State fired boss who tried to stop McNeil Island workers from boozing, slacking off, suit says

Special Commitment Center at McNeil Island.
Special Commitment Center at McNeil Island. Olympian file photo

Jon Hardy knew what to expect at his new job as a state supervisor of maintenance workers on McNeil Island.

He'd been hired to address problems with work performance, attendance, drug and alcohol abuse, and "a general attitude of laziness, complacency, and inactivity," according to his recent lawsuit against the state.

But when he started to fix things, he was fired, he alleges in the wrongful termination lawsuit, filed April 5 in Pierce County Superior Court.

The state Department of Social and Health Services, which oversaw Hardy's division, doesn't comment on pending litigation, a representative said.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, gives this account of Hardy's several-month tenure with the state:

He left a job he held for 30 years in Arizona to take the position as a supervisor with Washington's Consolidated Maintenance Operations division on McNeil Island. He started Jan. 11, 2016.

DSHS says the division has 21 employees and an annual budget of $1.9 million, and does maintenance work across McNeil. That includes for the Special Commitment Center, which houses the state's sexually violent predators.

Hardy said he was told about problems with the maintenance unit before he accepted the job, and that he found them when he started.

"... employees were taking advantage of the system and receiving taxpayer funds for little or no work," accoding to the suit.

"He learned that his bus drivers had obvious and severe problems with attendance and substance abuse, often on the job. His construction and maintenance staff members were not only consistently failing to complete any work, but they were taking extremely long meal breaks, often as long as 2-3 hours ... ."

Work orders several years old hadn't been fulfilled, and some employees weren't honest about their work hours, according to Hardy.

In addition, he said, attendance records were falsified, and in some cases workers were paid for time they weren't on McNeil Island.

Hardy started addressing the problems, and was praised by upper managers for "actually assigning work and inspecting it," the suit states.

But workers were not happy with his efforts, and complained to Hardy's boss. The supervisor met with Hardy on April 14, 2016, and they discussed the workers' perceptions of Hardy. They also set Hardy's goals for going forward.

The next day he was fired.

"His work," the suit alleges, "was initially rewarded with excellent reviews, until the extent of the employee fraud began becoming increasingly clear and higher-level employees at McNeil Island began to realize that his work in ending the fraudulent activities, and doing what he had been requested to do, was disturbing an ongoing boondoggle and jeopardizing the McNeil Island workers and supervisors' ability to receive taxpayer funds for doing little to no work."

The maintenance division does not include other employees at the SCC, such as security guards and counselors. Those employees are overseen by DSHS, but under a different administration.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell