Inside Job: Denver's Career Service Authority watches out for employee trouble, but who watches out for trouble in the CSA?

The trouble started not long after Troy Bettinger was hired in June 2008 as a supervisor for the Recruiting Section of Denver's Career Service Authority, the agency that handles human resources for most city employees. Former employees say Bettinger didn't inspire professional confidence when he used a pocket knife to clean his fingernails during a staff meeting of the Recruiting Section, the department charged with screening applicants for openings around the city; at another meeting, Bettinger asked if any of his colleagues accessed porn sites while on the job. And once, while talking with a staff member, he suggested, "Let's discuss this over Jell-O wrestling."

One female employee says she was on the receiving end of many of Bettinger's inappropriate comments. Soon after he joined the CSA, she and several colleagues saw him thumbing through a catalogue of school uniforms; he said he could picture the woman in one of the outfits, adding, "It needs to be plaid, though." Another time, he asked her if, off the top of her head, she knew about some work issues he was looking into. When she told him that she did not, he replied, "Bend over — no, it's not on the top of your head; nice part, though."

"I was very uncomfortable with him," says the woman. "It started becoming a trend, and other people witnessed it."

The woman and several colleagues who corroborate her account asked to remain anonymous, saying that what would soon happen to them hammered home the risks of speaking out when you work for the CSA; Bettinger declined to comment for this story. But one former Recruiting Section employee is willing to go on the record. "It was clear [Bettinger] did not have the leadership abilities to effectively lead our team," says Darryle Brown, who is now employed by the federal government. "Morale was low. He didn't know the job. He didn't understand the public sector because he didn't have a background in the public sector."

While Brown didn't hear the comments Bettinger reportedly made to the female employee, "it seemed like he was attracted to her more than was appropriate," he says. "I've known her for years, and she's always been a person of integrity."

For that woman, the final straw came in April 2009. Several of her colleagues were joking about videotaping themselves exercising when Bettinger, overhearing their conversation, commented, "Exercises? On video? You mean like Kegels?"

"I was not there to listen to that sort of stuff," says the woman, who contacted Peter Garritt, her department's employee-relations supervisor. Garritt reportedly told her not to e-mail him about the situation, and to instead hand-deliver a list of the comments that she felt were inappropriate. In the days that followed, Bettinger became more critical, warning her to be punctual about getting to work. "They obviously talked to him, because he ramped up on all of us," she says. "I had twelve years of stellar performance evaluations, and all of a sudden I was really bad."

A few weeks later, Garritt told the woman that CSA management couldn't do anything unless she filed a formal complaint against Bettinger. So she did, in July 2009, as did another female employee in the department. (The second woman declined to comment.)

In the past, CSA had contracted with the Mountain States Employers Council, a local nonprofit, to investigate formal complaints. But in this case, CSA director Jeff Dolan, who'd hired Bettinger from his job as a senior corporate recruiter with the tech company Quantum Corporation, took another tack: He retained the services of Ashley Kilroy, a local attorney who had been on the Career Service Authority board (which oversees the CSA) and had also been involved in hiring Dolan.

"I had never heard of them hiring a current or former boardmember to do anything for them, whether it was an investigation or a compensation study," says Karen Brennan, a human-resources specialist with the Denver Department of Public Works who previously worked at the CSA. "In the past, they had always hired people from outside of the city."

The woman who'd filed the formal complaint against Bettinger was unsettled by the development. "We never went through a boardmember; it was unheard of," says the woman, who at the time had worked for the City of Denver for thirteen years. But there was little she could do about it. After all, there was a city department charged with looking into how complaints of harassment such as hers were handled, a department that could scrutinize questionable management decisions — but that department was the CSA.

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At the encouragement of Mayor Quigg Newton, Denver voters amended the city charter to establish the Career Service Authority in 1954; the goal was to establish a merit-based hiring system that was free of the nepotism, graft and favoritism of yesteryear. But the CSA, supposedly a politics-free personnel agency, has been rocked by one political scandal after another over the years. And if the CSA can't keep its own house in order, can it really be trusted to take care of the personnel needs of more than 8,500 city workers?

Jim Yearby, for example, became director of the CSA in 1997, after he'd been criticized for creating a fake $100,000 job for a crony at his previous post in Washington State. Yearby resigned the Denver job six years later with a less-than-distinguished track record; along the way, he'd been disciplined for holding secret CSA meetings, suspended for losing his temper, and busted for shoplifting eyedrops from a King Soopers store.

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