We still don’t know what happened but the White Springs Journal’s base program went sideways. This is being typed on the Jasper News Journal which we’re not sure if it will work or not. Maybe we can copy and paste this story to the White Springs Journal.
DOES THIS FIX THE BLOG?
CAN THE JASPER NEWS JOURNAL’S PROGRAMING FIX THE BLOG?
The difference between Honor and Respect. When used as nouns, honor means recognition of importance or value, whereas respect means an attitude of consideration or high regard. When used as verbs, honor means to think of highly, to respect highly, whereas respect means to have respect for.
839.13 Falsifying records.—
(1) Except as provided in subsection (2), if any judge, justice, mayor, alderman, clerk, sheriff, coroner, or other public officer, or employee or agent of or contractor with a public agency, or any person whatsoever, shall steal, embezzle, alter, corruptly withdraw, falsify or avoid any record, process, charter, gift, grant, conveyance, or contract, or any paper filed in any judicial proceeding in any court of this state, or shall knowingly and willfully take off, discharge or conceal any issue, forfeited recognizance, or other forfeiture, or other paper above mentioned, or shall forge, deface, or falsify any document or instrument recorded, or filed in any court, or any registry, acknowledgment, or certificate, or shall fraudulently alter, deface, or falsify any minutes, documents, books, or any proceedings whatever of or belonging to any public office within this state; or if any person shall cause or procure any of the offenses aforesaid to be committed, or be in anywise concerned therein, the person so offending shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
HOW CAN YOU HAVE ANY HONOR OR EXPECT RESPECT FOR LYING ON A COURT DOCUMENT? NOTICE ALL OF THE “OR’S” IN THIS STATUTE. TOMORROW IS SHERIFF DAY.
Countries That Guarantee Workers the Most Time Off
Are we only here to clock in and clock out? Not according to these five countries, that believe in a proper work-life balance that incorporates plenty of vacation time to decompress and recharge. If you feel overworked, you’ll want to ask your office to transfer you to one of these countries.
France (25 Days)
Credit: DaLiu/ iStock
These five weeks of paid vacation are only the beginning, since there are also 10 national holidays. France also offers generous maternity and paternity leave, and some French companies take it upon themselves to sweeten the pot by offering even more paid vacation.
France has one of the highest average salaries in the EU (over $3,300 per month), but it also has one of the highest unemployment rates. It’s improving, though, and there is a demand for skilled workers. It’s also one of the top three countries for teacher pay. Between the country’s 35-hour work week, vacation policy, and average salary, France was recently chosen as the best European country to work in.
Djibouti (25 Days)
Credit: Truba7113/ Shutterstock
In Djibouti, you’re guaranteed 25 days of paid vacation along with 10 public holidays. Many people seek government jobs, as those tend to offer the best job security. There is very little work available in the fields of agriculture or manufacturing. Unfortunately, unemployment was estimated at a staggering 40 percent in 2017.
What can you do with all that time off in Djibouti? Soccer and running are popular if you’d like to take up a sport. The rugged terrain is also nice for hiking. Air Djibouti offers a variety of regional flights if you’d like to spend your vacation traveling in the area.
Denmark (25 Days)
Credit: AleksandarGeorgiev/ iStock
A new bill that goes into effect in September guarantees the 25 days of paid leave and ensures that employees can take it in the same year they accrue it. Mothers can take four weeks of maternity leave prior to birth and another 14 weeks after, all paid. Fathers get two weeks off during that time, and the parents can split another 32 paid weeks off. If you need some help with the math, that’s a total of 52 weeks of paid leave within the family for the birth of a child. Danish laws dictate that those 52 weeks might not be at full salary, but they will be paid.
There are also a handful of national holidays you will enjoy from the comfort of home. This is only part of what makes it so great to work, or even simply exist, in Denmark. Denmark was also ranked number two on the 2019 list of happiest countries in the world. Vacation time is part of that, along with a strong sense of community, a stable government, and supportive social programs.
Whatever you do with your long vacation, it’s bound to be hygge, the Danish value of coziness and comfort that has become an international buzzword and lifestyle goal.
Where is the “Father of Geography” from?
Brazil (30 Days)
Credit: Peu Ribeiro/ iStock
Ah, yes, six would-be workweeks to enjoy caipirinhas on the beach. While Brazil offers a generous amount of vacation time, there are some stipulations. For example, your allotted vacation decreases if you have a certain number of “unjustified absences,” which could include any absence not related to military service or a death, marriage, or birth in the family, among other things.
If you’d prefer, 10 of your eligible vacation days can be converted into extra pay instead. As far as when you take your vacation, it’s partly determined by the employer. There are also eight national holidays and a selection of local holidays. If your particular line of work is essential, even on Christmas or Our Lady of Aparecida Day, you’ll either be paid double or offered a different day off.
Kuwait (30 Days)
Credit: Ibrahim muhamed/ Shutterstock
Six weeks of paid vacation plus 14 national holidays allow for plenty of time to travel or binge Netflix if you’re an employee in Kuwait. There are also no personal income taxes in Kuwait, making it an ideal place to live and work, especially if you don’t mind “intensely hot summers.” Paid maternity leave starts 30 days before delivery and lasts 45 days after, though new mamas can take another 100 days of unpaid leave.
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE THIRD JUDICIAL CIRCUIT IN AND FOR HAMILTON COUNTY, FLORIDA
CITY OF JASPER, FLORIDA,
Plaintiff: JENNIFER H IGHTO WER , sues Defendant. CITY OF JASPER , FLORIDA, and
- This is a civil action seeking monetary damages, and legal and equitable relief against This is an action brought pursuant to§ 112.3187, et seq., Fla. Stats.
- This is an action involving claims which are, individually, in excess of Fifteen Thousand
- This Court has personal jurisdiction over the parties to this action because Plaintiff subjects herself to this Court’s jurisdiction and because the Defendant conducts business in Florida, and committed the tortious act at issue herein in this
- Plaintiff has satisfied all conditions precedent to bringing this action, if
- Venuc of this action is properly in this Court because the cause of action accrued in Hamilton Co unty ,
- At all times material hereto, Plaintiff, JENNIFER HIGHTOWER (“Plaintiff’), has been a resident of Leon County,
- At all times material hereto, Defendant, CITY OF JASPER, FLORIDA (“JASPER”), has been organized and existing in Hamilton County, Florida and under the laws of the State of At all times material to this action, Defendant has been an “employer” as that tem1 is used under the applicable laws identified above. Defendant was Plaintiff’s employer as it relates to these claims.
STATEMENT OF THE ULTIMATE FACTS
- Plaintiff began her employment with Defendant Jasper in or about March 2011, as a customer service In or about November 2002, Plaintiff was appointed city clerk, a position she held until she was unlawfully terminated on August 13, 2018, as described more fully herein.
- As the city clerk, Plaintiff’s job duties included, but were not limited to, coordinating the agenda for monthly city council Often times this duty involved Plaintiff discussing agenda topics with other city personnel.
- On Wednesday, April 4, 2018, Plaintiff met with Mr. Charles Williams, Manager for the City of Jasper, in his office to discuss the agenda for the monthly city council meeting on April 9, 2018.
- Williams immediately set the tone for his meeting with Plaintiff by closing the door behind her, something he had not done when the two had met previously. Mr. Williams proceeded to demand that Plaintiff add an item, a two-year employment contract extension for Mr. Williams, to the April 9th meeting agenda.
