Letters published March 19, 2003

Letters to the Editor 

Letters published March 19, 2003

Management by intimidation:

Thanks to Andrew Putz for his effort to shed light on the management problems at the Free Clinic ["Clinical Depression," February 19]. I was disappointed that he was unable to either confirm or refute the rumors surrounding Marty Hiller's (forced?) retirement.

It is also unfortunate that the article is cast the way management wants it: a battle between the well-meaning but ineffectual hippies and the dedicated modern managers. During the time I was there, that was never the case.

I heard Mr. Hiller raise his voice at people a number of times. I provided counsel and comfort to at least a half-dozen staffers and administrators who had been devastated by unprofessional behavior on Mr. Hiller's part, or that of his senior administrator.

I have to assume that because of Dr. Cubberly's privileged position as an MD and medical director, he never got the chance to experience what so many subordinates had to go through. As someone who has managed two nonprofits, been a member of community boards, and taught personnel management, I had a chance to evaluate management behavior for 11 years while I volunteered and consulted at the clinic. The problem was never about new management style versus old. It was always about bad personnel management getting worse.

During my years (1989-2000), there appeared to be three rules of administration in force: secrecy, intimidation, and bribery. It simply deteriorated from there. Mr. Hiller finally stepped way over the line when he put his hands on his employee. No functional company I know would tolerate such behavior, yet the board lightly disciplined Mr. Hiller and his victim. I guess she shouldn't have gotten in the way of his hands.

Incidentally, Ms. Loisdaughter's firing was ruled unjustified by the Ohio Employment Services, and the clinic later had to agree to unemployment compensation and a financial settlement. The fact is that management was inadequate, wrong, and behaved badly for at least a decade. It is simply a cover story that there was a battle between the "hippies" and the "mods." Or was that the Jets and the Sharks?

I feel someone has to speak out for all the workers who suffered so much through the betrayal, lies, and bullying by Mr. Hiller and his assistants, and the failure of their anti-union board to even examine complaints, let alone protect the workers from inept and mean-spirited management. Mr. Hiller and the board still have not told the truth, but those of us who witnessed it know what really happened.

C. River Smith
Cleveland

Health care with soul to spare:

I am appalled that such a negative article could be written about an institution that has consistently represented and served the very best Cleveland has to offer.

The Free Clinic has certainly not lost its soul. That soul lives in a building that is now commensurate with the quality of care received inside; it lives in relatively new specialty clinics; it lives in a paid staff of less than 50 individuals, supported by hundreds of volunteers. Most important, the soul of the Free Clinic now lives in the clientele it serves.

Some believe the soul of the Free Clinic left with the staff turnover in the late 1990s. The politics walked out with the staff. The soul now lives both in the Free Clinic and wherever Marty Hiller decides to lend his expertise next.

While the majority of mental health service providers have closed their doors to new clients, the Free Clinic has responded to the crisis by opening its doors even wider. I can think of no other organization to which a "budget cut" can mean "expansion of services." To those who continue to question the Free Clinic's dedication, I remind them that the ignorant criticize while the intelligent contribute.

Maggie Keenan
Cleveland

The view after six years:

In "Clinical Depression," Andrew Putz describes a seething cauldron of worker unrest and infighting at the Free Clinic. I have been a volunteer for the past six years.

Every day, the clinic does good work serving hundreds of patients. From my experience, the staff is far too busy to have time for gossip and back-biting. There is turnover among volunteers, but no more than one would expect, where so many volunteers are pre-med and med students who must move on with their careers.

I don't know what the clinic was like 10 or 20 years ago. I only know that I am grateful to the men and women who built the Free Clinic and to those who currently serve the health needs of our city.

Robert H. MacNaughton
South Euclid

Better care through conflict:

We take issue with Andrew Putz's article. Many organizations dealing with growth and change also experience conflict. Mr. Putz seems to think that the Free Clinic's primary responsibility is to serve the values of its employees. We believe that a more important purpose is to provide health care for the uninsured and to be an advocate for universal health care coverage.

All those who serve the Free Clinic should be commended for their good work rather than criticized.

Tom and Sue Gerson
Shaker Heights

Moral issues no longer a hindrance:

I take issue with Andrew Putz's interpretation of the Free Clinic transforming itself from "hippie idealism to civic icon."

