County Reaches Settlement with McKenna Over Retaliation Complaint
By Brandi Makuski
The Portage Co. Board of Supervisors on Tuesday reached at $75,000 settlement with former Corp. Counsel Mike McKenna.
McKenna previously filed an age discrimination complaint with the state against Portage Co. Executive Patty Dreier in 2015, arguing Dreier created a hostile work environment targeting specific employees — particularly department heads — over the age of 40 so they would resign. Dreier denied those claims, and the state agreed her actions did not meet a legal standard for discrimination.
Following the resolution of that complaint, McKenna filed a retaliation complaint with the state, alleging Dreier had a county employee in his office shadow him and report on his movements, as well as out-of-context remarks made during confidential meetings of a legal nature, back to Dreier.
“Those comments, as relayed to Ms. Dreier, could only have come from someone who was there when they were said,” McKenna said on Jan. 17. “But I never saw any proof to Ms. Dreier’s claims, which I categorically deny.”
Dreier also attempted disciplinary action against McKenna, charging him with various allegations of misconduct to include leaving work early, taking long lunches, belittling a female coworker, making a negative remark about Mexico and conducting work for his secondary employment as a municipal court judge while on county time.
McKenna maintains his job was not a nine-to-five position, and has supplied the county with time slips showing he worked a minimum of 40 hours weekly for the county.
“Those time slips were seen and approved by Ms. Dreier,” McKenna said.
Dreier emphatically denies she asked any county employee to shadow McKenna.
“That’s ridiculous, and it’s 100 percent false — we don’t do that. That’s absurd,” Dreier said, adding McKenna’s movements were easily monitored via his employee badge. “Our courthouse has cameras everywhere, our courthouse has key fobs on doors. I’m really offended; just because Mike says something or surmises something doesn’t make it a fact. It’s absolutely not true. Let’s not forget the Human Resources Committee; this isn’t my lone work.”
The County Board entered into closed session on Jan. 17 for about 45 minutes to discuss the settlement. According to McKenna’s lawyer, the money will be distributed via pro-rated salary and benefits, and well as McKenna’s 401K.
When asked about the board’s motivation to approve the settlement, County Board Chairman Phil Idsvoog said the move helped the county to avoid a legal battle with McKenna.
“I think, pretty much, we just wanted to get rid of two lawsuits,” said Idsvoog, who declined any further comment.
McKenna resigned effective Jan. 6 as part of the settlement, and he also agreed to withdraw his complaints against the county.
City Times staff has requested documents from the county pertaining to the exact breakdown. That request was not immediately returned.
*This story will be updated.