- In making said demand, Mr. Williams threatened Plaintiff by brandishing his firearm and stating “if I don’t get what I want Monday night, I will take you down,” among other threats.
- That evening, April 4, 2018, Plaintiff filed a formal complaint against Williams with the Mayor’s Office and contacted the Hamilton County Sherriff’s Office (“HCSO”) regarding Mr. Williams’ threatening behavior.
- On Thursday, April 5, 2018, Mr. Williams learned that Plaintiff had not included his requested item on the April 9th meeting agenda and he became Specifically, Mr. Williams stormed into Plaintiff’s office, threw a copy of the proposed agenda in her direction and began screaming at Plaintiff. When Plaintiff informed Mr. Williams that she had been instructed by multiple council members not to include Mr. Williams’ item, he intimidated Plaintiff by placing his hand on the holster of his gun and stating “I’ll get the [city] council to deal with you.”
- Several witnesses observed and/or heard Mr. Williams’ threatening outburst and comforted Plaintiff, who was noticeably distraught and fearful,
- That evening, Plaintiff filed an incident report with HCSO documenting, and objecting to, Mr. Williams’ unlawful behavior over the past two
- At the April 9th city council meeting, Williams unnecessarily distributed copies of the HCSO incident report filed by Plaintiff to city council members.
- At the same meeting, Ms. Hightower stated that Mr. Williams’ actions had placed her in fear of her In acknowledging the hostility between Mr. Williams and Plaintiff, Mr. Rhett Bullard, city attorney, proposed that Mr. Williams and Plaintiff work separate work schedules and suggested an independent investigation into hostile work environment ensue.
- Immediately following the April 9th meeting, Plaintiff was retaliated against by coworkers, including but not limited to a city council member, who yelled at her, cussed at her, and threw objects at
- On May 22, 2018, Mr. Williams voluntarily resigned from his position as city manager amidst an investigation by the State Attorney’s Office for the Third Circuit of Florida into his unlawful conduct concerning Following Mr. Williams’ resignation, Plaintiff was further retaliated against by city council employees, including having a complaint filed against her with the EEOC that was determined to be completely unsubstantiated by an independent investigator.
- On August 13, 2018, a monthly city council meeting was held wherein Plaintiff was unlawfully terminated without cause in retaliation for reporting, and objecting to, Mr. Williams’ unlawful behavior, as described Specifically, at the meeting council member Gerald Lewis made a motion to terminate Plaintiff’s employment. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Lewis was heard whispering to council member Mr. Stewart Mitchell, “I need you to second that,” regarding said motion. Mr. Lewis’ motion passed and Plaintiff was immediately terminated from her employment in retaliation of the events described herein.
PUBLIC EMPLOYEE WHISTLE-BLOWER RETALIATION
(Against Defendant Jasper)
- Paragraphs 1-21 are incorporated herein by
- This count sets forth a claim against Defendant Jasper under 112.3187, et seq., Fla. Stats.
- Plaintiff was a public employee protected under the provisions of Chapter 112,
- As stated more specifically in part above, Plaintiff reported and disclosed violations of mles, regulations and laws, and/or malfeasance, misfeasance and/or gross misconduct to persons both inside and outside her normal chain of command, and who had the authority to investigate, police, manage and otherwise remedy the violations of mles, regulations and laws that she reported. Plaintiff also disclosed this information when she participated in investigations or other agency inquiries. Plaintiff reported malfeasance, gross misconduct, and other acts specifically outlined in§ 112.3187, et seq., Fla.
- After reporting these matters and/or participating in investigations or other agency inquiries, as related in part above, Plaintiff was the victim of retaliatory actions set forth in part above.
- Plaintiff’s termination and/or other retaliatory actions as described, in part, above, were a direct adverse result of her reporting violations of mles, regulations or laws, and/or her reporting malfeasance, misfeasance or gross misconduct, and/or her participating in investigations or other inquiries, specified in part
- The actions of all employees within Defendant’s control who affected Plaintiff’s employment adversely did so at least in part in retaliation against her for her “whistleblowing” activities.
- As a direct and proximate result of the actions taken against her by Defendant Jasper, Plaintiff has suffered injury, including but not limited to past and future wage losses, loss of benefits, and other tangible and intangible damages. These damages have occurred in the past, and are occurring at present and will occur in the
PRAYER FOR RELIEF
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff prays for the following relief:
- That process issue and this Court take jurisdiction over this case;
- Enter judgment against the Defendant and for the Plaintiff awarding damages against Defendant;
- Prejudgment interest on monetary recovery obtained pursuant to law;
- Award attorneys’ fees, interest and costs; and
- Such further relief as is equitable and just.
DEMAND FOR TRIAL BY JURY
Plaintiff hereby demands a trial by jury on all issues set forth herein which are so triable.
All conditions precedent to bringing this action have been satisfied, if any.
DATED this 5th day of November, 2018.
By: /s/ Ryan P. Molaghan
Ryan P. Molaghan Florida Bar No: 119780 Ryan B. Hobbs
Florida Bar No.: 044179
BROOKS, LEBOEUF, BENNETT, FOSTER & GWARTNEY, P.A.
909 East Park Avenue Tallahassee, FL 32301
Phone: 850-222-2000 / Fax: 850-222-9757
A GROUP PAGE HAS OPENNED ON FACEBOOK, CONCERNED CITIZENS OF JASPER, FLORIDA.
In the December 2017 regular Council Meeting, it was brought up by Mayor Lumpkin to terminate the City Manager due to his failure to do his job. There was a brief discussion in which Mr. Mitchell stated he needed facts and evidence before making such a decision. There was no second to the motion and it died at the table. Shortly after this meeting, rumors began churning around town that the City Clerk was to blame for Mayor Lumpkin’s suggestion and she needed to be rid of.
In March 2018, numerous citizens became involved of the City’s business and began publicly speaking out against the increase in water and gas deposits, loud noise complaints that are never addressed by the police dept., post tabled agenda items with no resolutions (ever), lack of council leadership, City manager qualifications, charter violations, and numerous other complaints. As per the usual, the council failed to discuss any of these matters, tabled them for the following month’s meeting and subsequently forgotten. During this time a citizen begins a vigorous and detailed personal investigation into the city’s charter, ordinances, by-laws, and business acumen. Numerous requests and hundreds of dollars spent on her research turned up too many violations to name one by one. There were several items of public record that could not be located within the City building and she had to go to the State to locate what she needed. She spent numerous hours at City Hall researching and most times was in the City Clerks office, as it afforded comfortable seating and a table in which to spread out her research materials. Again, rumors began to swirl that the City Clerk was in “cahoots” to get the City Manager fired.
April 9, 2018, Regular City Council Meeting
Margie Geddes gave her presentation to the Council, citing the many violations of the Council and City Manager. She asked again for the Charter to be followed and adhered to by the Council. She brought to the attention of the public that Mr. Williams had been applying for jobs all over the State of Florida and was not being truthful in his resumes. She brought to the public’s attention that some business owners did not have valid or current business/operating licenses, and/or inspections from the State. This caused quite the controversy. She was targeted as a trouble maker, going after person or persons who didn’t share her views and opinions, stirring up trouble because the City didn’t cater to her every whim, and subsequently slandered via facebook by a council member.
