Dona Ana County investigating 'hostile work environment'

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Dona Ana County is paying out another hefty settlement after losing a civil trial.

A jury found the county guilty of retaliation against employees who speak up about discrimination and creating a hostile work environment.

The county has hired a team to look into the way things are run in county departments.

A team from Albuquerque is already interviewing county employees. They're starting at the top with elected officials and department heads.

Commissioners said they want to be sure the county is a good, healthy place to work.

"Anytime there are allegations made its our responsibility to look into those allegations. We want a safe and healthy work environment for all of our employees. It gives them the opportunity to then do good work for the public. It's our responsibility to make sure that exists," said Wayne Hancock, Dona Ana County Commissioner, District 4.

Hancock said it's important to find out if the negative behavior is still going on.

County spokesman Jess Williams said this is a county-wide investigation.

Investigators will write up a report for the County Commission.

Some Las Crucens told ABC-7 they're not surprised by the allegations.

"We end up paying for it but if we have officials that allow this to go on we end up having to pay for it and we should pay for it for allowing it to go on," said Las Crucen Larry Jonas.

"I don't think it will fix much of what goes on in the county. It might put county supervisors and some of the other managers on notice that they can't get away with everything," said Kenneth Freeman, another Las Crucen.

Williams could not give an estimate of how much the investigation will cost. He said it depends on how long the investigation takes.

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