I was employed by the Free Clinic as a mental health counselor from 1995 to 2000. My final year at this agency was a living nightmare. I supported the steady stream of volunteers, staff, and program managers who would knock on my office door between clients, either crying or angry over management, and in need of processing their pain with me. I spoke out against expressed sexism and homophobia among staff in the workplace, and struggled to protect clients from automatically signing convolutedly worded, funder-initiated release-of-information forms. I sadly realized that the funder's needs had become more important than meeting the needs of our clients. This is how the Free Clinic chose to "drag itself into the 21st century."

To characterize my response to these changes in Free Clinic philosophy and management as "hippie idealism" is absurd. I despair over the moral bankruptcy of many nonprofit organizations, for it is the clients they serve who ultimately suffer from their sold souls.

Elizabeth Englehart
Cleveland

Murdered leaders = inherently not funny:

In your February 12 issue, there was an ad of Sitting Bull ["First Punch"] and the sacred pipe that stated he "smoked marijuana." The ad said it was by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. They deny that they use such an ad. As a Lakota woman, I am offended by the ad and the assumption. I would like to know who's responsible for paying for that ad.

I am very confused. Where is the joke here? What is the spoof? Please explain the humor.

I am a member of the Hunkpapa Band, Lakota Nation. Do you even know what that is? I am from the same tribe as Sitting Bull. I am outraged by the way your newspaper has presented a highly respected leader. He is holding a sacred pipe that has meaning you will never understand. I am not clear as to why you feel you can stereotype and disrespect the Lakota people. Who gave your paper permission to use his sacred picture as a comic? You should be ashamed of yourself.

Tara Weber
Pepper Pike

Pissing off the Standing Rock contingent:

Sitting Bull was one of the most highly respected spiritual leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Sitting Bull did not smoke marijuana or use drugs. The peace pipe is a sacred ceremonial object in our culture and is not for drug use.

There are many descendants of Sitting Bull who live and work here. Your ad is insulting, disrespectful, and demeaning to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Contrary to what you may believe, Native Americans and tribal members are real people, not some cultural icon to be used for furthering a message at the expense of stereotyping living people.

On behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, I demand you retract the ad, issue an immediate apology, and publish your apology in the Cleveland Scene, USA Today, and local newspapers. If you do not respond to the letter, the matter will be referred to our attorneys.

Charles W. Murphy, Chairman
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Fort Yates, ND

Apologies for everyone:

Several individuals have complained about the depiction of Sitting Bull in what appeared to be an ad from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. In fact, Scene created this "ad" and attached the Partnership name, logo, and trademark without authorization. The Partnership had no involvement whatsoever.

Once the Partnership learned of this, we contacted Scene demanding a halt to this and any similar misuse of our name and logo out of concern that readers would erroneously conclude the Partnership had created these messages.

It's my understanding that Scene has stated it did not intend to run any more such messages, but clearly, as the letters in Scene indicate, readers continue to be confused and misled. Further, despite knowing the facts of the situation, Scene chose to publish those letters without making any statement to end the confusion. On behalf of the Partnership, I suggest Scene do the proper and responsible thing by publicly apologizing to all those its actions have offended in this matter, including the Partnership.

Howard Simon
Partnership for a Drug-Free America
New York, NY

Tracy Collins deserved better:

We have just finished reading Sarah Fenske's "Taming of the Shrew" [February 19] on your web link. Having known Tracy Collins and the "Empress" Hogg prior to her ascension to mayor, the article's tone left us shaking our heads. This type of political game is far from new, though the players change with each election.

Tracy Collins has been an able and cooperative clerk under numerous administrations and finance directors during her 23-year tenure. Since many of the former finance directors have gone to other municipalities and have employers who would frown on their being cited in any controversy, there are many unheard voices who might lend support to her claims.

The voters of Highland Heights have given Mayor Hogg the right to recruit non-civil service employees who will agree with her directives, including secrecy and micromanagement. What the city has forfeited with this firing is a civil service employee who has long been known for her honesty and demand for fair treatment of all employees. Mayor Hogg will have support for only so long as she is in a position to intimidate. Tracy will have admirers for life.

Jakki and Brian Taylor
Paonia, CO

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