A former Council member also spoke at this meeting and accused the City Clerk of having had three City Manager’s fired and working on the fourth. She called for the termination of the City Clerk, or placing her job under the direction of the City Manager. Now, I went back and looked into two personnel files of these three City Manager’s and both were fired for cause, which had nothing to do with the City Clerk, her job, personal issues, etc. They both had documentation in their files as to their terminations. The third, of course, I asked for and have not received.
Also during this meeting, Yeveta Hightower, an attorney, spoke to the treatment she received from the City Manager after asking for public records. She was removed from City Hall by Law Enforcement and denied access to the public record she requested. The excuse for this behavior was a scheduled meeting the Manager was late for. There is NO excuse under the State Statute to refuse access to public record. In the closing comments from City Council members, Vice Mayor Lewis was rude, out of line and sarcastic in his responses to Ms. Geddes presentation. He questioned her about being in City Hall after hours. Well, since she couldn’t get the records she requested during operating hours, yes, she had to refuse to leave to get them copied or located for copying. I, myself, have had to threaten reporting and a sit in to get the records I asked for as well and still do not have some I have requested. With that being said, VIOLATION of Ordinance 14-01-01Paragraph 2.66(b) reads: Chair to maintain decorum at Council meetings. The Chair shall encourage open and respectful communications between members of the public and the Council. The Chair shall also preserve good order and decorum at all meetings of the Council. All speakers must address their remarks to the Chair, speak in a dignified and courteous manner, and avoid admonishing individual members of the public, Council, and representatives of the City.
And finally during this meeting, Mr. Williams, was allowed by the Council to make a very out of order move and comment on the complaint the City Clerk had filed with the Sheriff’s Office regarding a threat she felt was made against her by the City Manager. He is on tape, slamming the report onto the desk and telling the City Clerk, “this is not over”. To me, that is a threat. Yeveta Hightower asked the Council why Williams was allowed to carry inside and if he had the gun on him at this meeting. Williams stated, he had permission, and yes, he was armed in the meeting. CLEARLY< violating FL Law and Statutes. Not one Council Member stood up to announce that they gave him permission to be armed while at work or at meetings, not one admitted to being the one who gave the “permission” , not one admonished him for his out of order behavior, and not one asked him to remove his weapon from the building. They said and did nothing.
Ordinance 09-09-04 Paragraph 3 states: Should a dispute develop between the City Manager and City Clerk concerning the City Clerk’s job performance of his or her obligations under paragraph 2, hereof, either the City manager or the City Clerk shall give notice in writing, to the Mayor. The Mayor shall then make an effort to resolve the dispute or determine whether the matter should be brought before the Council. The City Clerk adhered to the Ordinance and had given the Mayor her written statement. The City Manager did not respond to the inquiry as to whether or not he would provide his written statement. Furthermore, per the charter, the City Manager should not have been allowed bring the matter forth to the public until AFTER the Mayor had done his due diligence. The City Attorney then took it upon himself to direct the Council on how to handle this situation and began calling it a “hostile work environment claim”. Now, I understand the Attorney is to provide legal counsel to the Council, however, it is not his job to direct the council on what they should do. The Mayor stated he was willing (as the Charter states) to try and find a resolution to the issues at hand, and he was ignored by the attorney and the remaining council members. Again, another violation. After several minutes of discussion, the Mayor stated he recommended outside counsel to investigate the matter. A motion was made by Mr. Bryant, seconded by Mr. Lewis, and passed unanimously for the City Manager and Clerk to work opposite days while the City Attorney researched how to handle this type of complaint, which was supposed to take 72 hours. A special meeting was called for April 17th.
Now to back up a little, the dispute between the City Manager and the City Clerk began when the Manager questioned the Clerk about Ms. Geddes research of public records few days before the regular monthly meeting. The Manager then instructed the City Clerk to put his and her job description on the agenda for the meeting. He was looking to ask for a two year contract with the City and stated his reason for putting the Clerk’s position on the Agenda was to get clarification on who’s job it is regarding public record. ( However, by this time, the Jasper rumor mill already in full effect, is attesting to the Manager wanting her fired and someone else hired in that position). As the Council is her direct supervisor she asked one or two Council members for direction and was told not to place her job on the agenda. The dispute between the Manager and the Clerk over her not placing her job on the Agenda and the Manager becoming irate over this, is what triggered the complaint she filed with the Sheriff’s Office and the Mayor. Understand, the City Clerk position, according to the Charter, answers to the Council Board and NOT the City Manager. The dispute was witnessed by two non-employees in City Hall at the time, in writing. Subsequently, when the meeting began on April 9th, Mr. Williams asked for his job to be removed from the Agenda.
April 17th Special Meeting. Apparently, a lot of discussion was made between the City Attorney and some Council members before this meeting due to the fact that the City Attorney had a $2000.00 retainer check drawn and signed before the meeting to his college roommate’s law firm and before it was even voted upon to hire ANY firm for an independent investigation. According to the City Attorney, it was the “general consent of the council” in the previous meeting. Even if it was, the charter prohibits any action without a majority vote. Once again, violating the charter. This is unsettling that members of the Council are using the City Attorney as a buffer between each other, discussing matters of the City without violating the Sunshine Laws, in which Council members are NOT permitted to discuss City matters outside of the meetings. It is also disturbing that the City Attorney was obviously given permission, without the benefit of a vote, to instruct City employees to make the check available for signing. Mayor Lumpkin was also obviously upset over this matter, stating he always signed the checks, why was he not called to sign this one. Mayor Lumpkin mentions that Councilman Daigle signed the check. This opened up a discussion on how to handle the matter without prejudice. It was mandated by by the Council after the audience demanded that an independent law firm in which the City Attorney had no affiliation or known to him, be used. Subsequently, another special meeting was called for on April 24th, so that the City Attorney and Megan Logan from the League of Cities could create a list of attorney’s who conduct these types of investigations. Again public comments by several present, pleaded with the Council to follow the Charter, and again, pleas go unheard and unanswered.
April 24th Special Meeting. Three Law Firms were submitted by Mr. Bullard to the Council. All three were discussed briefly, mainly how much they would charge. Mr. Bullard made a couple of references to Allen, Norton, & Blue. I believe Stewart Mitchell asked Mr. Bullard point blank, if he had any dealings with this law firm. His response was “ut-uh”…in a word, NO. Motion was made by Stewart Mitchell and seconded by Gerald Lewis to hire the law firm Allen, Norton. & Blue.
Well, let me inform you all, he lied straight faced to the Council and the Public. However, I am of the mindset that Mitchell and Lewis both knew EXACTLY what firm to choose, due to the telephone communications between those two and the City Attorney, which is on the invoice of Mr. Bullard for the month of April. Mr. Bullard has been White Springs Mayor and/or Councilman since April of 2013. In March of 2017, the town of White Springs hired an Attorney by the name of Larkin….from none other than…..Allen, Norton, and Blue. And guess what this firm was hired for? Yes, a complaint against the City Manager of White Springs. And guess what else? Yep, there were no findings in that case either. Even though, the complainant had written depositions from witnesses attesting to her claim.
Is anyone beginning to see a pattern here? Because I sure am.
