I-Team 8

State employee fired and claims retaliation

State employee fired and claims retaliation

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Melissa McMann has not been back to the Indiana Statehouse since she was fired from the Legislative Service Agency. An investigation by the Indiana Department of Labor has determined McMann’s termination was a form of retaliation. 

“I want to believe in the good of the government, but right now, I couldn’t trust anybody” McMann told News 8’s Richard Essex while standing outside the statehouse last week. We first met with her on January 20. In the days following, McMann handed over volumes of documents and voice recordings documenting her side of the incident.

According to McMann, she was physically struck by Diane Powers, the assistant director of the Legislative Services Agency following a spirited discussion of a project on June 11, 2019.

“I went into victim mode immediately. ‘How can I make this right?’ My reaction wasn’t to fight back. My reaction, because I knew that person and I knew the reactions from Ms. Powers, I knew it was just best to just go along” said McMann.

The Legislative Service Agency, commonly known as LSA, is a non-partisan agency created to provide objective legal support and fiscal analysis for members of the Indiana General Assembly. Most people in Indiana have little or no interaction with LSA but everyone in the state is affected by their work. The agency director is George Angelone, a veteran of the agency with almost thirty years of service at LSA.

McMann’s supervisor had witnessed the incident and filed a complaint that eventually landed on Angleone’s desk. Personnel complaints within LSA are typically handled by the agency director or the General Assembly personnel sub-committee.

After months of interviews and internal investigations, Angelone issued a written corrective action that ordered Powers to complete management training and issued permanent restrictions against Powers having any physical contact with McMann. The details of the correction action are outlined by a Susan Zoeller, a lawyer with Jackson Lewis.

“They issued a memo to me saying that I could not be retaliated against by LSA and that I would be protected from further harm, further physical harm, any kind of damage to my career, and so that was given to me on September 26th and then just six days, six business days, later I was told that I was being reassigned to work on a project at home and I was also told informally that there had been secret meetings with lots of lawyers trying to mitigate risk, trying to mitigate the damage of me being fired” said McMann.

The conclusion of two investigations do not agree on whether there had been physical contact and both agreed that the corrective action put into place was sufficient.

“They said that they were planning on firing me in May, which is not the case. There was never any reprimand, never any work improvement plan. I had no emails given to me saying that I needed to look for another job.” Said McMann.

But there had been some concerns about McMann’s work performance prior to the incident. A lawyer hired by LSA wrote in a report that McMann performed poorly in her new role, and although McMann was assigned to the simplest applications, she nonetheless failed to perform her duties in an acceptable manner. 

“On a friend-to-friend level I was told, I was asked ‘hey Melissa, do you still want to work here even though this is going on’ and I said, I still had hope back in June and July when this questions was asked to me by my manager I had hope that this was going to be resolved and that I was going to have a job, I was going to be retaliated against and so I was planning on retiring from the state,” McMann said.

Not satisfied with the corrective action, she filed an ethics complaint, and “within 24 hours I received a phone call that someone had leaked it to the newspaper and they were asking me about it,” she said.

That ethics complaint was dismissed. On October 28th she filed a complaint with the Indiana Department of Labor. A document provided to News 8 by McMann says her case was being recommended for litigation.

McMann was proud of her job and from performance reviews she provided to News 8 she appeared to perform well. In her last review, dated Aug. 30, 2019, 60 days before she was fired, she was given excellent or good ratings on her primary responsibilities as well as “excellent” marks for attitude and customer service.

The state spent thousands on lawyers investigating this incident. The case could be headed to court.

“I actually want people to call their senators and their representatives and ask for change, because (Brian) Bosma, (Rodric) Bray, George (Angelone), they are ultimately responsible for the LSA and they are not above the law, they expect Hoosiers to follow the laws that they make” said McMann.