The soap opera continues.
Houston City Councilwoman Helena Brown tried to coerce a staffer to go on medical leave because of her pregnancy, according to a memo the employee filed with the council’s administrative office.
Sandra Kim, Brown’s constituent liaison, wrote an April 23 memorandum quoting Brown as saying in front of several staff members that there was a “need to let Sandra go due to her pregnancy. Sandra, you need to go to your doctor to get medical leave, and I need to make arrangements for your absence.” Brown then “forced us to sign a document stating that I will need to go to a doctor to get medical absence or else we could not leave the office,” Kim wrote.
The memo did not ask for a remedy from the administrative office nor the city attorney’s office.
Brown did not respond to requests for comment.
Leticia Ablaza resigned as Brown’s chief of staff four days after the incident.
“I will back whatever Sandra Kim says. I am certain that it’s true,” Ablaza said.
Ablaza would not say specifically whether her departure was linked to Kim’s allegations, but she said, “I was not going to stand by while things were being done that I didn’t agree with.”
Chris Kuczynski, assistant legal counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, would not comment specifically on the Kim case, but said, “Requiring someone to take leave when they’re able to work is a form of discrimination.”
Most of this we already knew from that Houston Press cover story from a few weeks ago. Ablaza’s comment is the main new detail. Ablaza has largely been quiet, at least publicly, about her time in CM Brown’s office and her reasons for leaving. If she’s about to start talking more, that will make things a whole lot more interesting.
According to the story, Kim declined to say whether or not she had filed an EEOC complaint, so we don’t yet know whether there will be more to this or not. But there was one other little detail at the end, relating to the matter of Brown’s staff all being part time and ineligible for benefits such as health insurance:
In an interview this week, though, Kim said, “I was OK with the part-time, but who wouldn’t want benefits?” Kim said she would have accepted city-subsidized health insurance if it had been offered. She said she currently is on her father’s health insurance plan.
This directly contradicts the claim that everyone voluntarily declined health benefits when offered to them. I have no idea whether Brown’s staffers share her ideology or not, but at least Ms. Kim recognizes a raw deal when she sees one.
There was more stuff from yesterday, but it’s just too weird. Go here, here, and here to see it all. If I were writing a novel and I included a character like Helena Brown, I’m sure my editor would tell me to ease up on the crazy stuff because no one will find her to be believable otherwise.