CONTINUATION OF PART ONE: Regular Meeting May 14th. Nothing was said during the regular meeting regarding the investigation. During closing comments, Mr. Mitchell inquired into the status and Mr. Bullard stated there was nothing to report. Then Mr. Bryant asked, ”Who is paying for this investigation?” Mr. Bullard replied the City is paying for it, there is no anticipated completion date, and the two employees continue to work opposite days of the week while retaining their full salaries. Mr. Glen Miller suggested changing their work hours so that they both could work the 40 hours a week they were being paid for. Mr. Bryant asked how they could work part time and get full time pay? Mr. Bullard explained that this was decided upon in April 9th meeting. And that this process was to protect the City from a lawsuit from either party.
Special Meeting May 22nd. Mr. Daigle submitted Mr. Charles Williams’ resignation. Effective date: June 6, 2018. Mr. Daigle suggested relieving Mr. Williams of his duties immediately and paying him for two weeks. Motion was made and passed to relieve him and pay him after he returns the car, credit cards, etc. that belong to the City. Mr. Daigle suggests appointing an Interim Manager at next months meeting. Does anyone wonder why Mr. Williams decided to up and resign in the middle of the investigation, that he claims he is innocent of any wrong doing? Yes, I admit…my inquiring mind wanted to know the cause of this abrupt change of pace. Jasper’s rumor mill was saying, he found another job, the stress of the investigation was too much, it’s the fault of the City Clerk, he wasn’t putting his family through this crap, he needed a break, its all the City Clerks fault we do not have a Manager now, he decided to retire. Once I received the invoices from the City Attorney, I admit, my mind got even more intrigued when I see the State Attorney on his invoices in reference to “the investigation”. So, this is when I started digging into this mess. As is with anything City related it is a matter of public record and cannot be denied me (or you)…. I went searching. Well, guess what the Council failed to inform the public regarding the City Manager? That he was under investigation for bringing his weapon into City Hall, (which according to him by his own admission, he had permission to carry inside the building), which as I stated in Part One, violated State and Federal Law. And while I do not have the correspondence to show you, it was suggested to me by the State Attorney’s Office, that Mr. Williams was given the option to face criminal charges for violating the concealed carry law or to resign immediately. I have no written evidence of this, but why would they lie or suggest something untrue? I do find it a flat out atrocity that the Council failed to report this to the public. I also find it deceiving the public that they were not informed an investigation against the City Manager was conducted. It was the PUBLIC’s RIGHT TO KNOW.
Now, given the fact that Mr. Bullard changed the Complaint/Grievance the City Clerk filed into a hostile work environment claim, with the resignation of the City Manager, the environment was no longer hostile and as such the investigation should have been immediately terminated. There was no longer any threat to the City Clerk, the situation resolved itself. However, and yet again, Mr. Mitchell put forth the motion to continue the investigation and Mr. Lewis seconded it and it passed unanimously. UTTER INCOMPETENCE? OR IS A PLAN EVOLVING? OR BOTH?
June 11th Regular Meeting. Mr. Bullard read a letter from Allen, Norton, and Blue attorney, Shannon Kelly, that asked if the Council wanted to continue the investigation. As I stated in my last post, there was no longer a hostile work environment since the City Manager resigned. The current cost was around $5,000.00 and the final cost, estimated somewhere around $9,000.00. Mr. Bullard stated he did not know who had been interviewed and stated the investigation should be completed by July’s meeting. Surprise Surprise, Mr. Mitchell made the motion to continue the investigation and Gerald Lewis seconded it. Passed unanimously.
July 9th Regular Meeting. Mr. Daigle performed roll call and Mr. Lewis was absent. Mr. Lewis entered the meeting late and asked to add the Interim City Manager and Patricia Herring’s complaint to the agenda. A motion was made by Mr. Bryant, seconded by Mr. Mitchell and passed unanimously to add the items to the Agenda. Ordinance 14-01-01Section 2-68 (2): Approval or modification of Agenda items. The Council shall adopt the items presented on the Agenda in the order presented or, by motion and majority vote of the Councilmembers present modify the order of the Agenda items. No where in ANY ordinance, does it give the Councilmembers authority to add items to the Agenda at their whim. In fact, Ordinance 14-01-01 Sec.2-68 (c) states: Authority to place items on the Agenda. (2) Agenda items that are not timely delivered to the City Clerk prior to the Agenda closing date referenced herein, and which are sponsored by a Councilmember, shall NOT be placed on the Agenda unless voted on as an “emergency” item by a majority of the Council. “Emergency” meaning: affecting life, health, property, or public safety. (3) NO item shall be placed on the Agenda in violation of the four day rule. (d) If a Councilmember asserts a violation of the four day rule, then the item may NOT be voted upon until the next regularly scheduled meeting or at a special meeting of the Council. In short, each and every member of the Council violated the Charter by allowing Mr. Lewis to add this to the Agenda, not voting on it as an emergency, and allowing a motion to go forth to hire Allen, Norton, and Blue to conduct a complaint from Patricia Herring against the City Clerk. The complaint was not a hostile work environment claim, it was a workplace gripe and nothing more, but yet again, Mr. Bullard strongly advised the Council to allow Allen, Norton, and Blue to investigate this matter and to allow them to work opposite days while being paid full time. . No surprise here,….Mr. Mitchell made the motion to have Allen, Norton, and Blue conduct an investigation into this allegation and Mr. Lewis seconded it. Again, passed unanimously. And no one inquires about the City Manager/Clerk investigation that the City Attorney said in the last meeting would be ready by this meeting. Do you suppose it was because they already knew what it contained and it wasn’t enough to justify terminating the City Clerk on its own merit? Given the phone calls between the City Attorney and the Councilmen and the date on my copy of the investigative report (July 9, 2018), I would have to say yes to this question. Now look up^^^^, the date for this meeting is also dated July 9th. HMMMM.
Now, on to Ms. Herrings complaint. All I can say is…..Lord have mercy. The complaint alleges a lot of nothing. What I got out of it is this. Ms. Herring overstepped her bounds and interfered in a matter involving the City Clerk and a zoning issue. The City Clerk had a discussion with Ms. Herrings supervisor related to the matter and asked her to speak to Ms. Herring to avoid future interference. WOW….how professional of the City Clerk to handle matters this way. Ms. Herring’s supervisor, Margaret Harper, apparently has no idea how to handle such complaints even though she is listed as the City’s EEOC. Instead of discussing the matter on a professional level, she meets Ms. Herring in the parking lot and tells her the City Clerk told her to tell Ms. Herring, she needed to mind her own business. WOW….how totally unprofessional of her to say and do this.
Ms. Herring is under the supervision of the Finance Director and not the Council. Therefore, there is a personnel manual in City Hall that directs its employees and supervisors on how to handle inner-office complaints. This matter should have been handled in-house by the EEOC listed in the personnel manual. Her letter was addressed to Mayor Lumpkin and when he received it, he should have immediately taken it to the EEOC and left it there for her to handle. And maybe he did….Mr. Lewis was the one who brought it before the Council . Things that make you say, “HMMMMMM”. Why would Mr. Lewis usurp his own authority as Councilman and present this “complaint” to the remaining Councilmembers and the public if he didn’t have an agenda? Yes, I admit, he probably doesn’t even know what he is allowed and not allowed to do as Councilmember. It is absolutely clear he doesn’t know the charter, in which he took an oath to uphold and follow. But even still….after you sit and read and read and read as I have these past three months…..you begin to get the feel that just plain dumb, doesn’t suffice. There is a method to his madness. Stay tuned, his madness shall be revealed in the next posting.
