Reading employee alleges unfair termination by city

City did not provide specifics, she alleges

READING, Pa. - A former Reading employee told city council members on Monday that she was unfairly terminated by the administration.

Rocio Encarnacion said she was informed on June 15, 2017, that she was being suspended with pay pending further investigation into a possible conflict of interest because of a business that she owned.

After learning that the administration had provided a newspaper reporter with confidential information, she refused to answer the administration's questions at three Loudermill meetings.

A Loudermill meeting is part of due process in government agencies. At such meetings, an employee is allowed to present his or her side of the story before an employer takes disciplinary action.

Encarnacion was employed by the city as an information technology data analyst.

"I didn't know what they were going to do with my answers and who would have access to them," Encarnacion said.

Encarnacion said that no written notice with code violations specific to her conduct and position with the city, no formal complaint regarding a conflict of interest, no evidence, no charges, and no written letter were ever provided, despite the request for a written complaint from the regional union representative.

She said she was never asked to share her side of the story, and without knowing what codes she was accused of violating, did not know what story she could share.

She also said that no one from human resources or the board of ethics was ever involved in the process, and she accused the administration of intimidation during the Loudermill meetings.

"The environment made it feel like a police interrogation, where you're suspected of committing a crime," Encarnacion said. "The administration took it upon themselves to be the board of ethics, to be investigators, to judge, to be jurors, and be the final decision-makers all in one."

She received a letter on July 7, 2017, stating that she was being terminated because of her refusal to answer the administration's questions.

Other business

Two city residents questioned the actions and ethical behavior of the Reading Redevelopment Authority, including the purchase of several properties throughout the city.

They asked who is paying the expenses to keep the authority running and where are the records that show the citizens of Reading that they are receiving a return on their investment from the authority.

After citing a conflict of interest, one resident said, "We demand a forensic audit and a criminal investigation."

Council members commended residents for speaking up and promised to look into what is being said.

"We're at a loss because we're not allowed to respond. That's where our problem lies," said Mayor Wally Scott. "Don't take our non-response as something we wouldn't defend, but we're not allowed to. It's still under investigation and we're stuck listening to what they say at the podium, whether it's true or not."

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