Ex-colleague: Harassment a habit of Edmiston’s
Woman says she was fired as county employee in 1988 after complaining of his abusive treatment
A former Mesa County employee who settled a lawsuit with the county after her firing in the late 1980s claims former landfill manager Bob Edmiston had a history of harassing employees extending back to his first year of employment with the county.
Beth Sanders, who worked for five years as an officer and dispatcher for what was then known as Mesa County Animal Control, said the work environment Edmiston supervised deteriorated to the point that “I was sick to my stomach every time I walked in the door” during her last six months on the job.
Edmiston, who began his employment with the county in 1987 as Animal Control director, was fired in May after he was arrested on allegations he stalked and harassed another county employee and his wife using electronic equipment owned by the county. He pleaded guilty last month to misdemeanor charges of harassment and criminal tampering and was sentenced to 18 months on probation.
“The biggest thing is people (need to) realize this isn’t the first time with him,” Sanders said in an interview with The Daily Sentinel, referring to Edmiston’s criminal case that detailed harassing behavior that originated last fall. “It’s inexcusable on Mesa County’s part to shelter him and allow him to behave this way for 20-plus years.”
Sanders said her run-ins with Edmiston started within Edmiston’s first few days on the job, when she claimed Edmiston told her he didn’t like her and suggested he would fire her.
She said Edmiston constantly made derogatory comments about women to her and other female Animal Control employees. At one point, she complained to the county’s human resources director and Health Department director, and Edmiston wrote her a letter of apology, according to Sanders and court documents.
The county laid off Sanders, who at the time was the second-most experienced Animal Control officer, in 1988. In court documents, an attorney for the county said the layoff was prompted by county financial trouble, and Sanders was selected based on her job performance compared to other officers and her overall versatility.
Sanders, however, contended she was fired because she had complained about harassment from Edmiston and because of a shoulder injury that limited some of her job duties.
Sanders said she received above-average performance reviews each of the first four years she worked for Animal Control. Documents connected to her lawsuit show her 1987 review revealed she consistently met expectations and received a 5 percent pay raise. Her review the next year, however, indicated she wasn’t meeting expectations in several areas.
Sanders filed a lawsuit following her firing. The director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division found no probable cause for her complaint, but after Sanders appealed the decision, the state Civil Rights Commission reversed the director’s decision.
The commission concluded that Edmiston arbitrarily scored Sanders below other officers despite her accomplishments. It also concluded that Sanders “was selected for lay-off due, in part, to her having complained about sexual harassment by (Edmiston).”
After being ordered into conciliation, the county and Sanders reached a settlement in which Sanders received $6,800, which represented six months’ pay.
County spokeswoman Jessica Peterson declined to comment for this story. Edmiston didn’t return a phone call.
Sanders said she chose not to seek reinstatement because she didn’t want to work for Edmiston again. After Edmiston left Animal Control to oversee landfill operations, she applied for a job with Animal Services on several occasions but was never hired.
“My stuff with Bob is over and done with,” Sanders said. “Quite honestly, I’m glad to see he is getting his just desserts because he made my life hell for a long time.”