Before I go any further than this complaint, I want to explain why I feel this complaint was orchestrated by those wishing to see the City Clerk terminated in retaliation against her. Again, let me stress to you all that this is my opinion based on the evidence that I had to go straight to Allen, Norton, and Blue to receive. Some employees at City Hall and the City Attorney tried to block my access to these public records. City Hall just ignored me and gave me copies of things I already had and the City Attorney sent emails with case law written on protecting work product and emails stating he did not have the documents I requested. (I’m no attorney, but I do have trouble believing that he did not have these records given the enormous amount of money and time he spent overseeing this investigation). Nothing I asked for was work product. I asked for the written witness statements and the written complaints of the City Clerk and Ms. Herring. I then emailed Shannon Kelly, attorney for Allen, Norton, and Blue, myself, and in two days upon her return to work, I had the requested statements. And Lord, were they enlightening. Written in sworn statements are two non-employee witnesses backing up the claim the City Clerk made against the City Manager. One was in the Clerk’s office, the other, down the hall, but could clearly hear the City manager yelling at the Clerk. Nothing in this report, had any findings of wrong doing by the City Clerk. It did however, admonish the Council for not doing their due diligence in performing job evaluations on the City manager nor the City Clerk, not having job descriptions for each employee, and an overall lack of supervision from the Council and City Manager. It also upheld the City Clerk’s complaint of Councilman Lewis and the altercation she had with him in her office on April 10, 2018. Which, by the way, was also witnessed by another party in the office at the time. And no, this witness was not either of the first two. Of course, the report sates Mr. Lewis did not intend harm to the Clerk when he threw the pen in her direction, but even has his admission that he did indeed throw the pen at the desk in order to end the conversation. Wow….how professional of him to throw an ink pen rather than walk out.( AND I HAVE YET TO SEE HIM ADMONISHED FOR HIS BEHAVIOR.) Investigation complete and my copy dated July 9, 2018. Then here comes Ms. Herring’s complaint, just in time.
This complaint is where my blood pressure shoots to the outer limits. Dated June 26, 2018. Yes, she uses the words, “hostile environment”, but alleges nothing hostile towards her by the City Clerk. In fact, her exact words are, “ I am tired of being falsely accused every time someone can’t handle a situation or when something goes wrong at City Hall, it becomes the black female fault.” Someone and something? That’s a hostile claim against another employee in the same office? “I feel I should not have to work in such a hostile environment where there is chaos all the time.” Again, not directed at the City Clerk. “I am requesting that you all do something about this because it has already gotten out of hand.” What exactly is out of hand? And again, not directed at the City Clerk. The rest of the complaint is filled with “he said, she said” that has no direct meaning of anything hostile. The fact is, Ms. Herring got upset because the City Clerk asked Ms. Herring’s supervisor to speak to her about interfering in City matters not related to her job description. PLAIN AND SIMPLE. Now to the “AMENDED COMPLAINT TO HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT that I can only presume Ms. Herring typed out, and I say presume, because it is not dated and not signed. It states that Ms. Herring went to her supervisor, Margaret Harper, on June 26, 2018 at approx.. 1:15 pm and told Ms. Harper she wanted to file a complaint on the City Clerk. Ms. Herring states, Ms. Harper replied, “I don’t know what to do”. (No surprise there). Ms. Herring then states, she called Councilman Jay Daigle and advised him she was filing a complaint against the City Clerk. According to her statement, Mr. Daigle told her to get a copy to each Councilmember . She then states, she gave Ms. Harper a copy and Ms. Harper told her she was the EEOC. Ms. Herring states, “Well, I told you I wanted to file a complaint against Jennifer and you said you didn’t know what to do.” Whether Ms. Harper knew what to do or not, Ms. Herring was clearly insubordinate to her supervisor and failed to adhere to the policies and procedures outlined for her job title. The amended complaint goes on with more babble about the City Clerk’s work days. Then here comes this. And I quote, “On Monday, July 2, 2018, at approximately 7:05 pm, while at my home, the door bell ranged, upon opening the door to see who was there, I observed City Councilman LaBarfield Bryant. When I said, “yes sir” he Mr. Bryant, said tell me whats going on at City Hall. I said what do you mean, I gave you a copy of my complaint. He said, “Oh, that’s what that was, okay, now tell me whats going on”. I tried to tell him and he interrupted me and said, well I want you to come to the meeting Monday night the 9th of July. I said okay I’ll be there. I was thinking he was going to have it put on the agenda, but it wasn’t on there.” Three of the five Councilmembers, blantantly disregarded the Charter and violated their OATH OF OFFICE, by their actions on this matter. Daigle for advising Herring to get each Councilmember a copy, Lewis for adding it to the Agenda against the Charter, and Bryant for showing up at her home AFTER City Business hours to discuss City Hall’s daily dealings in which he has no governing power over. Nevermind, the criminal, civil and Ethic Laws violated against the State Statutes. Finally, to the report written by Shannon Kelly, attorney for Allen, Norton and Blue.
FINDINGS OF FACT: Patricia Herring is a Billing Clerk with the City and her supervisor is Finance Director, Margaret Harper.
Herring does not report to Hightower and Hightower does not exercise any supervisory authority over Herring
Harper describes Herring as a good employee, but indicates she sometimes has a hard time taking direction.
I interviewed Herring while investigating Hightower’s previous complaint. Herring indicated that she tried to steer clear of Hightower, as she creates unnecessary drama in the workplace. This allegation was supported by other witnesses in the previous investigation. HOWEVER, THERE WERE NONE OFTHESE ALLEGATIONS WRITTEN IN THE PREVIOUS REPORT.
Herring further indicated that Hightower frequently takes long lunch breaks, often two hours or more. Likewise, other employees confirmed this allegation in the previous investigation. AGAIN, NOTHING NOTED IN PREVIOUS REPORT.
In the previous investigation, Herring expressed frustration regarding the City’s practices, specifically that it is not clear to City employees to whom human resources concerns should be directed and that employees do not receive performance evaluations or feedback. THIS WAS MENTIONED IN THE PREVIOUS REPORT. NOTICE IT HAS NOTHINGTO DO WITH THE CITY CLERK.
Herring’s complaint further references a recent situation that she alleges was created by Hightower caused conflict in the workplace involving Public Works employees John Paul and Tyron White. Hightower admits she told White that Paul told him that the President of the NAACP chapter told her that White was not to be trusted. Hightower acknowledged her reason for approaching White with negative information that she heard about him was that “she wanted to get to the bottom of it”. OK> PLEASE TELL ME WHAT THIS HAS TO DO WITH HERRING’S CLAIM OF THE CLERK BEING HOSTILE TOWARD HER????
Several City employees have described Hightower as unprofessional, indicating that she seems to thrive on drama, that is she vindictive and that she targets people if she feels they have wronged her. There seems to be a high level of paranoia in the workplace, with more than one employee indicating that Hightower has followed them, surveilled them or accessed their office area when they have not been at work. There is no finding whether these allegations are true, it is merely demonstrative of the level of paranoia and lack of trust amongst co-workers. IF THERE IS NO FINDING, WHY IS THIS WRITTEN IN THE “FINDINGS OF FACT” CATEGORY OF THE REPORT AND WHY IS IT EVEN MENTIONED. NO REASON EXCEPT TO ASSASSINATE THE CHARACTER OF THE CITY CLERK. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OR FINDING OF FACT TO SUPPORT THESE ALLEGATIONS. THEREFORE IT CANNOT BE USED AGAINST HER.
