Virginia Beach Employee Arrested For Telling Supervisor That She Is The Type Of Boss Who Pushes Employees To Violence

There is a disturbing case out of Virginia Beach where city employee Elizabeth Mann, 48, was fired and then arrested for telling Wendy Swallow, a supervisor, that she is the type of boss who pushes people to violence. She was referencing the recent shooting spree of DeWayne Craddock, 40, an engineer with the city’s Public Utilities division, that killed 12 people and wounded several others. It was a uniquely stupid thing to say but Mann’s arrest raises serious constitutional concerns.

In a June staff meeting, employees were gathered to discuss the May 31st shooting spree. Mann raised objections to the supervisor as a worker in the Human Resources Department. According to The Virginian-Pilot, she stated “I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t detect any sincerity from you at all, Wendy. You are exactly the same type of supervisor that probably pushed this guy to do that.” She was asked by Swallow to leave the meeting and she did so.

She was then fired and three days later arrested for disturbing the peace. The police report says that “Wendy Swallow reported to me that Elizabeth Mann threatened her during a meeting at work,. Ms. Swallow states that she is in fear for her safety. The threat stated your (sic) the kind of supervisor that would cause somebody to shoot people.”

I do not see how these comments alone would support a charge. This was a meeting about the shooting and Mann was saying that the supervisor’s style was causing the same type of anger. Again, it was a stupid and alarming statement. However, the view of workers was solicited and she gave hers. There are first amendment concerns raised by the use of criminal charges in such a case.

Mann now faced up to a year in jail.

What do you think?

38 thoughts on “Virginia Beach Employee Arrested For Telling Supervisor That She Is The Type Of Boss Who Pushes Employees To Violence”

  1. If the employees comments were made after being solicited, and the tone and manner were not overtly threatening, at a very general level, after what the supervisor did to retaliate against this employee, one could conclude that the employee’s view of the supervisor has merit.

  2. There is a new hypersensitivity to speech and actions that has arisen in Ame. rica, one that assumes the worst intention HAS taken place (thought crime) and therefore must be punished. It is a frightening abrogation of constitutional rights — and government seemingly has used administrative punishment as a tool for. otherwise protected speech.

    This low level of shunning and administrative action being used to punish, rather than regulate, is a tool of many local governments, our nation’s chief executive and the Me Too type of movement. All use extra-judicial punishment to gain their brand of revenge justice — that of opinion. Most of the victims feel or cannot afford recourse through legal means.

    The statement shown in this article is indeed ill thought through, but does not constitute a direct threat or criminal offense. The constitution provides means for remedy, but only to those who can affoird it.

  3. I wonder if ACLU’s reached out to her yet. Firing Elizabeth Mann is one thing, but charging her with disturbing the peace is outrageous.

    The way things turned out, not only were Mann’s comments about Wendy Swallow not a criminal offense, they may actually be fair comment and a reasonable description of Swallow’s management style. The term “toilet trained with an Uzi” comes to mind.

  4. I was in the Va Beach Government Center a week after the shooting. The yellow police tape was still up when I arrived. I found the staff and security very friendly and helpful though new security measures were in place to escort me to the various offices I needed to go. That’s even after I showed my bar card. I think there is more to the story than this stand alone statement. I found no atmosphere of hyper-sensitivity or fear in the building. More sadness at lost co-workers and resolve to stop it from happening again.

    1. Mespo,

      Have they been allowed to arm themselves if they wish?

      Are the gun laws in Va very restrictive?

      I’ve friend that moved out of VA to West Va because he feared the state govt was going to start giving him crap over his legally owned/showed Civil war cannons, some tanks & some other stuff like 50 fully auto.

      Cool stuff if one can put up with the ATF

      I see now at least from Okla to Va most of those states are full Constitutional Carry.

        1. The sooner these public places do all of those shootings end tomorrow!

          Except places like the court areas & such that have armed police/military guards. ( Like James Comey’s trial! LOL God forbid some moron shoots & kill him! I wish him a long life In Irons! LOL;)

          Think of Chicago, if everyone had a gun all the shooting are over soon after all the gang banger realize they pull a gun 10 or 20 are pulled against them.

