Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Manager, board at odds over firing process

KEY LARGO -- The Key Largo Wastewater Board and its district manager appear to be at odds over who should have the final say in firing upper-level employees.

At a meeting last month, board member Andy Tobin told District Manager Mar-garet Blank that the board should sign off on such terminations in order to better protect key positions.

"This is not personal," he said.

Blank, however, told the board she has the final say on all firings. She said she occasionally reaches out to the district's contract labor attorney, Dale Morgado, when contemplating a change in personnel. She told the board she would be concerned if the board felt she was unable to handle personnel issues.

The issue stems from the board's ongoing conversation over drafting a grievance policy for district employees.

Paul Christian, the district's chief information officer, has told the board that a grievance policy is already in place, but Tobin says that if the policy isn't in writing, it doesn't exist.

The district's counsel, Ray Giglio, was expected to brief the board on options for a grievance policy at its Tuesday, Dec. 4 meeting, including which employees are able to appeal their firing. Results from that meeting were not available by press time.

One of the options mentioned was an independent ombudsman, possibly Giglio, who would listen to both sides and make a determination. Another alternative discussed includes having employees come before the board and make their case to keep their job.

"We don't necessarily want to air our dirty laundry," Christian said during a recent meeting. He added some employees may feel intimidated or embarrassed to have to come before the board publicly when they are trying to find work elsewhere.

The board asked Blank how much employee turnover was occurring. She said the district has fired a few people recently for various issues.

In other business at its Dec. 4 meeting, the wastewater board was to discuss whether to fence in a vacuum station at mile marker 106 after reports of illegal use. According to documents provided by the district, there is some concern the public is tapping into a water supply at the station.

jgore@keysnews.com

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