Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Fernandina City Manager Accused Of Discriminatory Behavior

(Editor’s Note: I will be taking time the next two weeks to spend the Christmas holidays with friends and family members. As a result, I won’t be posting this column again until January 8. I appreciate all of the readers who slog through it each week and sincerely hope all of you have a happy Christmas and a prosperous, fun, and virus-free New Year. – Dave Scott) 

This past week I received copies of communications sent to City Commission members outlining City Manager Dale “Big Spender” Martin’s personal interference in what the writers claim is his personal “disproportionate and inconsistent payout policies” to employees who have resigned their city positions.

The missives claim that some resigning employees were provided four weeks of Personal Time Off (PTO) pay while others received half as much or less despite similar lengths of service with the city.

Other than my service with the U.S. Army I’ve never worked as a government employee. But during my experience with corporations employees were able to bank unused vacation time. When they resigned or retired they were paid for that time.

“It’s your money if I say it’s your money, and I say it isn’t.”

According to the letters sent to me Mr. Martin is Fernandina’s banker and decides who can make a withdrawal and how much. There apparently was no consistent policy so Martin can play favorites and that’s what he’s been doing according to the correspondence I received.

At the City Commission meeting this past Tuesday, December 15, the Commission voted to amend the city’s personnel policy manual for final pay and leave time (Paid Time Off – PTO), giving employees three days for paid time off rather than a lengthy paid send off. There was little to no discussion on the matter that may have been instigated by aggrieved former employees and concerned citizens.

In her recent letter to the Commissioners on the subject retired City Comptroller Patti Clifford and Common Sense member didn’t pull any punches requesting they: “ask the City Manager to articulate his understanding of the existing policy and practices.”

She went on to say: “You need to know how inconsistently and UNFAIRLY the City Manager has treated outgoing employees.  At a minimum, the City Manager should be reprimanded for his unfair labor practices.  He showed favoritism, giving some a sweetheart deal, and was punitive in denying others the same “deal”.

She listed names of four individuals receiving payouts suggesting that the Commissioners “research/reporting” should include their treatment regarding PTO payouts.

She also recommended a thorough investigation adding: “I would suggest learning the specifics for the last 20 employees who resigned from the City (Date Resignation Given; Resignation Effective Date; Last Day WORKED; Amount of PTO paid after  Resignation Date).  I believe you will find inconsistent treatment for more than just the 4 individuals listed below.”

Ms. Clifford’s letter and Commons Sense’s involvement was inspired by a letter Christina “Cricket” Poston wrote to the Commissioners outlining her personal denial of PTO pay despite others receiving it. Ms. Poston – who once worked in Ms. Clifford’s organization  – was a well-respected seven-and-half-year city employee, who never received a negative performance review. She resigned to return to her home state of South Carolina to care for an ailing family member. She provided the city a three-week notice. During my inquires everyone I spoke to had high praise for Ms. Poston and her work with the city.

In her letter to the Commission Ms. Poston described what she said were disproportionate and discriminatory practices.

“Prior to my resignation, three employees had recently resigned and were moving out of the area, just as I was,” she wrote. “These three employees asked for, and were granted, the ability to leave employment on one date, but be able to get paid out for four weeks of their accrued vacation balance, not having to physically come back to the office at any point during this time,” wrote Ms. Poston. “I asked for the same consideration upon my resignation.”

In her letter she explained that she “went through the same channels and asked for just two weeks” of the more than eight weeks she had accumulated.  “At first I was told ‘yes’ by my Supervisor, but a few days later she came back and told me I had been denied because the Human Resources department was working on a new policy for just this sort of thing. Was this “new policy” in place at the time I asked for the PTO?  No, it was not. As I have a good friend in labor law, I  ran this scenario by them, and they immediately came back and told me it was discrimination and an unfair labor practice.”

Ms. Poston said she would not file a lawsuit. “I’m not that type of person,” she wrote. However, in a recent telephone conversation with Ms. Poston she told me that when she mentioned to her supervisor what the labor attorney told her she was walked out of the door and was on the street within an hour.

