Florida Keys News
Monday, February 25, 2013
City, SHAL settle claim
Ex-caseworker agrees to $10K

The city of Key West and the nonprofit it chose to run the island's homeless shelter will pay $10,000 to settle a worker's compensation claim filed in December.

Todd Lovejoy signed off on the settlement after a mediation conference Feb. 7 over his claim against the city and the Southernmost Homeless Assistance League (SHAL), which hired him as a caseworker last year.

Assistant City Attorney Ron Ramsingh confirmed that the worker's comp case has been settled, with the city paying $5,000 and SHAL paying the rest.

Lovejoy, 47, fell Oct. 12 while working on the recreational vehicle that SHAL sends out to serve homeless men and women, a project called Mobile Outreach that the city helps fund.

The injury required hand surgery and left one pinkie finger permanently damaged, Lovejoy said.

The case was closed Feb. 15 by the state Division of Administrative Hearings.

The $10,000 check ends a case that included an allegation that Wendy Coles, former executive director of SHAL, advised Lovejoy to lie about the injury to help the nonprofit avoid trouble.

SHAL had let its worker's compensation insurance lapse between Sept. 30 and Oct. 24, according to the state's compliance database, a fact that Lovejoy said the nonprofit feared would cause problems.

"'The board wants you to go to a different doctor and tell them you fell at home and put it through your own insurance,'" Lovejoy recalled Coles saying during a meeting. "I advised you that was insurance fraud."

Coles, who retired Jan. 31, never responded to the allegation, and the nonprofit has changed dramatically regarding its leaders and mission statement since last fall.

SHAL's board, which has a new chairman, hired a new executive director at a far lower salary than Coles' $52,000 a year.

Lovejoy will net $8,000 after attorney costs and other fees, according to the settlement agreement.

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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