          I hate the thought of wearing a belt or strap again, but the way things are headed as lil older guy, well I’m not winning a foot race running way.

          The crime stat results should start to flow from all these USC Carry states soon. I think they will be positive. No one in their right mind wants a gun fight at the Ok Corral.

  5. If the purpose of the meeting was to prevent workplace shootings, why does Turley say the employee’s statement was “stupid and alarming”? Wouldn’t the municipality want to know if a supervisor’s lack of sincerity is disturbing?

    1. “why does Turley say the employee’s statement was “stupid and alarming”?”

      To be fair, depending on the tone and context, a statement like the one quoted could come out as jokey, snarky, hostile, or even threatening. It’s difficult for any of us out here in TV-land to know. It’s not the sort of thing that I would have said, if for no better reason, because jokes about workplace/school shootings are routinely misinterpreted and are most likely to be willfully misinterpreted by people who are insincere. That’s pretty much the definition of insincerity. It just wouldn’t be worth it, either as a joke or as an honest criticism. There are certainly means of expressing the same sentiment without suggesting the supervisor has or should have a bull’s-eye on their chest.

      That being said, unless it was clearly spoken as a threat, I don’t think the person should have been fired.

      1. Jay, if I recall correctly what I read the tone was measured and controlled. I think Professor Turley draws conclusions too quickly and bases them on how he would act.

        I don’t think we know enough about this to make any decision. However if we are studying Mann we should also be studying who she was talking about.

        People should take note that Congressman Gaetz from Florida had his life and the lives of his family members threatened. This has been going on some time and the threats were scary. The man was locateted in California and the prosecutor declined to charge that man with any offense.

        We are seeing threats to conservatives not acted upon but non threats to Liberals being acted on with intensity.

        I am not claiming politics had anything to do with the Mann case.

        1. “We are seeing threats to conservatives not acted upon but non threats to Liberals being acted on with intensity.”

          Get a grip, bro.

            1. Your response reinforces my comment. I’ll say it again:

              Get a grip, Allen. You’re a mouthy jerk.

  6. I think that trying to prosecute her is going to backfire. She will then relate, on public record, why she believed that the supervisor created a hostile work environment. One of the aspects of a hostile work environment is soliciting criticism, and then firing, and arresting, someone who obliges.

    That said, I think that this choice of words is going to haunt her. It sounded like an off the cuff comment. How many times have journalist written that someone committed violence because of bullying? Does telling a bully that constitute a threat?

    I can understand how an employer would not want to take any chances. They should fire Ms Swallow if it is proven that she created a hostile work environment and/or retaliated against an employee. They might uphold Ms Mann’s firing if they conclude her comments to be threatening. Ms Swallow is a liability for lawsuits, as well. They need to interview all subordinates to determine if she is, indeed, the type of manager who would push an employee over the edge.

    If it were me, I would have asked follow up question. Are you threatening me? Do you condone violence? Are you considering violence? Are you justifying violence?

    I think the former employee learned a lesson. There are some people in management whom are not safe to criticize. The options are to file a complaint with HR, leave, or keep silent. When the person allegedly creating the hostile environment works in HR, they have too much power, and that power corrupts. Since it was clearly a trap to ask anyone’s honest opinion, employees need to go around this supervisor and go upstream. Since this is the city, it will be an impenetrable bureaucracy.

    Once a criminal complaint was made, the police are required to investigate. I think all charges need to be dropped. Otherwise, the employee will be able to complain in court, on record, about how her work environment was so hostile that her supervisor asked her honest opinion, she complained, and out of retaliation was fired and arrested. Since she never made a direct threat, perhaps she could sue for defamation. She was misquoted, after all, which affects the context. In any case, all of the dirty laundry in that department is going to be laid bare.

