Former employee accuses RARA of gender discrimination, mishandling funds

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published July 10, 2013

ROCHESTER — The Rochester Avon Recreation Authority is facing a lawsuit from a former employee alleging, among other things, that the organization did not promote her to a top position because of her gender.

Brandy Boyd, of Rochester Hills, filed the suit in Oakland County Circuit Court in June, claiming she had “the qualifications, skills, experience and abilities necessary” to perform the executive director position, but that the job instead went to a man. Boyd alleges RARA treated female employees differently than male employees, discriminating against them with respect to compensation and the terms, conditions and privileges of employment.

“She was there for 14 years, had a great résumé, had a great relationship with the community and great evaluations, but nonetheless, got passed over,” said Boyd’s attorney, Don Gasiorek of Gasiorek, Morgan, Greco & McCauley P.C.

RARA’s attorney, Roger A. Smith of Garan Lucow Miller P.C., did not respond to a request for comment. Director Ron Jewell also declined to comment.

The lawsuit also states that, in September 2012, Boyd began noticing discrepancies and irregularities in the handling of money held in a trust by the Community Foundation of Greater Michigan.

Boyd alleges that RARA’s executive director was misusing the foundation’s money, which she said was supposed to be used for RARA SCAMP, a summer day camp that provides recreational activities for those ages 5-27 with developmental disabilities in the Rochester area. The lawsuit states the executive director “misled the foundation” when it requested money by implying it would be used only for SCAMP — since it was instead used for the general recreation center. Boyd alleges that the executive director also asked the secretary to hide the deposit of foundation checks from the city of Rochester Hills accountant to avoid questions, and claims he also hid fraudulently obtained foundation money on the budget sheet to conceal that the money for the general recreation center had come from the SCAMP fund.

In October 2012, Boyd claims, she separately shared her concerns about the RARA executive director with both Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett, as well as a member of the RARA board of directors. As a result, at the next board meeting, the board instituted a formal grievance process, requesting that each RARA employee submit a formal evaluation of the executive director.

The evaluations were reviewed around Feb. 20, 2013, and about five days later, Boyd said the executive director informed her that she was being terminated; allegedly stating they were going in a new direction. She said her position then went to a man.

The lawsuit, which cites wrongful discharge under the Michigan Whistle Blower Protection Act, states Boyd was terminated without justification in retaliation for complaining about the misuse of foundation funds and on the basis of her gender.

Gasiorek said the lawsuit is “pretty straightforward.”

“We believe that she was terminated because she raised issues with regards to how certain funds were being spent,” he said. “I think it’s fairly clear that these foundation funds were supposed to be used for a particular purpose and it didn’t include construction of the building.”

The recreation provider RARA has served Rochester and Rochester Hills since 1946, providing hundreds of recreation programs for children and adults in a variety of areas, including sports leagues and classes, preschool classes, special events, dance and fitness classes, and more.