Mayor: Brainard acted as classic abuser amid departure from council
Grand Junction Mayor Sam Susuras said Tuesday ex-City Councilor Rick Brainard displayed the classic signs of a domestic abuser upon leaving office by blaming others for his problems and mitigating his own responsibility.
“We just went through this City Council thing, and you know, I thought maybe (Brainard) was just pushed into this but … Rick wrote an email to the city manager when he left and he named everybody in there that he thought was at fault,” Susuras said. “Sgt. (Lonnie) Chavez just told me that’s exactly what an abuser does. He blames everybody else but himself.”
Susuras made his comments during a Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce-sponsored workshop intended to outline the impacts domestic violence can have in the workplace. A panel of domestic violence experts explained what is at stake when an employee is victimized by their intimate partner and suggested steps employers can take to protect both the employee and their business.
In Mesa County, the estimated cost of abuse — roughly $27,632 per victim per year — goes straight to the bottom line, said Jackie Sievers, director of Latimer House, a nonprofit group that coordinates safe houses and provides other services for abuse victims.
“Most of that is paid by employers through health insurance and lost productivity,” Sievers said.
A business that assists an employee living under the thumb of an abuser might also save a life. In 2009 and 2010, for example, Mesa County experienced the highest number of domestic violence fatalities in Colorado, Sievers said.
Victims want the abuse to stop. So do employers, but many don’t know how to help. The first step is to pay attention.
Some obvious indicators include bruises or injuries the employee cannot adequately explain, Latimer House coordinator Karla Kitzman said.
When an employee receives excessive telephone calls and texts from a partner or must ask a partner’s permission for routine activities, domestic violence may be involved, Kitzman said.
Listening to other staff members can also provide clues about what may be happening, she said.
If a pattern appears, a private, confidential conversation with the employee should follow. That doesn’t mean the boss should stop holding an employee accountable for workplace performance, however, Sievers said.
Termination is an option should performance issues continue, but it is not proper to fire a domestic violence victim for the abuser’s behavior, she said.
If an employee confides she feels vulnerable in the workplace, protection orders, safety plans and site safety measures may be warranted, Kitzman said.
“Can you see the parking lot from your work area?” Chavez, a Grand Junction police sergeant and domestic violence expert, asked. If not, security cameras may be an option.
Other safety measures include escorting a threatened employee to her car and making sure the parking lot is well-lit and door locks are secure, Chavez said.
“If you feel unsafe (at the workplace), call the police,” Chavez said. “First and foremost, do not – if possible – confront the abuser.”
Chamber President Diane Schwenke said the workshop was scheduled to educate members about their options, but the timing of the event raised some eyebrows.
Brainard, who was backed by the chamber and elected in April, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge shortly after being elected. He resigned from council July 22.
Schwenke said the chamber would publish materials discussed during the workshop on the chamber’s website at http://www.gjchamber.org.