Bend police confirmed Wednesday they are investigating allegations that an Oregon Liquor Control Commission staff meeting was recorded by managers without informing the workers in attendance.
The Oregonian said it first reported on the story earlier in the week after receiving an anonymous tip. Bend police Lt. Chris Carney initially told the paper he’d not heard about the complaint. Carney told NewsChannel 21 Wednesday that he since has confirmed the investigation and that the results are due to be forwarded to the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office within two weeks.
The Portland newspaper reported that Katie Siefkes, regional OLCC manager in Bend, called a staff meeting back in February, where workers were told they could air grievances without fear of retaliation. Bonnie Barasch, OLCC’s human resources director, also attended that meeting.
According to The Oregonian, “written accounts” indicate that Barasch produced a recording device from her lap about halfway through the meeting and gave it to Siefkes because it had malfunctioned.
Staff attending the meeting complained that they didn’t know they were being recorded, and the union representing the workers got involved in the matter.
OLCC Interim Director Merle Lindsey later wrote a letter promising that any future recordings of staff meetings would be announced in advance, but a union representative told the paper the issue has not been resolved.
In May, an OLCC employee who had been let go filed a complaint with Bend police.
Carney refuted the paper’s claim that the department “apparently waited until now to investigate.” He told NewsChannel 21 he at first could not find anyone aware of the matter, until the paper’s reporter called back and provided a case number.
OLCC spokeswoman Christie Scott said Thursday she understands the worker who filed the complained was removed from trial service for reasons unrelated to the grievance session.
"As for the meeting in question, I understand that there was a meeting held Feb 6 where a recorder was used for note-taking purposes," Scott told NewsChannel 21 in an e-mail.
"I think it's worth noting that the two managers maintain that the recorder was visible on the conference table throughout the meeting," Scott said. "I also understand that the recorder was visible for some period of time because employees saw it and later raised concerns. (Incidentally, there was no actual recording.)"
"After concerns were brought up in a labor management meeting (Feb. 19), management recognized the request and agreed to announce when meetings are recorded," the agency spokeswoman said. "The meeting minutes were mutually agreed upon and OLCC thought the issue was resolved."
Nine weeks later, on April 24, "the employee mentioned above was removed from trial service. Later that day, he filed a report with Bend PD," Scott said.
"The issue was raised again by AFSCME five weeks later (May 29)," Scott said. "Having believed the issue was resolved in February, OLCC responded to the union to reiterate that meetings are recorded for ease of note taking purposes only with no ulterior motives, only an interest in accuracy and ease of documentation. Also to reiterate that OLCC management agrees to say up-front if meetings will be recorded. OLCC also expressed interest in maintaining good labor relationships."