News Column

Banking official claims deputy commissioner tried to purge employees

July 24, 2014

By Craig Jarvis, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

July 24--RALEIGH -- A longtime supervisor at the N.C. Commissioner of Banks office says a deputy commissioner is retaliating against him because he resisted her attempts to drive a "substantial" number of employees out of their jobs.

Rodney Oldham, a 24-year employee of the agency, filed a petition in the state Office of Administrative Hearings on Tuesday seeking to stop Deputy Commissioner Molly Sheehan -- whom he alleges said employees could call her "Mean Molly" -- from retaliating against him. Oldham has filed under the state whistleblower law, claiming retaliation because he took his concerns to the state Office of Human Resources.

Sheehan, who has worked at the banking commissioner's office since 2008, was appointed one of two deputies last year. The legal filing names Sheehan and the office of the banking commissioner. A spokeswoman for Sheehan and the agency said Wednesday neither would comment on the pending litigation.

Oldham's attorney, Michael C. Byrne of Raleigh, criticized the brusque remarks attributed to Sheehan.

"Coming from someone occupying such a senior position in the office that regulates North Carolina's financial institutions, comments of that magnitude are more than a bit troubling," Byrne said.

Oldham's petition for a contested case claims Sheehan on her own or at the direction of higher authorities "began a concerted, deliberate effort to remove substantial numbers of employees" from the agency's workforce. More than one employee was driven to quit, he says.

He claims that Sheehan used the "guise of unsatisfactory job performance" to further her goal to get rid of employees with whom she had become dissatisfied. Sheehan directed Oldham to take unwarranted disciplinary action against some of the workers he supervised, improperly or illegally pressuring them to abandon their careers, the petition says.

When he protested in April, Oldham says, Sheehan issued a written warning to him threatening to discharge him. Two days after that, the petition says, Sheehan attended a meeting of Oldham's subordinates and told them she was "through talking" with them about her complaints, and that they could "go home and decide if this was the job for you or not."

Sheehan also told the workers they could call her "Mean Molly" and file grievances if they wanted.

In May, Oldham complained about Sheehan to the state personnel office. The next month Sheehan gave him another written warning, and threatened to fire him, the petition says.

Oldham filed the petition to head off what he contends is Sheehan's and the department's intention to further retaliate against him. He is also seeking unspecified damages, tripled under the whistleblower protection.

Sheehan had an extensive career in the banking industry in Florida and New York, and was a manager at First Union Bank/Wachovia Bank for nearly 13 years before going to work for the banking commissioner's office and working her way up through the ranks, according to the department's website.

Jarvis: 919-829-4576; Twitter: @CraigJ_NandO


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Source: News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)

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