    I remember there was a supervisor at one of the companies where I worked. Her team worked near mine, so I could observe the Greek tragedy unfolding week by week. She would select one employee to target. He or she would become her enemy, and she would work diligently, day after day, talking down to them and criticizing them, loudly, so the entire area could overhear. Just chip away at them until they finally quit. You could always tell who she was after because they’d walk around with slumped shoulders. Then, within a couple of weeks, she’d chosen another. She was a minority, and a woman. The company was openly looking to fill leadership roles with both. A few of those supervisors were very qualified. A few were so unqualified as to be breathtaking. The questions one of them used to ask in staff meetings were excruciating. I do not know if some sort of quota was why she appeared untouchable, when her conduct was clearly unacceptable. I wonder if the company was ever sued. She was still there when I left to have a baby. One of the employees under her had a binder 3 inches thick of complaints about her actions. I think he was saving it for if he needed it.

    There are people with psychopathic tendencies working along with everyone else. Sometimes, they become murderers. Sometimes, they seek out positions of authority so that they can enjoy creating pain in others, and gaslighting, which is one of the traits of a psychopath. I’m not saying that Ms Swallow was a psychopath, only that positions of authority can attract those who would seek to abuse it.

    1. That was interesting, Karen. Like you I wonder what ultimately happened to that supervisor. Guess we’ll have to wait for the movie to come out. 🙂

  7. If the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice hadn’t been disabled, they could arrest the supervisor, police officers and local prosecutor using distinguished federal civil rights statutes. They are all a government entity punishes legal First Amendment activity acting under color of law.

  8. Discipline Mann up to and including firing depending on her prior disciplinary history, and assuming the worst possible gloss on her remarks, not knowing their complete context. That said, the statement was not necessarily inane. It could have been true. The problem was that it was openly disrespectful of and unnerving to a colleague regardless of whether that colleague was a supervisor. The same disciplinary flag would just as justifiably have been put in Mann’s file if she had said the same thing, in the same manner, to a coworker at her level. Swallow’s status makes the misconduct look worse, but it’s not as crucial as it seems. We just note it instinctively because we’re used to the workplace being a top-down, “unaccountable tyranny”, which it shouldn’t be.

    On the constitutional question, Mann’s statement placed her conduct in relation to the continuum of criminal offenses characterized at the lowest end by harassment, then by stalking, menacing, and violent assault (from “best” to worst). For example, although the lowest degree of harassment is defined in New York’s penal code as a violation, not a crime, it could allow verbiage, in the form of a threat to subject someone to harmful physical contact (speech only), to constitute definitive proof of the violation if it is accompanied by an intent to “harass, annoy, or alarm”. The higher degree of harassment, which is a Class B misdemeanor, is established by intentional repetition of the harassing acts, if those acts place the harassed person in reasonable fear of physical injury.

    The NY statute is a model of a legitimate line to draw to protect speech in this context. Here, law enforcement should not have been involved unless there were other reasons to consider Mann a threat. Her statement alone might have been unnerving (or enraging), but it was not genuinely threatening, even though this is a difficult call to make in a time of mass shootings (the location here is not a favorable fact). The distinction between the two still has to be preserved, and should not be effaced by a desire for total security.

    Dismiss.

    1. If, in fact, the workplace environment is a hostile one (as Mann and others claim), it needs to be addressed.

  9. Why do some people feel that they can say just about anything without repercussions? They must be 2 cans short of a 6-pack.

  10. Interesting and important. Of course it is senseless and unreasonable to arrest her, or press charges against her. Anyway, one should differentiate between the provisions of the offense, and what other colleagues or employees felt. The former refers to accomplished conduct ( threatening or disturbing peace and alike ) the latter, to what she might to, I quote them ( workers):

    “I was shaken and was verbally assaulted.From the level of anger and hostility she presented towards me, I am fearful of what she may do.”

    Or :

    “Ms. Mann has the potential to be an active shooter based on her behavior.”

    But, what one person may do ( generally speaking ) is not an offense typically of course. Those are vague impressions ( although may be subjectively sincere ).

