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4th Cass County social services leader under investigation for workplace issues

Economic Assistance Manager Sidney Schock was placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday after a complaint was filed that alleged bullying, harassment, discrimination and intimidation.

The exterior of the Cass County Courthouse
The Cass County Courthouse in October 2016. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — A fourth social services leader for Cass County is under investigation for work-related issues.

Economic Assistance Manager Sidney Schock was placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday, Jan. 11, after the complaint was filed, a letter informing Schock of the investigation said. Staff who work for the Cass County Human Services Zone also have been informed that Schock will be out of the office until further notice.

The letter to Schock, obtained through an open records request made by The Forum, did not give specifics of the complaint other than to say it regarded bullying, harassment, discrimination and intimidation.

Schock declined to comment for this story.

Schock is the fourth Human Services Zone administrator to face scrutiny for conduct at work. Family Services Division Manager Linda Dorff, as well as social worker supervisors Rick VanCamp and Tamara Anderson, were placed on administrative leave last month pending an investigation into “workplace concerns present in the child protective services unit.”

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When asked if the four incidents are related, County Administrator Robert Wilson declined to comment.

Wilson said no other employees in the Human Services Zone have been placed on leave. It’s possible an update on the complaints regarding Dorff, VanCamp and Anderson could come next week, he added.

Documents detailing the complaints and investigation are exempt from open record laws in North Dakota until the investigation is complete.

The complaints come nearly three years after Cass County Social Services was investigated regarding allegations of misconduct, bullying and retaliation. The 2019 investigation detailed stress from heavy caseloads and allegations of leadership creating a hostile work environment.

The investigation specifically took aim at then-Social Services Director Chip Ammerman, Dorff and VanCamp. Dorff and VanCamp were put on work improvement plans, which they eventually completed successfully. Performance evaluations for Dorff, Anderson and VanCamp in the years following the investigation were mostly favorable, according to documents obtained through an open records request.

Schock was not mentioned in the investigation conducted by a Fargo attorney who specializes in employment issues.

At the time of the investigation, Cass County oversaw social services. Control has been shifted to the North Dakota Department of Human Services.

Ammerman told The Forum he applied for the director position when control of the agency was handed over to the state. The Human Services Zone chose Pearl Ferguson-Mell to head the department in February 2020.

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Ammerman left human services July 15, and Ferguson-Mell followed suit a month later. The Human Services Zone is led by Gail Bollinger, who took over last month.

The Forum also requested any complaints filed against Dorff, Anderson and VanCamp since 2019, which revealed VanCamp was given a written warning for using “profanity to derogatorily speak about staff members.”

The letter dated March 3 warned VanCamp that further policy violations or performance issues could result in disciplinary action, including termination as a Human Service Zone employee.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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