Ms. Poston reiterated Ms. Clifford’s claim that the three other employees who had been with the city approximately the same length of time she had been employed were granted four weeks of time they had accumulated and it was approved by City Manager Martin. Ms. Poston was shut out…she got nothing.

“I have waited for about five weeks to write this email, so I had time to collect my thoughts and feelings over it,” concluded Ms. Poston in her letter.

During my conversations with Ms. Poston, she was calm, composed, articulate, and expressed no resentment. However, she was adamant that acts of discrimination took place and expressed her desire to expose them to ensure they are not repeated in the future. She did not once mention a desire to be compensated for her vacation time.

Ms. Poston told me that Commissioner Len Kreger responded saying he’d look into the issue and Commissioner Mike Lednovich acknowledged receiving her letter. Newly elected Commissioners Bradley Bean and David Sturges were just sworn into office last Tuesday and are just learning how things work at city hall. Commissioner Chip “Daddy Warbucks” Ross was purposely ignored on most communications to the city since most residents realize he acts as City Manager Martin’s mouthpiece and offers nothing but murkiness and lame excuses.

Based on what I now know of the slighted former city accountant, she is the type of person I’d want working for me.

Jack Knock, one of the Common Sense founders, investigated Ms. Poston’s issue and also wrote to  the City Commission saying favoritism exhibited by Dale Martin to certain employees has been brought to his attention. He asked the Commission to: “….research these employee situations as well as those employee exits prior to those mentioned in Ms. Poston’s email to identify if Dale Martin has inconsistently applied this vacation time payout policy in the past. If so he said: “This is unacceptable behavior from our City Manager.  He should be censured for these actions.”

Mr. Knocke and Common Sense aren’t stopping with the discrimination issue. They have additional holiday gifts they’d like the city to unwrap. These include Mr. Martin’s confusing explanation for the FEMA marina fiasco that will ultimately cost tax payers some $15 million or more; the hiring of a new utility director who has no experience working with a utility anywhere; the golf course management muddle; the marina gas station that’s been dry for years, among other mismanagement topics.

Knocke intends to ask the Commission to add his lengthy list to its agenda in the new year.

It appears that Martin is celebrating five years in his current position with little to show for it except questionable management decisions and tax payer anger.

***

Sniff Around City Hall: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) issued a press release December 11 saying it has launched a new project aimed at learning more about Florida’s skunk populations. Based on some of the stink in the air the folks at FWC could do some serious research by heading down to city hall in Fernandina Beach.

***

Guess Who’s Coming To Town? President Trump will be on Amelia Island, Wednesday, January 6 to attend the Republican National Committee’s Leadership Conference, the day after the Georgia Senate runoff election.

The island will be swarming with GOP big wigs as the RNC will also hear from potential candidates.

I’m sure they’ll applaud one of the President’s most remarkable accomplishments – the “Warp Speed” development and distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine, which could possibly be his greatest success, in fact one of the greatest achievements of any president.

Clueless, vindictive, and irrational Democrats did everything they could to mock this achievement. By any fair measure — from quickly shutting down flights from China and Italy to providing ventilators to hospitals across America and fast-tracking the vaccines in record time — Trump’s response was remarkable.

***

Things I wish I’d Said: “Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English.  It means they know another language.” — anonymous

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Marina Riddle: An Alert reader and a man who knows more than most about behind the doors city hall shenanigans wrote me a note describing a conversation he had recently saying: “Dave, a few days ago I was talking with a former neighbor in Virginia and told him about our little city marina. He works for the Navy involved in logistics and maintenance.

“After I described things, he said – Now don’t take offense, but it sounds like what you have is a gas station with an attached parking lot – fill up your vehicle, park it, and stroll downtown for dinner. Sleep in your vehicle and drive off next morning. Where is the magic in that?

He asked: “Why did the city spend $12 million for a gas station?”

It’s even worse than that. The Fernandina Beach gas station doesn’t have any gas.