Written witness statement: Tuesday, June 26, 2018 at 11:30 am, I witness Marva Taylor going in Jennifer Hightower’s office. The discussion became loud very quickly and Ms. Taylor had individual on speaker on her cell phone.
Council member Mr. LaBarifeld Bryant was present during this situation. He was standing in the front of Ms. Patricia Herring’s work station after she made him a cup of coffee. I overheard Patricia tell Mr. Bryant that eh needed to go over to Jennifer’s office and make a decision on that zoning permit because no one knows how to make one. I saw Mr. Bryant enter and remain in Jennifer’s office until the end of the conversation between Mrs. Taylor and Jennifer. Also, Mr. Harry Davis was present in Jennifer’s office before, during, and after the conversation. He is aware of what transpired in Jennifer’s office.
After everyone left Jennifer’s office, Patricia was gone to lunch and I overheard Jennifer tell Margaret Harper to talk to Patricia because Mr. Bryant told her that Patricia told him to go into her office. Jennifer continued to tell Margaret that what happens in her office isn’t Patricia’s concern and she didn’t appreciate Patricia trying to undermine her.
Then, Jennifer left for lunch about 12:30, Patricia returned at 1:00pmm. Margaret approached Patricia about Jennifer’s concern in the parking lot. Patricia came inside of City Hall. She was cussing very loud and stated Margaret had better call Chief McGuire to City Hall because she was going to handle Jennifer when she returned from lunch.
On Wednesday, June 27, 2018, Gerald Lewis picked up a letter from Patricia at City Hall and approximately 10:30 AM Council member Gerald Lewis called my husband, and told him that he and I had nothing to worry about.
Also, I want to add that Patricia said on several times during the Williams/Hightower investigation what could she do to get some paid time off.
This is the only written statement I was given on the Herring complaint. And as you can read, it clearly shows the hostility DOES NOT come from the City Clerk. Why was this statement not given to the Councilmembers nor read to the public? Because it did not fit the plan, perhaps? Why did Councilman Lewis call this witnesses husband and tell him his wife and he had nothing to worry about? What would they have to worry about coming from the Council anyway? I’m still in the dark on this one. Do you suppose if I were to ask Mr. Lewis, he would be forthcoming in his response?
At the end of both investigative reports in the Closing remarks Sections it reads………The parties involved are reminded that City policies and applicable State and Federal Law prohibits retaliation as a result of participation in this investigation. Isn’t it mind boggling that the City Attorney failed to read that to the Council and the public. It is to me…simply because they could NOT retaliate against the City Clerk….yet they did. Now on to the conclusion of PART TWO.
August 13, 2018 Regular Meeting
According to the written meeting minutes,(the City Attorney provided these written minutes) a motion was made by LaBarfield Bryant and seconded by William S. Mitchell V, to modify the agenda to add item 7b. Town Clerk Discussion to Old Business. Again violating Ordinance 14-01-01Section 2-68 (2): Approval or modification of Agenda items. The Council shall adopt the items presented on the Agenda in the order presented or, by motion and majority vote of the Councilmembers present modify the order of the Agenda items. No where in ANY ordinance, does it give the Councilmembers authority to add items to the Agenda at their whim. In fact, Ordinance 14-01-01 Sec.2-68 (c) states: Authority to place items on the Agenda. (2) Agenda items that are not timely delivered to the City Clerk prior to the Agenda closing date referenced herein, and which are sponsored by a Councilmember, shall NOT be placed on the Agenda unless voted on as an “emergency” item by a majority of the Council. “Emergency” meaning: affecting life, health, property, or public safety. (3) NO item shall be placed on the Agenda in violation of the four day rule. (d) If a Councilmember asserts a violation of the four day rule, then the item may NOT be voted upon until the next regularly scheduled meeting or at a special meeting of the Council. This item could NOT be voted upon in this meeting. The motion was passed unanimously. Now I am going in interject here and say that I distinctly remember Councilmember Mitchell being the one to ask the Council to add this item to the Agenda, because I found it odd that he referred to the City Clerk as “Town Clerk”. Never has the position in Jasper been called” town clerk”. It has always been City Clerk. However, White Springs’ clerk position is known as the “Town Clerk” and the City Attorney is also a Councilmember of White Springs. So of course, red flags go up. Shows more evidence that the Council members are colluding with the City Attorney on what action to take to terminate the City Clerk.
Investigation Reports from Allen, Norton, and Blue for the allegations by Jennifer Hightower and Patricia Herring. Mr. Bullard read the results of both investigations. Neither were found to be a hostile work environment. More oversight of employees would be helpful. Hightower has a pattern of unprofessional conduct, negative impact on the working environment and actions inconsistent with the best interests of the City. NO PROOF, only allegations.
Town Clerk Discussion as to the continued employment of Jennifer Hightower…….interject here…there was NO DISCUSSION OF ANY KIND. Not thirty seconds passed before Councilman Lewis put forth a motion to terminate the City Clerk. The Chair of the Council had a duty and responsibility to the public to put a stop to this motion once Councilman Lewis made the motion. Not only did Lewis violate the Charter, he clearly had a conflict of interest. (A “conflict” or “conflict of interest” is defined as a “situation in which regard for a private interest tends to lead to disregard of a public duty or interest.”) Mr. Lewis had a personal interest in seeing the City Clerk terminated due to the fact that he was named in her complaint. He is/was also in a personal relationship with a former Councilmember who was vocal in past meetings regarding the City Clerk’s personnel file that supposedly had missing reprimands and also her job performance in the past. However, there is NOTHING in the City Clerk’s file to substantiate any of these allegations either. Lewis also presented the Council with her resume for Interim City Clerk in the July meeting.
On the audio, you hear Councilman Daigle interject about discussing the matter and at the same time in the background you hear Lewis tell Mitchell, “I need you to second that motion”. And Mitchell immediately complies. One councilmember cannot instruct another how to vote on ANY matter. But yet, he did and NOTHING was said or done about it.
So, in the best interests of Gerald Lewis, William S. Mitchell V, and Rhett Bullard, the City Clerk is terminated and asked to leave the meeting. I say this because it was definitely NOT IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CITY NOR ITS CITIZENS. I also say this because all you have to do to prove it to yourselves is to inform yourselves as I did. It is all there in the minutes, the statements in the investigations, the invoices of the City Attorney, the audios of the meetings. Well, except for July’s meeting, which is still missing the first 18 minute, is spliced, and still INCORRECT AND INACCURATE.
