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Juvenile justice commissioner fired following investigation

March 25, 2021 GMT

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s juvenile justice commissioner has been fired following an investigation into allegations of harassment and bullying, according to state personnel records.

Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration released the records of LaShana M. Harris to news outlets Wednesday night in response to open records requests.

A letter from Personnel Secretary Gerina D. Whethers on March 23 informs Harris of her immediate termination.

“You are being dismissed from your position with cause because you have violated the Executive Branch policy statement on harassment prevention, the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet’s policy against harassment, the Department of Juvenile Justice’s anti-harassment policy and for lack of good behavior and unsatisfactory performance of duties,” the eight-page letter said. “The Beshear Administration does not tolerate harassment of any kind.”

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Harris, in a Facebook message to The Courier Journal, disputed the findings.

“The personnel action is a result of an incomplete and partial investigation that unfairly impugns my character,” Harris said. “I served the Department of Juvenile Justice with integrity and diligence.”

Harris was placed on leave in December due to complaints from several employees and the Personnel Cabinet conducted an investigation, the letter said.

The investigative report that led to the dismissal found Harris frequently engaged in conduct that was “threatening, offensive and unwelcome” including “shouting, bullying, making threats, engaging in intimidating conduct and making offensive comments.”

“Your actions created a toxic environment that drove many employees to tears and unnecessarily made employees take action to avoid contact with you,” Whethers wrote.

The letter said the behavior continued even after Harris met multiple times last year with superiors to discuss her management style.

Harris is the first Black woman to head the department. She has done extensive work in juvenile justice and has held various leadership positions in state government for more than 19 years.

She has 30 days to appeal the decision.