The conflict between the Douglas County Board of Commissioners and Assessor Roger Hartman took a new turn this week, when the commissioners issued a demand that one of Hartman’s employees be fired.
Assessment Manager Frank Lassen is accused of helping Hartman retaliate against Chief Finance Officer Jessica Hansen for whistle-blowing. Hansen had blown the whistle on Hartman for alleged ethics violations and harassment, including the use of gender-based insults. Hansen in November filed notice she may sue both the county and Hartman for $3 million.
Hartman’s an elected official and can’t be fired by the commissioners, but they’ve been taking steps to distance themselves from him. They wrote him two letters this week. One affirmed a decision made last week that the county will not pay Hartman’s attorneys fees or settlement costs if Hansen sues. The other demanded that he fire Lassen by noon today. If Lassen isn’t fired, he will be suspended for 90 days without pay, the letter said.
An independent report by third-party investigator Jill Goldsmith points to email strings between Hartman and his friend Larry Saccato as evidence that Hartman retaliated against Hansen. A third name — Lassen’s — frequently appears in those email strings.
The report claims Lassen sent information to Saccato that Saccato used to claim that Hansen wasn’t qualified to perform her job because she hadn’t obtained a particular type of bond, and that she had committed mail fraud. Goldsmith described those actions as harassment and retaliation for Hansen’s whistle-blowing. Goldsmith asserted that Hartman and Lassen worked with Saccato to undermine Hansen whenever she questioned or complained about Hartman.
One witness told Goldsmith that Lassen referred to Saccato as the “Cracken” [sic] and said he would “sick” [sic] Saccato on the…