How convenient this is the very audio (1) mysteriously disappears, (2) was recorded on a used CD and is gibberish, the first 18 minutes of this audio is supposedly never recovered. I want to elaborate on this for a moment. A citizen of Jasper videoed this meeting from the beginning, so the 18 minutes that are “missing” on the audio that has been approved by the Council and now an Official Verbatim Recording of the meeting, I have a copy of. On this video of the first 18 minutes, it shows Mitchell being the one to ask to add the item “7b” to the agenda, NOT Bryant. It also shows the City Clerk stopping Councilman Daigle from continuing the meeting because the audio recorder was not working properly. It continues to show the Clerk, taking out the disc, reaching over to the desk and opening the canister of blank CD’s and pulling out a BRAND NEW ONE. It also shows her putting the brand new one in the recorder and closing the canister back up. It shows the Clerk making sure the audio is recording properly before allowing Chair Daigle to continue. So the claim of “gibberish” is indeed “gibberish”. Again, just my opinion…but given the fact that for three days I was told the audio was missing, no one knew who took it or where it went, and on the fourth day to be told the Clerk “recorded over an old disc and its just gibberish”, and being completely ignored when asked how it mysteriously reappeared, leads me to KNOW WITHOUT A DOUBT, I was being lied to by the Finance Director who was directed to lie by members of the Council. Now after sitting and thinking about all that has transpired in these past few months, all that I uncovered, the lies, the accusations, the unfounded reporting of Ms. Herring’s complaint, the attack on the City Clerk from the public, my personal dealings with City Hall and the Council…..the only logical conclusion that I could come with regarding this “audio” is….once the meeting was over, I firmly believe that not one council member thought to turn the recorder off and things were said that would have further proven this whole entire situation was a set up to rid City Hall of the Clerk and to rehire a former City Manager and former Councilmember to the Clerk position and they certainly could not give that audio to the public. I do know the former council member spoke with the newly appointed Interim City Manager after that meeting and presented all of her qualifications for the job of City Clerk. I also have a picture that someone sent to me that witnessed it, of the former Councilmember, Lewis, and newly hired Interim Manager sitting in a restaurant together shortly after this Council Meeting. Innocent? Could have been, but the timing and circumstances lead me to believe otherwise.
For two weeks, I inquired about the audio and written minutes each time I was told Mr. Bullard was working on them. Then the third week rolls around and I begin to get a little unnerved at being put off and inquire again about the audio and written minutes. This employee tells me she is still working on them and hopes to have them ready by Friday. Stunned, I asked her why she was working on them when the last two weeks she has been telling me Mr. Bullard was working on them. Her reply….”I did?…I guess I better ask somebody then.” My reaction, “yes, you’d better call and see which lie you are supposed to tell today”.
Anyone who knows me, knows I do not put myself out into the public. I am an introvert , so to speak, always have been. I don’t like controversy and HATE speaking in public. But I do have a temper when I see wrong being done to anyone. But I cannot sit back and allow two members and the City Attorney to get away with this blatant disregard for the Charter, State and Federal Laws, their Oath of Office, and their lies, manipulation, plots and plans, without saying something. Not because Jennifer is my friend, Jennifer and I have hardly ever had any contact outside of City Hall before this mess began. I knew her just like anyone else who goes to City Hall monthly to pay their water bill. IF anyone else had been in this position and treated as unfairly and persecuted as she has been, I’d be here doing the same thing. Why? Because once you look at all the evidence, listen to the audios, talk on the streets, read, read, and re-read the City Charter, you realize that Jasper has 0% chance of ever surviving this current Council. My children have made their homes here, to raise their children here and give their children, my grandchildren, a safe place to live and grow up. I WILL NOT sit back and watch a handful of people who abuse, lie, manipulate, and only care about themselves, destroy what is left of this city, simply because I hate public speaking, or putting myself out there, to be talked about, fingers pointed at me in a store (and boy, have I witnessed that about 100 times already), or even laughed out, by the few who think they have the right to decide for the rest of us. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
With that said, (my “book” as a member of this group referred to it tonight when we spoke), I will not stop, I will not rest, I will not stop, until Councilman Lewis and Mitchell: (1) resign immediately as they are unfit to serve, (2) the remaining councilmembers vote them off the Council due to their many infractions and total disregard for the laws of the City of Jasper. If neither one if these choices are made, if not one Councilmember will not stand up and do the right thing, there are many other options open to me to have them removed. No, it won’t be easy, but neither was this. It won’t be swift or just, but I will do EVERYTHING I have to, to rid Jasper of the poison sitting on this Council. There is NO other solution. THEY MUST GO!!!!!!!
Jasper city clerk fired Monday
JASPER, Fla. — The Jasper City Council voted to fire City Clerk Jennifer Hightower Monday night.
The investigation by Allen Norton & Blue, PA of two hostile working environment complaints have been completed.
According to the report from Allen Norton & Blue, neither Hightower’s complaint against former city manager Charles Williams nor the complaint from Senior Billing Clerk Patricia Herring against Hightower constitute a hostile working environment.
The investigation report for Herring’s complaint states “However, the information obtained does indicate that Hightower has a pattern of unprofessional conduct that has had a negative impact on the working environment and has acted in a manner that is inconsistent with the best interest of the City.”
According to Hightower’s complaint, Williams threatened her while he was carrying a gun in a holster at City Hall and raised his voice at her after she refused to place an item on the agenda.
According to Herring’s complaint, she was being falsely accused of wrongdoing stemming from questions pertaining to zoning.
“I’d like to make a motion that the city council terminate the employment of Jennifer Hightower,” Councilman Gerald Lewis said.
Councilman William Mitchell seconded the motion.
“In the best interest of the city, I think Hightower should resign,” Councilman LaBarfield Bryant said.
The board voted to fire Hightower with at 3-2 vote. Councilman Jay Daigle and Councilman Darnell Lumpkin voted against the firing.
“If you terminate your clerk, you’ve got to figure out what you are going to do,” City Attorney Rhett Bullard said.
Interim City Manager Marcus Collins was appointed as the interim city clerk until a new clerk is found. He took the minutes for the remainder of the meeting after Hightower left.
“You guys have successfully probably taken Jasper off the map,” Margie Geddes said during public comments. “I’ve never seen anything as ridiculous as the last few months with Jasper without anybody at the head and I hear you just fired the last person who knew everything that is going on in the city.
“I’ll tell you another thing, there isn’t going to be any building left because I have the right to do what I want with my buildings and I am bulldozing them.”
Calvin Dees, Hightower’s father, also spoke during public comments.
“Jennifer is my daughter and I am here for one answer,” Dees said. “What was the grounds of her being dismissed?”
Lewis asked if Dees had a copy of the investigation report and Dees said no.
“We have to go by the charter,” Lewis said.
“If I fired you, I’d be man enough to tell you why I fired you,” Dees said.
“We have to go by the charter,” Lewis replied.
“That’s a copout and you know it as well as I know,” Dees said.
Lewis again said “We have to go by the charter.”
“Why don’t you go by the charter on everything then,” Dees asked.
Lewis replied that he had answered Dees’ question.
“No, you’ve beat around the bush,” Dees said.
Jessie Box Author
JASPER, Fla. — Months after City Clerk Jennifer Hightower alleged a hostile working environment against the former city manager Charles Williams, a complaint has been filed against her.
Patricia Herring, the billing clerk for the City of Jasper, alleges that she is being falsely accused of wrongdoing.
According to Herring’s complaint, written on June 26, the issue stems from questions pertaining to zoning.
Herring alleges that Hightower told Herring to mind her own business via a message from Herring’s supervisor, the Chief Financial Officer Margaret Harper.
The complaint states that Hightower allegedly accused Herring of telling her to just sign a zoning application and also accused Herring of telling Councilman LaBarfield Bryant to go to her office.
The complaint states “If things are calm and running smoothly, Jennifer is not happy.”
“I’d be scared to come to work with some of the stuff that’s going on,” Vice Mayor Gerald Lewis said.
The city currently is having an investigation conducted on Hightower’s complaint against the former city manager and city attorney Rhett Bullard advised the council to conduct another into the newest allegations.
