Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Sunday, January 5, 2014
Code chief ready to end suits
$102K settlement on the table

The director of the city's code enforcement department has agreed to settle two pending lawsuits with his employer in exchange for about $102,000, including attorney fees and expenses

Jim Young won back his job Feb. 9, 2009, after then-City Manager Julio Avael fired him Oct. 13, 2006, over complaints of on-the-job heavy-handedness.

"Jim Young was fired because he was good at his job and he was honest," his attorney Hugh Morgan said at the time.

Now, both Young and the city wish to settle the pending civil actions, according to a settlement agreement filed with the agenda for the commission's 6 p.m. Tuesday meeting at Old City Hall, 510 Greene St.

"The settlement is about 50 percent of what they had been seeking and came after experts from both sides testified during the first day of the arbitration," said City Attorney Shawn Smith.

Young didn't return a phone message Friday.

Of the entire $102,000 proposed settlement, $75,500 is for attorney's fees, said Smith.

The city has already paid Young $20,000 as a partial settlement. If approved Tuesday by commissioners, the city will pay the balance of $55,500.

Also, city attorneys worked out two additional payments to Young:

•$10,773 for costs of arbitration.

•$16,000 for out-of-pocket costs and expenses during the two civil cases.

Attorney Morgan signed the two-page settlement agreement on Nov. 6, 2013.

Young was first hired by the city as an investigator on March 10, 2003. He made the lateral move to code enforcement in June 2003, said city Human Resources Director Samantha Farist.

Young, a former detective with the Broward County Sheriff's Office, makes $68,958 a year with the city.

Ten days before the firing, then-Commissioner Harry Bethel announced at a meeting that code enforcement officers were like the Gestapo -- the secret police of Nazi Germany.

At the time, Young and other code officers had brought hundreds of homes and businesses on the island into compliance with city rules by resolving outstanding violations. They included a restaurant that had more seats than it was supposed to, and a real estate outfit illegally renting homes to tourists for years.

Young later sued the city in two suits: one demanding city staff enforce the public records law, and the second claiming his termination violated the Florida Whistle-Blower's Act.

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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