Hillsboro police 'whistleblower' asks to withdraw resignation
A longtime Hillsboro Police Department employee who recently accused top department officials of retaliating against her, after she raised concerns about police bias and potential mishandling of records, says she no longer wants to retire from her position.
Cindy Young Bolek says department officials violated state equal pay laws when they placed her on what they described as non-disciplinary leave and denied her access to employment benefits and information months before her expected retirement date.
In a Dec. 6 email, Young Bolek told Hillsboro city manager Robby Hammond and human resources director Lisa Colling she intended to withdraw her resignation as the police department's support services manager because of the denial of access and other ongoing concerns.
Hillsboro officials have denied her request to withdraw her resignation and failed to restore benefits and access to employment information, Young Bolek told Pamplin Media Group.
The request came two months after Young Bolek told officials she planned to retire because she lost confidence in department leaders' commitment to addressing concerns she had about police bias, accountability procedures and handling of records.
In an October 2021 email outlining her ongoing concerns, Young Bolek told Police Chief Jim Coleman and Deputy Chief Mike Leader she intended to resign at the end of 2021.
Shortly after sending that email, she attempted to make Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton, as well as a large public defense firm, aware of issues she saw in the Hillsboro Police Department's maintenance of officers' body-worn camera footage, which could be used as evidence in criminal prosecutions. Young Bolek contends that communication was an act of protected whistleblowing.
The next day, Young Bolek received a notice from Leader that she was being placed on paid leave until her expected retirement date at the end of the year.
In the notice, Leader said the department had already been planning for a "restructuring" of its support services division, and Young Bolek's placement on leave would expedite the process.
Young Bolek has called her placement on leave retaliatory for whistleblowing.
As part of her placement on leave, Leader directed Young Bolek to surrender her department-issued identification cards and electronic devices.
She was also told she was "not permitted to utilize any items that would indicate you are employed with or acting on behalf of the Hillsboro Police Department."
The surrender of her Hillsboro identification and technology prevented Young Bolek from accessing benefits through Hillsboro's employee assistance program, which includes counseling and other consulting services, as well as other healthcare-related benefits and city-provided training she says she was entitled to.
It also prevented her from accessing information she needed to complete documents to apply for Oregon's public employees retirement system (PERS), she says.
Hillsboro officials sent Young Bolek multiple pay statements she needed for retirement and tax documents days after she notified them of her intent to withdraw her resignation and described her access concerns, she says.
But Young Bolek told Pamplin Media Group that not having the pay statements caused a substantial delay in her PERS application, which could delay her retirement benefits for months.
"The city did not acknowledge why my pay statements had been illegally withheld or acknowledge any responsibility for the issues caused related to my PERS retirement application," Young Bolek said.
The denial of access is a violation of Oregon's Equal Pay Act, she argues, adding that it constitutes age and sex discrimination.
As a member of the department's executive team, Young Bolek says she observed multiple other comparably ranked male staff members undergo similar leave processes without being denied access to benefits and information.
"I worked with the former commanders, as well as other commanders, which allowed me personal and professional knowledge of their planned retirements," Young Bolek said. "Additionally, as a member of the Hillsboro Police Department executive team, I have participated in several work assignment and divisional changes over the years due to retirements of executive staff. However, in those cases, not one of those male commanders were placed on leave."
Asked for comment on Young Bolek's withdrawal of her resignation and claims about being denied benefits and information, Patrick Preston, Hillsboro's city spokesperson, said city policy prevents discussing personnel matters.
Preston added that Hillsboro takes "all complaints seriously and the City has taken steps to ensure our workplace is respectful and free from harassment. We do not tolerate any form of discrimination. Department leadership is committed to ensuring that law enforcement professionals approach their duties from well-defined and values-oriented standards of conduct. The department's work to ensure that public safety in Hillsboro is both effective and equitable remains an ongoing priority."
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