***

Wait! What? I have trouble understanding the Door Dash IPO. How could investors who are supposed to be so financially savvy take the Door Dash IPO from $38 billion to $59 billion on its first day. The company has never made money…it loses money. It is nothing more than an app to order food, there’s not a darn thing special about it, it’s just a pricey delivery service. It may be of some value during the pandemic but when the vaccine is fully distributed and restaurants open again what happens? In my opinion investors will be dashing for the door as this company is doomed to fail. Investors might cash in by selling short.

***

New Year’s Resolution: Somebody gave me an idea for a New Year’s resolution that might be fun. Save the business cards of people you don’t like. Then if you ever hit a parked car accidentally, write “Sorry” on the back of the card and leave it on the windshield.

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Women’s Work: The virus has done what no woman has been able to do. Cancel sports, shut down all bars and keep men at home!

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Vaccination Testimonial: A friend sent me the following note explaining his reaction to the virus vaccine: “I’m sure this will shock you,” he wrote, “but thought I would let you know that I volunteered for the vaccine trials for Covid-19. The vaccine is one that was created in Russia. I received my first shot yesterday at 4:00 pm, and I wanted to let you all know that it’s completely safe, with иo side effects whatsoeveя, and that I feelshκι χoρoshό я чувствую себя немного странно и я думаю, что вытащил ослиные уши.”

***

They Live Among Us: How would you like to live in a district where your neighbors voted for the person who proposed this piece of legislation?

Texas State Representative Terry Meza (D-Irving) has introduced HB196. Her bill would repeal the state’s “castle doctrine.” This doctrine allows a homeowner to use deadly force against an armed intruder who breaks into his home.

Now listen to what this nutcase has to say…”I’m not saying that stealing is okay,” Meza explained. “All I’m saying is that it doesn’t warrant a death penalty. Thieves only carry weapons for self-protection and to provide the householder an incentive to cooperate. They just want to get their loot and get away. When the resident tries to resist is when people get hurt. If only one side is armed fewer people will be killed.”

Meza was quick to reassure that her bill “would not totally prevent homeowners from defending themselves. Under the new law the homeowner’s obligation is to flee the home at the first sign of intrusion. If fleeing is not possible he must cooperate with the intruder. But if violence breaks out it is the homeowner’s responsibility to make sure no one gets hurt. The best way to achieve this is to use the minimum non-lethal force possible because intruders will be able to sue for any injuries they receive at the hands of the homeowner.”

“In most instances the thief needs the money more than the homeowner does,” Meza reasoned. “The homeowner’s insurance will reimburse his losses. On balance, the transfer of property is likely to lead to a more equitable distribution of wealth. If my bill can help make this transfer a peaceful one so much the better.”

Think about this fruitcake the next time you’re tempted to vote for a Democrat.

***

Employee of the Month:  Loopy NY Democrat Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was named Goya Foods’ “Employee of the Month?” by company CEO Robert Unanue earlier this month.

The looney leftie received the honor after she famously supported a boycott of Goya Foods earlier this year following Mr. Unanue’s visit to the Trump White House as part of a Hispanic Prosperity Initiative and voiced his support of the president.

Mr. Unanue announced the award Dec. 10. “When she boycotted us, our sales actually increased 1,000%,” Mr. Unanue said. “So, we gave her an honorary. We never were able to hand it to her, but she got employee of the month for bringing attention to Goya and our adobo.”

The befuddled Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said she only demonstrated how to make adobo at home denying she called for a boycott, but CNN reported that she did, so it must be true.

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A Final Thought: “I don’t have any idea what I’m doing here. I didn’t even know Alaska Airlines had a flight to Leningrad.” – Bob & Ray

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  • Comment (24)
  • Mr. Scott, I would like to clarify one thing in your article. I did not specify I was out on the street within the hour of my conversation with my supervisor. My conversation was that the same day I had asked about my approval or denial of my vacation and mentioned the attorney to my supervisor, that afternoon at 4:30 my Director came in and said they had decided to allow me to take the last three days left that week as PTO because they knew I was busy. They did stay with me while I packed my desk up and my supervisor walked me out.

