Update: Here is a link to Ms. Rutkowski’s original post, as it appeared on January 25 shortly before she deleted it. I flagged the edits she made to her first comment.
Last week I accidentally discovered a blog post – “Loudoun County in Virginia going Gay, Lesbian and Transgender” – published shortly after the Board of Supervisors voted to revise the county’s Human Resources Policy Handbook in 2010.
Written by Vivianne Rutkowski (pictured at left), a local Realtor affiliated with Keller Williams in Leesburg, the post made the offensive, ridiculous assumption that prohibiting discrimination against LGBT county employees would have a negative effect on the Loudoun real estate market. It also contained very ignorant and defamatory language of the sort one hears from hate groups obsessed with public restroom use. Ms. Rutkowski’s response to criticism only made things worse.
I want to immediately say that the responsiveness of Keller Williams to this situation has been outstanding. None of Ms. Rutkowski’s superiors at the agency were aware of this post, and are very grateful to us for calling it to their attention. This has been treated as a very serious matter with the potential to do real damage to their reputation and that of the real estate profession as a whole.
Regional Director Tipper Williams in particular deserves praise for the way she has responded to this, which has been both professional (this is an internal personnel matter) and very apologetic. Ms. Williams has shared with me and others who contacted her that after meeting with her on Monday, Ms. Rutkowski’s association with Keller Williams has been terminated. That notification reads in part:
I wanted to formally notify you, as promised, the steps that were taken today regarding Vivianne Rutkowski. We have officially removed her as an agent with Keller Williams Realty. She has been notified and her license sent back to the Real Estate Commission. Although she was instructed last week to remove all logos and names that affiliated her with Keller Williams Realty, she must now legally comply as she is no longer affiliated with our company.
As I stated in our phone call, this type of unprofessional and destructive behavior will not be tolerated within my company.
Some people have asked me about the Keller Williams logo and affiliation still appearing on Ms. Rutkowski’s blog, as she was reportedly told to remove them on Friday along with the post. This is her personal real estate blog, and my speculation is that someone else set it up for her and she doesn’t know how to remove items from the sidebar. Her profile is still linked from the Keller Williams Leesburg website, but that’s because those links go to a corporate site not under the Leesburg office’s control. She has already been removed from their directory of associates.
I can’t say that I’m happy about someone losing their job, especially someone who seems completely oblivious about why what she did was wrong. I don’t know whether any learning took place during that meeting. I hope so.
I am happy that the good folks at Keller Williams immediately recognized the seriousness of and acted on this offensive expression of prejudice. What it shows is that being associated with such ideas is instantly understood as bad for business, and that the action by the Board of Supervisors is aligned with mainstream business viewpoints. If that is such a no-brainer to the private sector, I have to wonder why we tolerate such fringe ideas from some of our public officials.
As a separate matter, ethics charges have been brought against Ms. Rutkowski with her local Board of Realtors (the Dulles Area Association of Realtors) pursuant to the National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics. The complaint will go through a review process, then if warranted, on to a full hearing.