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History Nebraska employee placed on leave after lodging criticism of agency's management

History Nebraska employee placed on leave after lodging criticism of agency's management

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LINCOLN — A longtime History Nebraska employee has been placed on paid leave after lodging several complaints about management to the agency’s governing board.

Cindy Drake, a librarian who’s worked at the state history society for 43 years, was placed on paid “investigatory leave” for a week on Friday afternoon, a couple of hours after reading a critical statement to the History Nebraska Board of Trustees.

Most of the criticism was directed at the agency’s director, Trevor Jones, who Drake maintains has engaged in a campaign to force her to retire over the past four years.

A spokesman for the agency, Chris Goforth, said Monday that the agency could not comment on personnel matters, including a claim by Drake that 40 History Nebraska workers, out of 80 total, have left the society over the past four years. Jones, who was on vacation this week, did not return an email seeking comment.

The suspension comes in the wake of a World-Herald story that included criticism from some employees and members of the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation about Jones’ management style and mistreatment of longtime employees.

Jones, in that story, defended his management approach — which includes setting firm work goals for employees and reviewing worker performance every 90 days and adhering to a motto of “fire fast, hire slow.” He and members of the Board of Trustees said that goal-setting is a good thing, and that some workers have resisted needed changes at History Nebraska, including an aggressive push to digitize collections and documents to make them available online.

Drake, in her statement to the board, said that she realized she might face suspension or dismissal for speaking out, but that she’d had a spotless performance record until Jones arrived and imposed “impossible goals” via the management system he uses, known as the Entrepreneurial Operating System for Businesses.

“And if I can’t do it, they accuse me of being incompetent, insubordinate, unwilling to change, that I want to do things the ‘old’ way, etc.,” said her statement, which was obtained by The World-Herald.

Drake, who is 63, said that when she tries to work things out, “nothing I suggest would be accepted since it came from a 43-year employee.”

She indicated that she had filed a complaint about age discrimination with the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission. Her statement also indicated that she’d been reclassified, from a supervisor to a regular employee, and placed on disciplinary probation twice since Jones arrived.

Justin Hubly, who heads the union that represents state employees, said that state workers can be placed on “investigatory” leave, but it’s typically non-paid leave to probe some kind of misconduct, not paid leave after an employee makes public complaints, as happened with Drake.

Drake, on Monday, declined to comment further about her statement, other than to say she was waiting to see what disciplinary move might be taken against her by History Nebraska.


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Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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