  • Dave,
    Thanks for covering the mismanagement by our city manager. The people of our city need to know what is going on in city hall.
    Jack
    Common Sense Fernandina Beach

  • Dave,
    After reading the December 16, 2020 News-Leader Voice of the People, I do think your hopes of Peg Davis’s replacement as Editor, Scott J Bryan, may be too hopeful. His choice of letters is more Progressive/Socialist than she.
    The Democratic Representative Meza should certainly deter anyone from backing this far left Democratic regime!
    And to John P Bertsch (Voice of the People) no one will have to move to North Korea, it will be here in America with ‘Bejing Biden’s’ Administration.

  • In Florida, you may be entitled to payout of your accrued, unused time in the following situations:
    1. Your employer promised or contractually agreed to pay out your vacation or PTO time upon your separation of employment.
    2. Your employer has a policy or past practice of paying out vacation or PTO benefits upon firing or separation of employment. As one example, if the policy says that any terminated employee regardless of reason will receive a payout of any accrued vacation or PTO, then you should be entitled to it. Because employers may have varying policies or practices on the payout of accrued vacation time, whether you are entitled to your accrued vacation pay is dependent upon the policy language or company practice.
    3. Your employer is required to pay out accrued vacation pursuant to a negotiated collective bargaining agreement.

    If the city violated it’s own policy in place at the time Ms. Poston resigned—seems they broke labor law as practiced in Florida.

  • Have a great Christmas and a happy, prosperous and safe New Year, Dave. Looking forward to your next post on January 8th. (Elvis’s birthday.)

  • Sounds like an open and shut case for Ms. Poston. The City has established a precedent that they are required to follow. They are counting on employees to not spend the time and money to pursue it.

  • I began inquiries of the City Manager as soon as I received emails by Ms. Clifford and Mr. Knocke alerting us to their concerns. As City Manager Dale Martin states below in his email, all of the data regarding PTO payouts are being collected by City Staff for Commissioners to review. Here is Mr. Martin’s email to Commissioners —
    Good afternoon:

    I have Ms. Testagrose reviewing the use of PTO (Paid Time Off) and other accrued leave time near the time of separation for all employees who separated (resignation/retirement) within the past three years. It will be shown that several employees made prolific use of PTO/leave time after indicating their intent to separate but well before the actual date of separation in order to be “compensated” for accrued PTO (which, as indicated in the City’s Personnel Policy, has no cash value). The proposed change is an effort to eliminate that practice.

    I have attached a copy of Ms. Poston’s Exit Interview/Questionnaire (dated November 6, 2020 and part of her personnel file). No comments were offered related to a concern of the disposition of her PTO.

    As a final point of clarification, the approval of the use of PTO by junior staff rests with Department Directors, not the City Manager. As the City Manager, I am responsible for reviewing and approving the use of PTO for Directors and my direct staff (which did include Ms. Bednar). The disposition of PTO for Mr. G. Davis and Mr. J. Davis was authorized by Mr. John Mandrick and for Ms. Poston by Ms. Pauline Testagrose.

    If you have additional questions, please contact me.

    Mr. Dale L. Martin
    City Manager
    City of Fernandina Beach

  • Thanks for all the news… So well written , so entertaining and informative
    Merry Christmas and a Happy New year
    Francesco

  • Hope you have a Merry Christmas, Happy New year and you are safe and well and wearing a mask and getting a vaccine in 2021.
    Stay well my friend

  • Regarding your ‘Guess who’s coming to town’ remarks…
    On January 6, while trump and other GOP cowards will be hiding out on Amelia Island, the House and Senate will hold a joint session to count the electoral votes. Pence will announce that Biden won and trump is the biggest loser in history.
    It will be quite a day, don’t you think, Dave?

    • No, Anne, the biggest losers will be you, me, and every other American Citizen. You talk about cowards hanging out on AI – what about that frail, feeble-minded coward who hid in his basement and refused to answer any questions that were not on his teleprompter? Has he done ANYTHING in his 47 years in Washington, or even in his miserable life, that would give you any hope that he’s anything but a puppet? Unless you are willfully ignorant you know of his corruption and how he and his entire crime family is owned by the Chinese Communist Party. They will own us, the way they own him

      Yes, it will be quite a day. A sad day marking the end of our Republic.

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