Former Morton Hospital CEO Alleges Religious Discrimination, Takes Legal Action

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Seth Whitmer, the former CEO of Morton General Hospital, claims being fired by his former employer was discrimination and retaliation against him for being Mormon, hiring other Mormons and hiring a man who hospital leadership believed was a homosexual.

A 32-page demand letter dated April 29 and sent by Whitmer’s Olympia-based attorney, Stephanie Stocker, offers to avoid going to court if the hospital pays him a $987,500 as part of a separation agreement. The letter also demands a positive reference for future employers, uncontested unemployment benefits and six months of continued paid medical coverage.

It asked for a response from the hospital within 30 days to avoid filing a formal complaint against the hospital with the state and federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Attorneys for both parties and the hospital leadership either were unavailable or unwilling to comment further. No case is currently under Whitmer’s name is listed in civil courts in Lewis or surrounding counties.

The letter paints the picture of a workplace where discrimination against followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) was open and flagrant by members of the hospital’s board of commissioners and Chief Human Resources Officer Shannon Kelly. It also alleges that, despite Whitmer’s successful track record as a successful CEO, he “never received answers regarding his very rushed termination” after only about 6 months of employment at the hospital.

Whitmer was hired August 2014 and fired last March.

According to the letter, the board and Kelly “openly expressed concern and distaste to MGH employees and management for ‘hiring Mormons’ at the hospital. Ms. Kelly frequently ridiculed Mormon employees by loudly and mockingly referring to MGH as “Mormon General Hospital.”

Eric Carlson, who was accused but never charged with committing fraud in the past, was hired by Whitmer last November as the hospital's new chief financial officer and gave a presentation to the hospital board of commissioners and leadership team on Dec. 1 after which hospital commissioners Ross Jones and Judy Ramsey allegedly told Whitmer they didn’t like Carlson and “emphasiz(ed) that his sexual orientation made him ill-fit for a leadership role at MGH,” the letter states.

It also claims that in December Whitmer received a call from Commissioner Kenton Smith stating that he and Commissioner Marc Fisher had hired a private investigator to look into Carlson’s background.

“Mr. Smith went on to make wild accusations about Mr. Carlson accusing him of being a pedophile, involved in the sex slave trade, and committing fraud,” the letter states.

Whitmer fired Carlson in January “under significant pressure and the threat of losing his own job,” according to the letter.

The letter also says that last January when Whitmer scheduled to interview Scot Attridge for the CFO opening Kelly became upset and claimed his connection to fellow Mormon and then-administrator Brian Williams an unfair advantage.

“After the interview …. Ms. ( Board of Commissioners Chair Sheri) Hendricks moaned that another Mormon ‘would not look good’ for the hospital,” the letter stated.

In early February, hospital administrators allegedly held a special board meeting without Whitmer, only to invite him in at the last second and told him he needed to “stop bullying and intimidating” staff. He later argued those accusations were unfounded, the letter said.

In the days before Whitmer was fired, the board held executive session meetings, some of which Whitmer was not allowed to attend. He was fired during a public meeting on March 11 and was asked to leave the premises.

As a result of the treatment, Whitmer has suffered serious depression, anxiety, panic attacks, severe stress and family discord, the letter states.

The document points to several state laws and previous cases that his attorney claim support the allegation that Whitmer’s due process rights were violated, he was discriminated against and the hospital acted arbitrarily and capriciously when they fired him.

The letter says that numerous witnesses signed sworn affidavits that tell of their own experiences with discrimination and retaliation at the hospital.

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