Council Concerned about Employee Culture at the Wellness Center

Wellness Center, blocking a move to take the concerns to a private, executive session, and instead, bringing them to bear publicly.

Two matters were on the agenda at Monday’s Council meeting, including a matter to bring Omar Easy – director of the City’s Office of Organizational Assessment – to the Council in two weeks.

The Wellness Center has become a troubled department over the last eight months due to personality issues between employees and supervisors. There was one documented complaint between two women that was resolved last summer with mediation – though erroneous reports have said that was resolved recently with large cash payments.

However, that doesn’t seem to be the end of the problems.

More troubles have surfaced with other employees allegedly in the last few weeks, though no one knows what is truth and what is fiction in the matter.

That’s where the Council hopes to step in.

“I have serious concerns about this particular Department as a whole,” said Councilor Michael McLaughlin. “I have gotten numerous phone calls with questions regarding the activities going on at the Center. Some may want to say it’s fake news, or throw up as much smoking mirrors as possible. The facts are the facts, and I believe that we as the City Council must stand up and ensure that this taxpayer funding is spent properly and effectively on employees and programs that are for the best interests of the people of this community and not for friendships. I fully plan on working to overturn each stone and uncover any and all activities that are not to the fullest best interest of the employees and residents in Everett.”

Joining McLaughlin in wanting some answers on the Wellness Center were Councilors Fred Capone, Peter Napolitano and Wayne Matewsky.

Easy, who apparently did visit the Center recently to find out if there were issues, is scheduled to come before the Council. However, the administration said he would likely be very limited in what he can discuss.

Cities and Towns are prohibited from talking about personnel issues regarding its employees.

“These are personnel matters and we’re not going to talk about personnel matters in a public forum,” said an administration spokesman.

The Wellness Center is under the supervision of Karen Avila, and she has overseen the facility since around 2015 when it opened.

Some councilors have said they are concerned that personal friendships between the mayor and high-ranking staff at the Center could be getting in the way of ensuring the Center is run pristinely.

“As I stated during the Council meeting, I am not a shield for any one person or business in the City of Everett,” said McLaughlin. “I strongly believe we must leave personal friendships and any relationships at the front door when we, as leaders of this community, enter City Hall to work for the people.”

The matter would potentially be on the agenda for the Feb. 11 meeting.

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