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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Employee remains silent out of fear

A former colleague of Shannon Garbiso is speaking out about what she says her friend feels she cannot.

Maria Garcia, a former Human Resources consultant, attended the Nov. 10 Board of Regents meeting to advocate launching an independent investigation into the actions of UNM administrators regarding the Sept. 20 altercation between first-year head football coach Mike Locksley and former wide receivers coach J.B. Gerald.

What’s most disconcerting, Garcia said, is how the University has launched an internal smear campaign aimed at discrediting members of its own staff, specifically Garbiso — the Athletics representative who conducted the initial inquiry into the altercation and whose notes have been scrutinized by University officials.

Garcia said she is defending Garbiso, a decade-long friend and UNM colleague of four years, who has been forced to “backpedal” on her side of the story.

“I think it just rolls into a huge snowball of collusion,” Garcia said. “They are consistently not giving information that is true.”

Garcia said that Garbiso told her that she didn’t destroy the original copies of her notes, but instead turned the notes over to Helen Gonzales, vice president for Human Resources.

A University spokesperson said Gonzales was not available for comment on Sunday.
Garbiso did not respond to e-mails over the weekend, and she has not spoken publicly about the Locksley incident despite numerous media requests.

Garcia said she knows why: Garbiso fears for her job.

“She’s been called by a lot of media entities,” Garcia said. “(Garbiso) said, ‘I’ve had plenty of opportunities, but if I did go in front of the media, I’d lose my job.’ Basically, what you’re told as an HR representative is that you’re not supposed to speak to the media at all. It would be insubordination if you went in front of the media. I think they’ve convinced her that what they’re doing is best for Athletics, best for the University. She was quite upset when I spoke to her.”

Citing four phone conversations she had with Garbiso — two on Nov. 9 and two on Nov. 10 — Garcia jotted down notes of what the two discussed.

Those notes, which were provided to the Daily Lobo, along with Garcia’s first-hand account, indicate that Garbiso was “angry” with the way she was portrayed at a Nov. 3 news conference about the Locksley altercation.

Chief among Garbiso’s concerns, Garcia said, was how Gonzales said that Garbiso wasn’t a consummate professional trained to conduct an investigation into such matters and that her notes were not accurate but were paraphrased recollections of the coaches’ answers.

“She told me that she was angry with Helen and Paul Krebs for inferring that her investigation was not done correctly and that she ‘boggled’ the process,” Garcia wrote in her notes on the phone conversation, dated Nov. 9.

Garcia said it would be difficult to get the level of detail Garbiso’s interview notes contained if she had simply jotted down buzzwords of what the coaches told her.
“They used her notes from the investigation to give to the media,” Garcia said. “So they obviously have credence.”

Knowing this, Garcia said she made it a point of emphasis to ask Garbiso if she had summarized any of the coaches’ responses, to which Garcia said she responded, “No, I did not paraphrase.”

In her notes, Garcia also wrote that Garbiso felt like she was the “scapegoat.” That being the case, Garcia advised her to file a formal complaint to Human Resources and Office of Equal Opportunity, regarding her concerns. Garcia said Garbiso was initially receptive to the idea, but later grew weary of the suggestion and lost contact with Garcia after their conversation on Nov. 10.

At the Nov. 3 news conference, UNM President David Schmidly said the original copies of Garbiso’s notes were destroyed, though he didn’t clarify how such important documents were tossed aside.

At the news conference, Vice President of Human Resources Helen Gonzales said the only explanation as to why the original copies of Garbiso’s notes weren’t preserved was that Garbiso had disposed of them herself.

“Ms. Garbiso informed me yesterday, when she said that she hadn’t kept the notes, that she never thought that those were official University documents, that those were only her own notes as a result of an informal inquiry she was doing in the department,” Gonzales said.

Garcia said that isn’t the case, even though Garbiso isn’t likely to come forward and say anything to the contrary.

Describing Garbiso as “meticulous” and “detail-oriented,” Garcia said her former colleague wouldn’t have destroyed the notes. In fact, Garcia said Garbiso told her she didn’t destroy the notes.
“I made a comment of, ‘I know you, Shannon. You’re not going to go and destroy documents. That’s something that all HR representatives, employees, know that you don’t do,
especially when you’ve done a form of investigation.’ She kind of laughed and said, ‘No, you’re right. You don’t just destroy documents,’” Garcia said.
However, later that evening, in a phone conversation with Garcia at 5:21 p.m., Garbiso recanted her previous story, admitting that she had indeed destroyed the documents.
Basing her assumptions on previous statements Garbiso made to her over the phone, Garcia said Garbiso’s retraction raised red flags and led Garcia to suppose that Garbiso was being blackballed and feared losing her job.
“She actually said that (she was afraid of being fired),” Garcia said. “I think on the inside they are convincing her, ‘Well, OK, you say that you destroyed the documents — that way there’s no more questions about documents.’”

Editor’s Note:
Maria Garcia has a pending lawsuit against the University for violation of the New Mexico Human Rights Act and violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act for pregnancy discrimination.