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Fired? A former city department director sues the city of Jacksonville for alleged retaliation

Posted: January 22, 2014 - 7:23pm  |  Updated: January 22, 2014 - 8:39pm
Vincent Seibold, former head of the environmental quality division
Vincent Seibold, former head of the environmental quality division

A city employee who either resigned or was fired, depending on who is talking, has sued the city of Jacksonville for allegedly violating the state’s Whistle-blower’s Act that protects government employees who report wrongdoing.

Last year, Mayor Alvin Brown, who promised voters he would not raise taxes and who would instead reorganize the government to cut costs, proposed that the city would let the public works department run the environmental quality division.

This might be a problem, thought Vincent Seibold, then the head of the environmental quality division who would later lose his job because of this issue.

The environmental quality division regulates and evaluates the public works department. If the public works department ran its regulatory division, then Seibold’s department could have a conflict of interest.

He wrote a memo to Neighborhoods Department Director Terrance Ashanta-Barker that said such a merger could degrade the city’s environmental quality and could lead to federal sanctions against the city.

Later, when the Environmental Protection Board Vice Chair Michelle Tappouni asked Seibold for documents about the merger, Seibold gave her his memo and a memo from Ashanta-Barker.

“It appears the [sic] Seibold was engaged in external conversations with Tappouni that communicated ‘conflict of interests’ concerns without the express knowledge or authorization of his Director [Ashanta-Barker],” said a memo recommending Seibold be suspended for three days or suspended until termination.

The memo, written by personnel manager Tracey Watkins, labeled Seibold’s conduct as “inappropriate.”

Basically, Seibold was asked “his opinion about the reorganization, and he offered his opinion, and it differed from what the mayor’s office had said,” Councilman John Crescembeni said.

That opinion, he said, “did cause some heartburn among committee members.”

In an investigative interview with city officials about his “unauthorized communication,” Seibold said the memos he gave were public records, and his “track record clearly shows that I support [the] mayor’s priorities and have excelled at my job,” according to city documents.

He also said he would support assigning his division to the public works department, but it had “operational issues to be addressed.”

The city eventually dismissed Seibold by saying they accepted a two-year-old resignation letter that all prior mayoral appointees were required to sign when Brown first took office. The letter said he was “willing to resign my appointed position,” but that he was “very interested in continuing to serve your administration in my current capacity or any similar role that you feel would be valuable to your administration.”

Tad Delegal, Seibold’s attorney, said the city can’t use a two-year-old resignation letter that it initially did not accept.

The city “only claimed that it had accepted Seibold’s letter of resignation to disguise the fact that it had terminated Seibold for his whistle-blowing activities,” Delegal wrote in Seibold’s lawsuit.

Most lawsuits against municipal governments in Florida are limited to $200,000 in damages.

Brown’s spokesman David DeCamp declined comment, and city attorney Derrel Q. Chatmon said he had no comment other than that “the interests of the city of Jacksonville are being vigorously and appropriately defended.”

 

Andrew Pantazi: (904) 359-4310

Comments (4)

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Bubba
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Bubba 01/23/14 - 09:13 pm
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Premium Member

I hope he wins.

I hope he wins.

Mockingjay
1671
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Mockingjay 01/23/14 - 09:12 pm
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Premium Member

No Dave the administration

No Dave the administration had no right to fire him for telling the truth about a serious conflict of interest. Everyone knew it but the Mayor tried to force the issue anyway. City Council would have none of it

Then on top of it there are whistleblower laws to protect people telling such truth.

Mayor hates it when his minions disagree but NOW he cant use resignations two years old to dismiss them.

The man has a viable law suit and the city would do well to settle out of court instead of wasting our money fighting an unwinnable suit.

Unfortunately the city is noted for repeatedly fighting unwinnable law suits

Davethecaveman
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Davethecaveman 01/23/14 - 08:52 am
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There is a bunch of he said

There is a bunch of he said she said crap in this story.
The guy disagreed with his boss and got vocal. His boss had every right to FIRE him. But, being kind to him accepted a 2 year old resignation , not good. They should have just fired him on the spot, which would have looked bad on his resume and been done with him. Let this be a lesson to all employers. Don't *****foot around with insubordination.

sl4thpi
4519
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sl4thpi 01/22/14 - 10:41 pm
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Premium Member

so where are all the SAO

so where are all the SAO haters on this one?????

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