“If you have an allegation of hostile work environment from an employee, you should have it investigated,” Bullard said. “That was my position before. It doesn’t change based on the people involved.”
“Do we really need to investigate every little thing,” Councilman William Mitchell asked. “If we are having people tell people ‘get out of my business at work,’ when it is not your business, then we should be able to handle that on our own and not get an outside investigation every time.”
He added Hightower’s allegation involved a weapon, which he felt warranted the investigation.
“If we have people that can’t work together, you either need to learn to grow up and work with each other or you need to go home,” Mitchell said.
Herring asked the board what, if anything were they going to do with her complaint.
“This is not a joke,” Herring said. “This is reality.”
Mitchell asked Hightower if the allegations were accurate?
“I don’t agree with it,” Hightower said.
Bullard warned the council that by asking the question, they were getting into the investigative portion of the complaint.
He said the council should follow the same protocol as before.
“So you wouldn’t recommend firing anybody tonight,” Lewis asked.
“I don’t know why you would,” Bullard replied.
The council agreed to allow Allen Norton & Blue, PA to investigate. That firm is already investigating the first complaint.
Bryant asked if Hightower and Herring would be able to work together since they were on separate sides of the office.
Mitchell suggested making the city clerk position a part-time position since Hightower was able to get all the work done when she was working alternate days following her allegation against Williams.
Bullard informed the council it was in their best interest to not adversely affect an employee’s pay or hours during an investigation.
Herring and Hightower are alternating work days until the investigation is complete.
Jessie R. Box is a reporter for the Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press. Her beats include general assignment, government and police.
JOE’S COMMENTS. JUST KISS THE MONEY GOODBYE. I HOPE RHETT ENJOYS HIS POSITION AS AN INTERN FOR ALLEN, NORTON & BLUE. THE CITIZENS OF JASPER ARE CERTAINLY PAYING FOR IT. SHOULD OF HIRED SOMEONE WHO CAN WRITE OUT A PINK SLIP.
Although a local TV Station covered the Jasper Meeting last night, I must admit it was one of the best meetings we had attended. The agenda was handled like clockwork and as to Attorney Rhett Bullard, he did not take over for the council but rather acted as an attorney, assisting only when asked. This was a strange phenomena but one which is welcome.
Buzz Eddy Senior Adviser for the Florida League of Cities will be assisting the council to find an interim manager. He will assist in the advertising and worked with the council to make a determination of the number of hours the interim manager would work and the payment for that time whether it be three months or six months and that would be negotiable until such time as a permanent Town Manager is found. It was decided that since the prior manager was making $75,000 per year that $40,000 would be offered. Buzz Eddy indicated there are senior prior Town Managers that assist Towns for a short period. In fact Buzz Eddy had been a town manager for several years and now that he has retired, he is giving back to the people at no cost to the Town. The Florida League of Cities only pays for his mileage.
Currently the Town has incurred $5,000 in fees for the attorney who is fact finding the incident between Ms. Jennifer Hightower and the former manager. The attorneys were upset that they had received Chapter 119 requests and hadn’t expected them. Joe Griffin admitted he had sent the attorneys public record requests and had provided a law in the Sunshine which stipulated that the investigation should be conducted in a regular meeting/hearing attended b the public. The Attorney felt that since the former manager quit, there would be no reason for them to continued. The Town Attorney Bullard was asked why the Attorneys Allen, Norton and Blue, chose citizens and employees rather than just interviewing the two people involved, Williams and Hightower. Attorney Bullard stated he is allowing them to investigate in the manner in which they wish. As a result of a long discussion, it was decided that the Attorneys will continue their fact finding because Jennifer Hightower had a problem with a current councilor and the work environment is still hostile. It was stated that the investigation will take approximately 20 hours more at $200 per hour or $4000/ The Total cost to Jasper then would be approximately $9,000. This is a far cry from what White Springs paid this attorney firm of $25,900 which we are uncertain if that amount reached $31,000 from the billings received.
Spencer Nabors, ITC discussed the upcoming CDBG Grant. He is from the area and last year assisted Jasper to secure a new well which is needed, but time ran out. There is a need also for generators as the 1980 generators hare died and there is only one that is operable, especially in a hurricane, this is a concern. Mr. Nabors is doing this at no cost until the grant is secured; then an administrator has to be chosen and his company is on the list. The fees are already set and can’t be changed but since there is a short window, he will do this for Jasper to assist. The council agreed to accept his assistance.
Since the Town owns the scout hut, it was under consideration to move the police department to that location. However in discussing the matter, it was found that the building was built for scouts and as a result there are some which again started a troop and it would not work. The Police Officer McGuire, who once was the interim manager, mentioned that the only reason the Police Department considered the scout hut is that currently they are paying $600 a month in rent which would save the Town $7,200 a year. The problem with the old police department building was that it was not up to code to utilize computers and it became too small.
Because of FRDAP two park signs are required and it was decided after one citizen offered her assistance to pain the sign for free, if the Town purchased the materials, that they would utilize the local Sign company for the work.
LaBelle Botanics requires another line for Gas service and the only line available is one which is on the other side of the railroad tracts. Otherwise it would be too expensive. LaBelle is currently purchasing propane from a local dealer because they have to double the amount of gas they are using for double the production. One of the Councilors will be checking with a friend who is familiar with the Railroad. They will possibly be required to carry a $1,000,000/3,000,000 limit of Railroad Liability protection and have a shoo-fly placed on the tracks so that it does not interrupt train movement.
The public Works Director Harry Davis advised at the meeting that he had been asked to place in new utilities for the SVNC Extension for the Nursing Home and it resulted in a multiple changes to manholes, etc. He had the cost of approximately $30,000 which would be reimbursed by the nursing home. The Young councilman suggested that a contract be drawn to assure the City would be reimbursed and it was voted that a contract would be secured. It is amazing how talented Harry Davis is. He apparently is a jack of all trades and Jasper is so lucky to have someone like him. He not only handles water waste water but Public Works and definitely knows what Jasper needs and can stipulate more than one way in which to handle what ever problem comes up.
There was approval for the SRWMD Fire Hydrant Grant so that certain areas could be paved. Each section to be paved will cost $2,500, and one section will be done before another starts.
Since City Clerk Jennifer Hightower missed the City Clerk retreat, she asked whether she could be paid for overnight and Travel by the council. She further stated she will pay for the registration. That was approved by the council and one of the councilors will advise her on Monday if he may attend.
Two budget workshops will be held, one on June 30th, which the young councilor may not attend because he is moving his mother from Colorado to Florida. And there will also be a July meeting. Finance Director Margaret Harper gave the council members a report on the existing funds of the town and discussed the need for the workshops. The other workshop will be held in July and I am certain the media will have the correct dates for you.
Fire Department Chief Josh Waters gave a report of the number of calls he had made. Something White Springs does not provide is reimbursement for volunteers to work out. Josh Waters was asked if the increase from $10.00 to $25.00 per volunteer call assisted in increasing the firefighters at calls. It has assisted somewhat.
It was stated that they will seek Hamilton County’s approach to a more professional handling of meetings so that motions are made correctly and the meetings held more efficiently.
I apologize that I am not yet familiar with the names. I know Mr. Lumpkin is Mayor but that is all that I am familiar with. Yet I must say I am really impressed in the way things are handled since the last meeting I attended. The youngest councilor was extremely impressive, logical and assisted the other councilors in making sound decisions. He is a young man going places in my opinion.