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Embattled Congresswoman Fires Four Staff Members

January 12, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Rep. Barbara-Rose Collins, D-Mich., fired four staff members because, her staff chief said Thursday, they were not productive enough and were unhappy working in the office.

``We only dismiss people if they’re not producing,″ Collins’ staff chief, Meredith Cooper, said in an interview in Collins’ office.

Cooper made the remarks after The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper that specializes on covering Congress, reported that the staff members were fired after they refused to take a lie detector test about their contacts with the media.

Cooper said she was unsure if anyone was asked to take a polygraph test since she was not present during the employee interviews. She said she doubted it occurred but if employees were asked the question, it probably would have been ``an attempt to see how honest people can be.″

She also said the four employees _ nearly half the staff _ ``indicated they ... did not like working here″ in their employee interviews with deputy chief of staff Royal Hart.

Collins is under investigation by the Justice Department and House Ethics Committee over possible financial irregularities in her campaign, office and scholarship funds.

The dismissals of Michael McQuerry, Tanika Williams, Onitara Nelson and Lillian German occurred over the past two weeks. At least one of the four, according to The Hill, planned to file a complaint with the House Office of Fair Employment Practices.

The Detroit News report in its Thursday editions that each of the staffers was questioned by Hart for three hours about contacts with media. Those who refused to take a polygraph were fired, the newspaper quoted a source as saying.

The AP reached two of the four employees on Thursday, who spoke on condition they not be identified. One staffer said the test was never mentioned before dismissal. The other staffer refused to confirm or deny the report.

The News reported Collins was upset that someone leaked to the media information that the congresswomen wanted money for Christmas instead of a gift from staffers.

Cooper said staffers had decided to get Collins an ornamental horse as a Christmas present because she collects horses but that the congresswoman had offhandedly remarked to her that she had enough horses. Cooper said she suggested that the staff instead get a gift certificate, but added that the suggestion was misinterpreted by some staff members as a request for cash.

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