Tearful resignation: Delaney denies allegations he bullied workers

News-DemocratJune 19, 2013 

— A lawyer's investigation of how former St. Clair County Clerk Bob Delaney ran his office depicts him as a bully who drank on the job, taunted a hearing-impaired worker, used racial and sexual slurs and threatened to remove all "Mexicans" from the office.

Delaney, who tearfully resigned from his clerk's job Wednesday, denied mistreating employees.

Referring to a racial-discrimination, sexual-harassment and wrongful-termination action brought by an employee, Delaney said, "It's bogus. But they are going to use it, and use it to keep trying to hurt me ... I don't want to put my family through this." He declined to state the identity of "they."

The report conducted by attorney Laura K. Beasley concluded that working for Delaney was "difficult," and his actions violated federal guidelines for fair employment. Beasley conducted the investigation because she is the county's Equal Employment Opportunity officer.

Delaney could not be reached to comment about the specific allegations in Beasley's report, but on Tuesday night he vehemently denied mistreating employees.

"There were three employees that don't like me," he said Wednesday morning. "They said they were afraid for their jobs, but, in my opinion, they were substandard employees."

He added, "In my 15 years (as clerk) I have never had a complaint of sexual harassment."

Beasley's findings support an action brought by 25-year-old Laura Romero, who was fired by Delaney.

The report, a copy of which was obtained by the News-Democrat, states that some employees who were interviewed thought Romero may have been fired partly for her "work ethic." Delaney has said she was often late for work and used "flippant" language when speaking to him.

Romero's lawyer, St. Louis civil rights attorney Tom Kennedy, said that with Beasley's findings in hand, he has asked State's Attorney Brendan Kelly to file an action to reinstate Romero with back pay and to "award her damages."

Kennedy said his client doesn't want to comment at this time.

Kelly said Wednesday in a written response, "Once the findings were completed, I requested that the employee (Romero) was immediately placed in an alternative position with equal salary and back pay to the date of termination." He didn't state where she had been placed.

A total of 18 employees were interviewed for the investigation, including, "six people (who) actually cried during the interview when talking about the work environment," according to the report.

In a letter dated June 17 to County Board Chairman Mark Kern, Beasley listed 10 findings and noted that Delaney "declined to be interviewed." Kern could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The findings, which Beasley stated were "overwhelmingly" proven, included:

* Six employees stated Delaney racially discriminates throughout the office by using slurs for black people, gays, and Croatians. Chief Judge John Baricevic has Croatian roots. The report also says Delaney "had made the comment after the last election that prior to the next election, he was going to clean house and that first to go are the Mexicans."

* Made the job of an employee with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder "more difficult, even though he was being treated for the disorder, by calling him a (vulgar term) in front of election judges."

* Fifteen of the employees were fearful of losing their jobs as a result of speaking with the investigator.

* Sixteen of the people interviewed believed that Delaney's daughters Shannon Delaney and Taylor Delaney who worked in his office got preferential treatment, which included paid time off when other employees did not receive such benefits.

* Five employees said they were being paid less because of their race and sex.

* Taunted a hearing-impaired worker by having people call her and whisper to see if she could hear the conversation. "He went up behind the employee and whispered and if she didn't answer he'd verbally abuse her and make comments regarding her need to get hearing aids."

* Four employees stated Delaney drinks at work.

* Delaney kept track of when employees left the office to speak with Beasley, and called some of them into his office to pump them for information about what they were asked and what they told her.

The report says Romero was fired partly for insulting Bob Romanik, a Belleville radio personality and political activist, while she was on the job. Romanik, who bills himself on the air as the Grim Reaper of Radio, said Wednesday: "I will not tolerate her talking trash about me or any other taxpayer in the county when she's behind the counter working for us taxpayers."

According to the report, Romero said while working at the counter, "Anyone who goes on that (Romanik's) show is stupid."

In an emotional farewell to his employees and office supervisors Wednesday morning, Delaney said he was leaving after 34 years of public service. Delaney, a Democrat, then went to County Board Chairman Mark Kern's office and turned in his resignation from the $100,870-a-year job.

Kern could not be reached for comment. County Democratic Party Chairman Robert Sprague could not be reached for comment.

Jim Williams, Delaney's lawyer, declined to comment.

Delaney, 54, said as he left the courthouse, "I gotta get a job." He began serving as clerk in 1999.

According to St. Clair County Circuit Court records, Delaney's house on Woodford Way in Collinsville was in foreclosure last year, but the case was dismissed in August.

Delaney and his wife purchased the home in October 2002. At the time of the foreclosure, Delaney owed about $199,000 on the loan, according to court documents. Their monthly payment was more than $1,200.

The home is now estimated to be valued at more than $234,000, according to the St. Clair County assessor's office.

On Oct. 12, Commerce Bank filed suit for a bad debt against Delaney and his wife, Janet. Commerce received a judgment against the Delaneys for $85,340.92. The bank asked the county to deduct $600 per month from Delaney's paycheck.

In February 2009, Commerce Bank in Belleville sought more than $14,000 from Delaney in St. Clair County Circuit Court. The bank alleged Delaney had not repaid a $13,500 loan given to his re-election committee "Citizens for Bob Delaney" in June 2008.

The bank requested the case dismissed in June 2010 after court documents show Delaney paid down the loan.

Delaney was last elected in 2010, and his current term would have expired in late 2014. Under Illinois law, the County Board chairman selects someone to fill a vacancy in an elected county office, with approval from the County Board. The appointee must be from the same political party as the person who leaves the position.

In Illinois, a county clerk's primary duties include conducting elections, serving as a clerk for the County Board, and maintaining records that include marriage, birth and death certificates.

Delaney first began working for the county in 1979 as field crew supervisor in the assessor's office, and worked his way up to become office manager of the county clerk's office in 1994.

Delaney had been accepting donations for his re-election at recently as March 22, according to quarterly reports required by the Illinois State Board of Elections. The reporting period ended on March 31. The next report will likely be filed in July.

Two of Delaney's three children worked for him in the clerk's office. Shannon Delaney and Taylor Delaney work part-time at a rate of $12 per hour in the office. Shannon Delaney earned $9,378 and Taylor Delaney earned $7,170 in 2012, according to county records.

Depending upon which retirement plan he is enrolled in, Delaney's retirement fund would become available to him when he turned 50 or when he turns 55, according to Linda Horrell of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. Horrell said information about Delaney's plan would not be released unless a Freedom of Information Act request was filed. The group had not responded to a Freedom of Information Act request from the News-Democrat as of Wednesday night.

For many years Delaney headed the Caseyville Democratic Committee but recently resigned that position as well as his elected position of Democratic precinct committeeman. At the time of these resignations, Delaney said that he hoped that by quitting politics in Caseyville it would stop any "silly rumors" that he was orchestrating a power grab.

Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at gpawlaczyk@bnd.com or 239-2625. Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 239-2570. Reporter Daniel Kelley contributed to this article.

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