HARFORD COUNTY — Three senior level administrators no longer work at Harford Community College (HCC) after using official e-mail accounts to "speculate" about the "employment status" of lower level employees at the institution amidst an era of unprecedented turnover at the institution.
The Cecil Whig and The Bargaineer have obtained a recent e-mail from HCC President Dr. Dianna Phillips to HCC employees confirming that the administrators were let go. Reporters also obtained a copy of the e-mail between administrators that clearly showcased what a former employee called a "hit list."
Documents show the staffers were: Senior Associate Vice President for Administration Kathleen "Katie" Callan, Director of Finance Beth Fetcho, and Vice President of Marketing, Development and Community Relations Brenda Morrison.
“On Friday, January 3, 2020, I learned of an incident involving three senior-level administrators who made improper use of their official College email accounts to speculate about the employment status of various Harford Community College employees,” read the letter. “I immediately launched an investigation, which has now concluded. Effective immediately, these administrators no longer work at the College. The details of their separation are a personnel matter, I am unable to comment further.”
Phillips went on to say that HCC expects all employees, “particularly our leaders,” to hold themselves to the “highest level” of personal and professional integrity.
“We do not condone behavior that conflicts the College’s values,” the e-mail read. “As the anchor institution for higher education in Harford County, we take seriously our mission to foster growth and achievement among our students, our employees, and our community; we look forward to continuing and building upon this important work for many years to come.”
Reporters called several departments, including human resources and public relations, at HCC for comment. Calls were not returned by press time.
A toxic work environment
Former employees and others believe the administrative leadership has given way to a hostile work environment, as well as unwise expenditures and unethical behavior.
“I would have come forward about this sooner, but I was afraid I would lose my job,” Carol Allen, former HCC Director for the Library told the Whig about the working conditions at HCC. Allen said she retired three years earlier than planned because she "just couldn’t take it there anymore.”
“This isn’t just some funny game," Allen said. She also expressed concern about the power dynamic of senior administrators speculating in what she called an alleged "betting pool."
“The HCC Department of Human Resources reports to Katie Callan. Both she and Ms. Morrison have a great deal of influence regarding the employment of everyone whose name is on the list.”
While it is not clear that Dr. Phillips personally knew about this betting pool, both Ms. Morrison and Ms. Callan reported to her.
The situation "suggests an extremely callous attitude toward the massive turnover,” Allen said.
“I know that all of the people whose names are on the list who have already left the college did so only after experiencing great pain and stress trying to survive in a dangerously toxic workplace setting.”
Allen said she, among other former employees and faculty groups, reached out to the Board of Trustees several times for a special meeting to address these issues, but said requests have been denied each time.
The Board of Trustees held a special meeting last week where they held a closed session to address a personnel matter. Soon after, the senior staffers were announced to staff in the e-mail obtained by the Whig as "no longer employed at the college."
This is a developing story. Please stay tuned for more coverage, and thank you for supporting community news.