    And that’s the point :

    It seems that the shooter himself, was calm guy. neighbors couldn’t even imagine he could do such thing according to related articles. But abruptly done. By all means so. So, the lesson is simple : You can’t predict it. The conduct, wouldn’t always suggest or predict such thing. Let alone, while by herself, was dealing with such issues of ” hostile work environment “( as worker of the city it seems).

    So, you couldn’t catch the real or big fish, and you turn against he who is condemning or fighting or preventing such grave incidents ? This is really ridiculous. One should leave her alone. Drop that case.

    P.S. wasn’t really arrested it seems. But rather, the warrant served to her daughter, for she wasn’t at home. And even later, not held in custody it seems.

    Thanks

  11. Posted by JT: https://pilotonline.com/news/local/virginia-beach-mass-shooting/article_528bb6cc-a261-11e9-b41d-67439a4a2fc4.html

    From that article: “Mann said in an interview with The Pilot that she has a history of airing her grievances to managers. She said she’s “always been very vocal” about what she considers a hostile work environment.”

    Given what I’ve read so far, the protective orders and subsequent arrest were crazy overreactions to someone who expressed herself honestly, but this is the way we roll in the good old we’re-scared-of-our-shadows USA.

    Swallow — the boss — might want to take the criticism to heart and modify her behavior accordingly. Better yet, maybe she should find another job — if in fact the work environment is truly “a hostile one.”

    This incident captures perfectly some of the systemic problems in this country — problems that many are content to ignore.

    The whole lot of them need mental health evaluations. Mann is probably the most insightful of them all.

  12. In a highly charged environment all sorts of things can happen to distort what one sees. We will have to reserve judgement until all the statements come out.

    I looked at a news article and found this paragraph interesting: “Four city employees, including the manager, also took out protective orders against Elizabeth Mann, 48, who was fired a week later from her role in the Human Services Department, where she helped investigate reports of adult abuse or neglect. She said she worked for the city since 2003.” https://pilotonline.com/news/local/virginia-beach-mass-shooting/article_528bb6cc-a261-11e9-b41d-67439a4a2fc4.html

  13. So an HR supervisor is holding a meeting I presume to discuss the events leading to a former, disgruntled public employee going on a shooting rampage. An employee then expresses an honest opinion of how that supervisor is facilitating the meeting, resulting in the her becoming a former and likely disgruntled public employee. It seems as though her honest opinion was an accurate assessment.

  14. Does Turley know that the statement is false? If not, how does he decide that it’s “stupid”? If the statement is true it’s not stupid.

  15. What do I think? It’s an inane waste of law-enforcement’s time (an arrest?) and Wendy Swallow’s supervisor has cause to fire her toute-de-suite.

    1. “an inane waste of law-enforcement’s time (an arrest?) ”

      “inane” and insane

      And as for those VA Beach vacations? Maybe another locale would be better.

  16. What do I think?

    The drama unfolding between Trump & “The Squad” isn’t as interesting as local municipal government dysfunction.

    The Mayor is being sued by some council members & council members are suing each other.

    The police chief is being investigated by municipal police detectives as an illegal double dipping pension padder.

    The municipal Fire Chief is being sued for hiring family members.

    The tax collector embezzled $250,000 & was distributing kiddy porn from municipal computers.

    This municipality dysfunction is a lawyers “honey pot.”

  17. She needs to hire a really good Constitutional Attorney and sue. The crime here is the supervisor’s action will likely end in additional expense for the citizens to pay.

  18. Sounds like Ms. Mann is right; Ms. Swallow’s management style would push a subordinate to violence.

    This sounds like retaliation for a sharp comment from a subordinate – Ms. Swallow was zinged and decided to retaliate.

    I blame the cops too; they have discretion is how to handle this sort of complaint; they chose to be complicit in the abuse of process.

  19. Agreed! This was not a threat, just an observation. Fire her for insubordination, but no criminal charge is warranted.

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