ITHACA, N.Y. — Karen Baer, director of the Office of Human Rights in Tompkins County, is on unpaid leave from her job after the Tompkins County Legislature launched several claims against her following her accusations that the county discriminated and retaliated against women and people of color.

On Oct. 17, upon questioning from The Ithaca Voice, the Tompkins County Legislature released a statement indicating that Baer was on unexplained leave from the position. Officials declined to comment further about the issue.

In recently released documents, it was revealed that between July and October 2016, Baer made allegations against the county stating that women and people of color were being discriminated and retaliated against.

In the documents, the county says Baer has not fulfilled her duties as director of the OHR and that in doing so, the organization could not adequately function. She is also accused of creating a “dysfunctional environment” after she allegedly refused to comply with an investigation into her claims.

Director of Tompkins Human Rights Office on unexplained leave of absence

Baer denied the allegations against her.

In a written statement, Baer said, “The action by the County Legislature on October 13th in removing me from my post is unwarranted and unfair. I believe it was taken in retaliation for my repeated efforts to speak truth to power and to shine a light in dark corners.”

She said she will legally fight the claims against her, not just in an effort to keep her own job, but “more importantly to vindicate the principle that our system needs thoughtful critics and fearless investigators.”

Her statement can be read in its entirety below:

Karen Baer’s statement in regard to claims made against her by the Tompkins County Legislature by Jolene Almendarez on Scribd

If found guilty of the accusations against her, Baer can face punishment varying from a fine not to exceed $100 to being fired from her job.

According to the documents from the legislature, Baer’s unpaid leave will be in effect for 30 days “as the County pursues its option to dismiss you from the service of the County.”

The following are a list of reasons the Tompkins County Legislature says Baer was placed on unpaid leave from the office:

  1. Baer is accused of insubordination, failing to comply with an investigation into allegations she made against the county, indicating that the county discriminated and retaliated against women and people of color.
  2. She allegedly refused to attend meetings of the Compliance Committee, which she was a part of, and resigned from the Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
  3. Baer is accused of creating a “dysfunctional environment” because of her alleged non-compliance with the investigation into her claims of discrimination against the county. 
  4. The investigation concluded that due to Baer’s alleged action, the”Office of Human Rights can no longer carry out its functions and that you can no longer carry out your duties.”
  5. The Tompkins County Legislature determined that Baer’s claims of retaliation and discrimination were not established.

The claims from the legislature can be read in their entirety below:

Tompkins County Legislature claims against Karen Baer, director of the Office of Human Rights in Tompkins C… by Jolene Almendarez on Scribd

A 46-page document on behalf of Baer has been submitted by Zoe Salzman, a partner at the legal firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP. The firm is representing Baer in this matter.

In it, an attorney at the firm wrote, “As set forth below, these charges are utterly without merit, and they arise as part of a politically and racially motivated campaign to silence Ms. Baer in her determination to speak out against racism and sexism in the County. The charges should be promptly dismissed without further delay.”

This is a developing story. The Ithaca Voice will write another story detailing the contents of the document from the law firm representing Baer.