by Ivan Foley
Mary Robinson, the director of human resources for Platte County, was arrested for allegedly driving while intoxicated Friday night.
Robinson, 43, was arrested at a DWI checkpoint being conducted in Platte City by the Platte County Sheriff’s Department. She was booked into the Platte County Jail and released a short time later after posting $1,000 bond.
According to the arresting deputy’s report, Robinson’s blood alcohol content measured .174, which is more than twice the legal limit of .08.
Robinson, who has served as the county’s HR director since late 2009 and earns a salary of $61,700 per year, is the wife of Platte County Auditor Kevin Robinson.
The sheriff’s department conducted the checkpoint near Hwy. 92 and Prairie View Road in Platte City from 9 p.m. Friday until 2 a.m. Saturday.
Robinson, driving a 2001 Honda CRV, was stopped at the checkpoint at 9:30 p.m., according to the incident report filed by the arresting deputy.
“I advised Ms. Robinson that she had entered a sobriety checkpoint. I could smell a strong odor of intoxicants coming from inside the vehicle,” the deputy writes in the report.
“I asked Ms. Robinson if she had consumed any alcoholic beverages and she stated that she had a few to drink before picking up her car at Maria’s (a restaurant on Hwy. 92 in Platte City). Ms. Robinson’s speech was slurred and her eyes were bloodshot and glassy,” the report says.
Robinson, of Kansas City in Platte County, later told the deputy that she had been at the Avalon Cafe in Weston prior to picking up her car at Maria’s. She told the officer that she had four drinks, which were rum and coke, between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m.
“Ms. Robinson stated in her opinion she was not under the influence of an alcoholic beverage,” the deputy’s report states.
The report indicates Robinson struggled with field sobriety tests. Robinson consented to the breath sample, and after a 15 minute observation period had expired, “provided a valid breath sample with a result of .174,” according to the report.
The report then indicates a citation for driving while intoxicated was issued and Robinson was transported to the county jail. Robinson “was very cooperative and polite,” the report indicates.
NOT HER FIRST BRUSH
The human resources office at Platte County answers directly to the county commission, and the HR director is employed at the will of the county commission.
The arrest isn’t the first piece of controversy for Robinson and the HR office in her time as HR director. Most recently, some ire was raised within the administration building when an employee in Robinson’s office was the only worker in the county complex to receive a pay increase in the 2014 budget. The worker was given a 10% pay hike, even though county commissioners had publicly indicated no county employees would be receiving raises. The Landmark broke the story on Jan. 1 after noticing the salary line in the HR budget had been increased by $2,700.
Jason Brown, presiding commissioner, said he argued against the raise. Duane Soper and Beverlee Roper, associate commissioners, supported the pay increase for the HR worker.
In 2012, Robinson was issued a written reprimand by then-county commissioners Jason Brown and Kathy Dusenbery. The vote was 2-0, with then-commissioner Jim Plunkett absent.
Minutes from that meeting do not indicate why the action was taken. Robinson, in a phone interview with The Landmark at that time, said: “I haven’t done anything to warrant disciplinary action.”
Brown and Dusenbery declined to comment on the reason for the action, citing the topic as a personnel matter.
A set of minutes originally issued from an Oct. 15, 2012 meeting of county commissioners indicated that on a 2-1 vote, with Plunkett opposed, Robinson would be suspended for one day without pay and that she be required to attend training sessions.
In particular, the sessions are to be oriented toward the human resources director position and are to relate to confidentiality and professionalism issues.”
Those minutes were subsequently pulled from the county record by Bob Shaw, county attorney, according to Plunkett at the time, and replaced with minutes that did not reflect any vote taken in the closed session. Shaw told Plunkett he was pulling the original minutes because the vote taken was not a “final” vote on the topic.
Following that Oct. 15, 2012, vote, Robinson hired an attorney to correspond with the county on her behalf. Ten days after a letter from Robinson’s attorney, commissioners Brown and Dusenbery voted to issue the reprimand to Robinson.
In an interview after that decision by the commission, Robinson told The Landmark she had not been told by the county what she is alleged to have said or done that led to the reprimand.
Robinson’s hiring in 2009 in itself had raised eyebrows. At the time she worked for a firm called People Wise, owned and operated by her husband Kevin, now the county auditor.
People Wise was hired in the fall of 2009 by the county commission of Betty Knight, Plunkett and Dusenbery to conduct a “management audit” of the county’s human resources department after allegations of multiple payroll mistakes had been alleged by then-county auditor Siobhann Williams and confirmed by the county’s outside auditor.
As the controversy brewed, the county commission, in the middle of a well-publicized feud with Williams, took action to hire a third “audit” of the department.
The contract penned between People Wise and the county called for total costs of $9,000 for the management audit. The contract noted that People Wise’s billable rate is $125 per hour but “has been reduced to $56.25 per hour in consideration of current and future projects for the county.”
Two months later, Mary Robinson was hired by Knight, Plunkett and Dusenbery as the new county HR director.
Kevin Robinson at the time served on the board of directors of the Platte City Chamber of Commerce, and Knight at the time was an advisory board member for the Chamber of Commerce.
At the time of the hiring, Knight defended the move in an interview with The Landmark.
“We watched what she was doing and were really impressed by her knowledge of the HR office as a whole, not necessarily our office. We had no idea that she would want to accept a position.”