EXCLUSIVE: Columbia County 311 employee speaks out after she says she was denied bereavement time by Pam Tucker

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – A former employee of Pam Tucker is speaking out after her story became public in the internal investigation between Tucker and the county.

Dorothy Luke has worked in the Columbia County’s 311 center for the past fifteen years.

It came to light in the internal investigation between the county and Tucker that Luke had asked for time off to attend her sister-in-law’s funeral.

Tucker said if she did, she could face consequences.

“It hurts. I feel sad when I talk about it,” said Luke.

However, Luke is talking about it.

With her husband by her side, she shared her story exclusively with NewsChannel 6’s Ashley Campbell.

She discussed two times she says she was forced between work and a family member’s funeral while working under Pam Tucker.

“It hurt me so much when she said she was harassed. Everything she said happened to her, I felt like it happened to me…through her,” said Luke.

Luke said while on a cruise, she learned her sister-in-law died. When she returned, she says she reached out to Tucker.

“I checked with Pam and she said she was sorry that my sister had passed but she needed me to come into work,” said Luke.

From there, text messages started with Tucker, asking if Luke could go to the funeral and come back because Tucker was concerned about having two people alone in the 311 office.

“I got upset about it and told her I couldn’t come in and that I needed to be with my husband and my family,” said Luke.

Tucker responded in the text messages stating she understood but operations had to continue and it was putting an extreme burden on the department.

Tucker added if Luke chose to go, there could be consequences.

We asked Tucker about this employee’s story and Tucker said there was no disciplinary action taken against Luke.

A meeting was held about a week after the funeral between Tucker, Luke and Luke’s supervisor.

“She (Tucker) said when she attends funerals, that she comes to work dressed, she goes to that funeral and she comes back. It was easy for her to say, I guess. It wasn’t her sister who passed when she did those things,” said Luke.

According to the Columbia County Employee Handbook, there’s a difference between personal time and bereavement time.

Luke used one day bereavement but Tucker says she used too much paid time off or PTO.

“The reason that makes me upset is because Pam knows I have a very sick daughter. She’s very sick, internally sick. I have to worry every day if I’m going to hear her voice the next day,” said Luke.

Luke says this isn’t the first funeral she’s asked off for.

In January of 2014, she asked for bereavement time for the death of her other sister-in-law. The funeral fell on a day it snowed and Tucker opened the Columbia County EOC. Luke was told, “No” by Tucker.

“So, I left her office that day crying. And I asked her how she could be so mean,” said Luke.

According to policy, a division director can refuse bereavement time after three days are taken and notice must be given as soon as possible.

But, Luke says she couldn’t put a time on death.

“The first funeral that I missed…I haven’t gotten over that,” said Luke.

Tucker couldn’t speak on camera but says that it would have helped if Luke had tried to help her team out but Luke flat out said that she wouldn’t be in, possibly leaving 311 in a bind.

Read the full bereavement policy form HERE.

To read the full internal investigation report CLICK HERE.

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