Jan. 12--WILKES-BARRE -- City councilwoman Beth Gilbert resigned from her job with Berkshire Hathaway GUARD Insurance Companies this week, alleging an executive tried to influence her vote and have her pressure other council members for their support for a pending vote affecting the insurer.
The executive was not named in the resignation letter provided to the Times Leader by a source who said it was reportedly posted on Facebook.
Gilbert confirmed the letter was hers, but said it was not made public or posted on social media.
"I really don't know how it got out," Gilbert said in an email Friday.
GUARD spokeswoman Elizabeth Hartman said "as a matter of policy and respect" the company does not publicly comment on personnel matters.
But in a prepared statement Hartman responded, "Berkshire Hathaway GUARD has always conducted itself with integrity, full transparency and openness in all of our dealings with the city of Wilkes-Barre. We continue to support the local community, employing over 600 people in the Wilkes-Barre area. Additionally, we are the largest supporter of the local United Way chapter and positively impact many other charitable organizations and the quality of life in the Wyoming Valley. We remain committed to Wilkes-Barre and our support of the local community will continue to expand as the company grows."
In the letter, Gilbert recalled the positive experiences of making friends while working for the company that's a subsidiary of billionaire Warren Buffett'sBerkshire Hathaway Inc. and contrasted that with what she described as "some of the oddest, some downright unethical encounters" during her time with GUARD.
Gilbert added, "From being called into a Guard executive's office to sway my vote on City Council and being asked to leverage my power to influence others to vote in Guard's favor to then targeting me afterward for discipline and the bald-faced refusal to give me an earned raise for two and half (sic) years, the not so subtle signals have been clear. Play ball our way or suffer the consequences."
But Gilbert, 25, a Democrat who is in the last year of her four-year term, made clear she worked for GUARD when company-related matters came before council and did not participate in the voting.
On Jan. 12, 2017, city council approved the application for a $1 million state grant to assist with GUARD's office consolidation downtown. At the time Gilbert abstained from the vote that passed 4-0-1. At council's public meeting on Dec. 20, 2018, she also abstained from voting on a deal that will provide parking spaces at a reduced rate to GUARD employees at the city-owned James F. Conahan Intermodal Transportation Facility.
The company chose Wilkes-Barre as the site for its corporate headquarters last year after receiving financial incentives from the city and state to locate here and bring hundreds of new jobs to the downtown.
It's not clear whether Gilbert reported the GUARD executive's alleged actions to anyone else. She declined to go into detail, saying, "It is a private personnel issue between myself and my former employer."
GUARD did not address it.
Gilbert also took her former employer to task for wallowing in petty office politics and failing to distinguish itself as a leader in the local business community.
"As it stands, Guard is sorely lacking in fulfilling this much-needed leadership role in our local business landscape," Gilbert wrote.
Her letter cited instances where she said she was mistreated by managers and punished for her actions while other employees did the same things without consequences.
Gilbert said she listed them "to hopefully shed light on how management in this company can improve and be more accommodating to young professionals who have a life and duties to their community outside of Guard, and decrease overall turnover."
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.
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