Wednesday - March 15, 2017 12:15 pm

Gow says UW-L in error, fired employee offered job back Featured

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Dispatcher originally fired over racist/political comments

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse is offering a dispatcher that was fired earlier this week her job back.

UW System legal counsel recommended that Kimberly Dearman be offered her dispatcher position back with the UW-L police dept., after she was fired for what she claimed was political retaliation.

Gow believes the university didn't fully investigate the firing.

"Firing someone is one of the most serious things that we do," Gow said late Wednesday. "We need to make sure we get it right."

Gow says that all employee termination decisions from now on will be first evaluated by his office.  

A complaint from a student-employee of Asian decent led to Dearman's termination. That complaint came upon hearing comments from Dearman supporting the original travel ban issued by President Trump.

Dearman said that immigrants should go back from where they come. The student-employee took offense.

"(Dearman), in a conversation with a co-worker, said that she supported the president and that she didn't think she would want terrorists in this country," Dearman's lawyer Lee Fehr told WIZM. "She believed they should go back where they came from."

The firing decision, Gow said was about racist — not political — speech and consisted of violating employee policies with threatening or abusive language and behavior that was unbecoming of a university employee.

Dearman claims she was fired for vocally supporting Trump's travel ban.

Dearman has been offered reinstatement. 

 REPORT EARLIER WEDNESDAY

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse chancellor Joe Gow denies that university police dispatcher Kimberly Dearman was fired over her political beliefs.

"There's no way we would ever let someone go over their political beliefs, so that's not what this is about.," Gow said

Dearman claims her vocal support for President Donald Trump's travel ban led to the university telling her she either had to resign or be fired.

Gow says, while he doesn't know Dearman, he can say that there are reasons, in general, for an employee getting shown the door.

"We do evaluate employees for their performance and, if it is lacking, unfortunately they are let go," Gow said.

On Jan 30, Gow, as an official statement, denounced the travel ban put in place through executive order by President Trump but later apologized for the tone of the statement.

That Trump travel ban was later blocked by federal judges.

Gow points to a political environment of heightened tensions for Dearman's claims.

"You hear this phrase thrown around, 'fake news,'" Gow said. "I feel I'm really at the center of that right now."

Meanwhile, Dearman's attorney, Lee Fehr says his client was a victim of retaliation for her response to Gow's email.

"Maybe they should put a caveat on Mr. Gow's emails, saying that you can receive and read," Fehr said, "but you shouldn't comment on it because you will lose your employment if you take a position that is different than what the chancellor has."

Fehr has asked the UW Board of Regents to reinstate Dearman to her former position.  

Last modified on Thursday - March 16, 2017 12:58 am
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