Former City Administrator Bill Reynolds has filed a lawsuit in circuit court against the city of Pensacola over his firing in July 2013. Reynolds is asking for his PTO (paid personal time off), severance pay and attorney’s fees in his defense against a charge of a public records violation.
In July 2013, the State Attorney’s Office charged the city administrator and the former city public information officer with non-criminal infractions of the Florida public records law for failing to fulfill a request for a copy of the city’s new logo a year earlier. The PIO pled no contest and paid a fine and the court costs and he voluntarily resigned as the mayor’s press secretary and transferred to the city’s IT department. Reynolds fought the charge and won in court.
The State Attorney’s report also said that former Councilwoman Maren Deweese, who was running against Mayor Hayward at time, had told investigators that Reynolds had handed her, unsolicited, an employee complaint against the former Chief of Staff. That employee later withdrew the complaint after Deweese published it on her blog. The complaint was never investigated by the city because it was withdrawn.
From the report: “On March 5, 2013, Bill Reynolds gave a copy of this document together with a copy of his response to Maren DeWeese while at World of Beer. These documents were not provided pursuant to any public records request and were not solicited by Ms. DeWeese. The documents provided to Ms. DeWeese were in an envelope and unredacted in any way. Ms. DeWeese later published a redacted version of these documents on her blog.”
Because the complainant had not yet requested that the records remain confidential and except—she made the request two days later, on March 7—the state attorney concluded that the release did not constitute a crime. The report did note that Reynolds’ actions were “inappropriate.”
A week after the State Attorney’s report was released, Mayor Ashton Hayward fired Reynolds, not for the public records charge but for violating his “sacred responsibility:”
Today, I made the decision to terminate Bill Reynolds from his position as City Administrator.
Last week, I received the disappointing news from the State Attorney’s Office that Bill Reynolds chose to leak a confidential employee complaint. The wellbeing of the City’s hardworking employees is one of my top priorities. Mr. Reynolds’s actions violated this sacred responsibility. This is unacceptable to me.
In his complaint against the city, Reynolds asserted that he was terminated without cause and that he was not fired for misconduct “as defined in either Section 443.036 (29) Florida Statutes or Section 6.D” of his employment agreement.
Here is complaint and his employment agreement: Reynoldslawsuit.
I think his attorney meant section 443.036 (30):
(30) “Misconduct,” irrespective of whether the misconduct occurs at the workplace or during working hours, includes, but is not limited to, the following, which may not be construed in pari materia with each other:
(a) Conduct demonstrating conscious disregard of an employer’s interests and found to be a deliberate violation or disregard of the reasonable standards of behavior which the employer expects of his or her employee. Such conduct may include, but is not limited to, willful damage to an employer’s property that results in damage of more than $50, or theft of employer property or property of a customer or invitee of the employer.
(b) Carelessness or negligence to a degree or recurrence that manifests culpability or wrongful intent, or shows an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer’s interests or of the employee’s duties and obligations to his or her employer.
(c) Chronic absenteeism or tardiness in deliberate violation of a known policy of the employer or one or more unapproved absences following a written reprimand or warning relating to more than one unapproved absence.
(d) A willful and deliberate violation of a standard or regulation of this state by an employee of an employer licensed or certified by this state, which violation would cause the employer to be sanctioned or have its license or certification suspended by this state.
(e) 1. A violation of an employer’s rule, unless the claimant can demonstrate that:
a. He or she did not know, and could not reasonably know, of the rule’s requirements;
b. The rule is not lawful or not reasonably related to the job environment and performance; or
c. The rule is not fairly or consistently enforced.
2. Such conduct may include, but is not limited to, committing criminal assault or battery on another employee, or on a customer or invitee of the employer or committing abuse or neglect of a patient, resident, disabled person, elderly person, or child in her or his professional care.
As far as Section 6D of his contract:
Misconduct includes but is not limited to, the following:
Conduct demonstrating willful or wanton disregard of an employer’s interests and found to be a deliberate violation or disregard of the standards of behavior which the employer has a right to expect of his or her employee; or
Carlessness or negligence to a degree or recurrence that manifests culpability, wrong intent, or evil design or shows an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer’s interest or of the employe’s duties and obligations to his or her employer.