert. As the company structure is now, Stinson acts as all three positions.
He said although he does not excuse his own behavior, he believes if there was a dedicated HR person the issue of sensitivity in BTS could have been caught sooner.
“I’m never against new training,” Worrell said. “I’m always ready to learn something new,” he said.
Worrell said many employees feel insulted that they will have to go through sensitivity training.
“There’s never been a problem. We’ve had (black people) that have worked here. There’s never been a problem with any type of racism,” said Valerie Jerde, a recently retired transit officer who worked at BTS.