EXCLUSIVE: One-on-one with former EMA Director Pam Tucker on investigation report

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News 12 NBC 26 / Thursday, May 18, 2017

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Columbia County's former EMA Director is responding after commissioners say her claims of a hostile work environment have no merit.

Over and over the investigation report quotes those who worked for or with Pam Tucker. The investigator wrote this same statement for many employees: "She has never been treated unprofessionally by Pam, and has never witnessed Pam treat anyone else unprofessionally."

When Tucker's resignation letter alleged a "hostile work environment" because of County Administrator Scott Johnson, Tucker said she had proof in recordings, but she never turned them over to investigators. We asked her why.

"My tapes, all the things that I recorded, I didn't turn them over because I didn't see the point," Tucker said. "I didn't feel like this thing was totally fair to me. I just wanted to hang onto them and I wanted to continue to hang onto them, and who knows what might happen with those one day."

But, even the investigator had a hard time understanding why. In an e-mail to her, he writes, "If these recordings verify all that you told me in your statement, please help me understand why you are unwilling to make copies for the report."

When it comes to releasing the recordings, Tucker says, "I just haven't decided yet."

"I have them. What I might do is go through and maybe try to transcribe some of them and catalog them so that in the future, should I need them, I'll have everything kind of organized," she said.

Tucker herself was part of the focus of the investigation into a "hostile work environment" when long-time employee Rusty Welsh accused her in his resignation letter. In the end, the report found no hostility from either Tucker toward Welsh or Johnson toward Tucker.

In clearing Tucker's name against Welsh, the report also means the investigator found her claims were untrue.

"I can only say that I don't know whoever decided the claims made were untrue, but I've always been truthful. I would never go public and say things about somebody that were not true," Tucker said.

Now, she's running right back into the county and gunning for Chairman Ron Cross's seat. If she wins, she'll have to work with those county leaders on a daily basis. We asked if she thought she could do that.

"I've got to run this campaign, and I've got to win and see where we are. Are the same people still there? A lot can happen between now and then because frankly, leopards don't change their spots," Tucker said.

There's one other part of the report some are having a hard time making sense of. In a conversation between Johnson and Tucker, the former EMA Director asks him for a hug. Tucker says that happened after a very personal conversation between her and Johnson where he revealed some upsetting things that were happening in his family at the time, so she felt sorry for him and asked him to give her a hug.

She says no one should dispute what she has to say because she's got that conversation recorded, but at this point we, like investigators, have not heard those recordings.

One of the harshest criticisms in the report was a claim from one or two employees who felt like Tucker required they put they job before their family. One employee claimed she was not allowed time off to go to her sister-in-law's funeral.

"That's one employee. I did read that. That's one employee and that's sad that she felt she had to put that in there," Tucker said.

Text messages show the employee's plea to attend the funeral and tells her boss she won't make it into work the next day. Tucker responds with sympathy but concern over covering the 311 room, the county's customer information center. After going back and forth, Tucker writes, "I just want you to know if you choose not to come to work tomorrow there will be consequences."

"You've got to have people in the room, so trying to be a good manager an balance what we have to get done, we can't just shut down all our operations because somebody has some reason they want to be off all the time, but that person was never denied going to the funeral. I know that sounds really sad," Tucker said.

A letter the next day from a county employee whose name was redacted tells Tucker the death meets the criteria of immediate family and not to hold the employee accountable for her absence in any way.

"I think it's God, family, and work. But at the same time, I think the taxpayers expect us to have things covered," Pam said.

The report gives glowing reviews about how Tucker did her job, but in performance reports written by Johnson, he notes Tucker "needs to ensure she is less controlling." In another appraisal he encourages her to "act only after rational thinking rather than emotionally." Another page mentions she is a "hard worker and very hands on but easily has her feelings hurt if she feels left out."

When asked if she was too sensitive for the job, Tucker replied, "I think they're throwing around words like sensitive and fragile, which are synonymous with weak because they're terrified that I'm running for commission chair."

We asked if Tucker thought she took the criticism she did get too personally.

"Did I take it personally? It was personal. It was all personal, but you know what? I feel like that has only done one thing for me. It has made me more motivated than ever," she said.

Tucker says she's moving forward with her campaign for Chairman of the Columbia County Commission. But, what if she loses? Tucker says if that happens, she'll accept God has a different plan for her, but she says she's not ready to stop being a public servant.

"If not me, who? One of the reasons why you don't have good, honest, trustworthy, respected people to run for these offices a lot of times is because of the very thing that happened yesterday," Tucker said. "I think it's time for change, and if people like what they saw yesterday in that press conference, and that's what they want, then they definitely need to vote for the other guy."

Read the original version of this article at www.wrdw.com.