The Orion

Employees allege hostility, harassment

Madison Holmes

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Cynthia Jensen, former manager of Maintenance Operations and Landscaping for Facilities Management and Services, said her bosses subjected her to ongoing abuse during her employment at Chico State. Photo credit: Madison Holmes

Employees in the Facilities management and services department are accusing administrators of harassment and hostility following the resignation of Cynthia Jensen.

Jensen, the former manager of Maintenance Operations and Landscaping, resigned Oct. 28.

She said that she was “tortured, diminished and brutalized” by Lori Hoffman, Chico State vice president of business and finance, and Kathleen Gentry, interim director of facilities management and services.

Hoffman wrote in an email that the abuse claims against Gentry and her are not true.

“I have not tortured, diminished or brutalized any member of the campus community,” Hoffman wrote.

Gentry could not be reached to comment.

She went on administrative leave with an unknown return date, according to a Nov. 14 interoffice email from Hoffman. Gentry’s responsibilities were given to the newly-appointed Interim Director, Kevin Doyle.

Jensen filed personnel complaints against Gentry and Hoffman prior to her resignation. In her first complaint, Aug. 26, she alleged that there was a lack of respect, unclear expectations and “disorganized chaos” in the facilities management and services department because of Gentry.

“In my five short months at FMS, I have become ill both physically and mentally,” Jensen wrote in the complaint. “I have never been made to feel so incompetent and so worthless.”

The second complaint Jensen filed against Hoffman on Aug. 28 alleged that Hoffman verbally attacked staff in the department.

Nick Coatney, a union steward and supervising electrician in the facilities management and services department, said he has filed more than 25 grievances against Hoffman and Gentry for his staff and himself.

A grievance Coatney filed detailed the lack of equal job opportunities for hourly workers in comparison to outside contractors.

When grievances are filed, the person named is usually informed of who filed the grievance and why, said Dylan Saake, Chico State director of labor relations. It can be difficult to pinpoint who is at fault because it is usually word against word.

“Generically, if it’s a complaint that I am investigating, I will inform both sides,” he said. “One person is saying one thing and the other person is saying something else and the reality is in the middle.”

Saake said he could not comment on specific cases because they are confidential.

Eric Casey, a facilities management and services electrician, said the department had 10 electricians when he started working on campus but now has only two.

“The electrical system on campus is dangerous simply because there aren’t enough guys to do the work anymore,” he said.

The problems in the facilities management and services department don’t just affect the workers, but all of campus, Casey said.

The Department of facilities management and services has had an unfavorable reputation on campus for a long time, wrote Hoffman in an email to The Orion.

“Since arriving in 2008, it has been my goal to build up all the departments in business and finance to serve the campus community in an efficient and effective manner, especially FMS,” she wrote.

Hoffman asked the California State University chancellor’s capital planning, design and construction department to conduct a review of the structure of facilities management and services department, she wrote.

“I know we have FMS employees concerned about low staffing levels and other issues,” Hoffman wrote.

Hoffman has regularly met with the interim directors and staff of Facilities management and services to discuss the progress in restructuring the department, she wrote.

“The interim directors and I are listening to these concerns, and want to do everything we can so that FMS can meet the very important responsibilities it has on campus and be the best possible place for our employees to work,” Hoffman wrote.

Madison Holmes can be reached at [email protected] [email protected] on Twitter.

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Employees allege hostility, harassment