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Here’s The Scoop … Three “Bags” Waiting To Be Filled …

KNOCKIN’ ON OUR DOOR AND LOOKIN’ FOR SOME LOOT …. TRICK….OR …..TREAT ….

Dear Readers … Three former LBTS Town employees have made it known they were not going to leave quietly into the night with or without costumes ….. A “Labor Update”  was sent by TAtty. Trevarthen to inform the Commission of where the Town is at this point in dealing with the three former employees who want LBTS to show them the money that they believe they are entitled to…still….

Former HR Manager Kathy O’Brien who was terminated filed a discrimination claim with the EEOC. It was dismissed by the EEOC, because they found no basis for concluding that any statutes were violated in her dismissal….No word on what the claim states the discrimination was for….

Kaola King, the former Finance Director who abruptly resigned appealed the denial of her unemployment benefits related to her resignation. That appeal was denied. She also filed a charge of discrimination with the Broward County Civil Rights Division, which is pending…..

Ms. King had some back and forth with the Town Manager and the Town Atty. handling these cases, Brett Schneider … Below are some of those exchanges …(all e-mails are public record) …. (When reading the e-mails below start from the bottom and scroll up )…. The crux of her argument is the Town’s Personal Policy Manual (which needs updating asap!) ….. she states it requires her to receive her accrued vacation leave… The Town thinks otherwise due to her leaving NOT in good standing…but, nevertheless offered her the accrued Vacation leave in a Separation Agreement and General Release much like the one her former boss, Town Manager Esther Colon signed not to file further claims against the Town … She chose not to sign and filed claims…

Ms. King stated in a letter to TAtty. Schneider dated Aug. 15, 2010 after citing the Personal Policy Manual pgs. 13 & 14 (prev. post)…

“Upon termination of employment for any reason, the employee shall be paid all accrued vacation due for the year to date. All employees who can qualify may accrue 30 days/240 hours of earned vacation.” …She went on to say therefore she had no need to sign a Severance Agreement …stating it had been done for all past employees … (BC-not sure that she is correct) … She ended with this “And, due to the nature of my constructive dismissal (forced resignation), not paying my vacation in a timely manner and demanding a Severance Agreement to be signed for what is rightly mine, is clearly another factor of discrimination.”… (BC-Again, see the e-mail correspondence for more info below)….

After the Aug. 15th letter there is an August 24, 2010  letter to Kathy Aldridge Agency for Workforce Innovation Unemployment Compensation Appeals in Tallahassee from TAtty. Brett Schneider concerning Kaola King v. Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea Docket No. 2010-99830U …He wrote …”Please allow this correspondence to serve as our Notice of Appearance on behalf of Employer.”…He went on to tell her to contact the firm “directly on all future correspondence, notices and other documents regarding this matter.”…He sent her documents “that will be utilized and relied upon by the Employer at the upcoming unemployment compensation telephone hearing scheduled for August 26, 2010 at 9:00 am….”…Those documents were “Memorandum of appreciation to claimant dated June 28,2010 from Connie Hoffmann, Interim Town Manager/Claimant’s resignation letter dated July 6, 2010…

“June 28, 2010

To: Kaola King , Finance Director

From: Connie Hoffmann, Interim Town Manager

Re: Appreciation for Assistance

Kaola,

I want to express my appreciation to you for stepping in and handling the payroll functions since early May and for teaching Marta Isla how to input payroll these past few weeks. I also want to thank you for researching and processing various insurance updates and premiums. I recognize the past two months have been a difficult time and thank you for your willingness to assume responsibility of the duties of the HR Manager during this time of transition.”

……………..

“July 6, 2010

Effective immediately, I, Kaola King, am resigning as the Director of Finance and Budget of Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea for this opportunity.

Sincerely,

Kaola King”

…………..

BC- Again, the letter above from TAtty. Trevarthen states while that appeal was denied …Ms. King also filed a charge of discrimination with the Broward County Civil Rights Division, which is pending….and that is referenced in the e-mail correspondence below from the Town Manager…with an offer to  Ms. King …”If you wish to reconsider the offer we made to you earlier and that you rejected, please advise us. But our position that you are not legally entitled to further compensation is not something that we wish to continue to debate with you.” …That amount is “approximately $5,740 (143.7 hrs @ $39.95)”according to the e-mail from Ms. King below…

We taxpayers of LBTS have been informed of glaring problems found by the new Town Manager and her Acting Finance Director Doug Haag… It seems each week after the termination of former Town Manager Colon (previously the Finance Director)/ Asst. TM-Acting TM John Olinzock/ HR Manager Kathy O’Brien and the resignation of Finance Dir. King something else has come to light…questionable practices..inept practices …non- interest bearing accounts…and accounting practices that we are told are not generally accepted or antiquated … We are tied into a 3 year term with SunTrust Bank …(prev. post) … and now this one… this writer just found in the the Town Manager Report for the Sept. 28, 2010 Comm.Mtg. (backup online Town website)…

“Current Payroll Budget”

The payroll projections we have been working with in the current year assumed 26 payrolls, as one would expect. But as we’ve been refining our projections in the last few weeks i became clear that payroll in the current fiscal year would exceed the budget. We have discovered that the Town did not accrue the last payroll of FY 2008/2009 and that payroll was accounted for 100% in this fiscal year; none of it was allocated to the appropriate fiscal year. This is NOT generally accepted accounting practice. We are very surprised that the auditors did not note this in their management letter.

We obviously cannot go back and adjust the prior fiscal year to correct this issue. The result is that we will have to account for 27 payrolls in the current fiscal year, an extra cost of approximately $80,000.

We believe we should get this straightened may have to walk on to the September 27th agenda an item to appropriate funds to cover these expenses from fund balances. We are analyzing whether funds can be transferred administratively within budgets to cover these expenses. In some cases there may not be sufficient funds and we will have to have you appropriate funds before the fiscal year ends.”

BC- Readers will remember we chose not to stay with the former TM’s long-term auditors …… Good thing… No doubt more bad financial news is coming …next week…the way it’s been going…

……………..

THE E-MAILS …

From: kthk
Sent: Tue 9/21/2010 9:31 PM
To: Connie Hoffmann
Cc: Roseann Minnet; Stuart Dodd; Birute Ann Clottey; Chris Vincent; Scot Sasser
Subject: Re: LBTS — Severance Agreement
Hello Connie,

It is unfortunate that you, the Town and Brett Schneider still stand by your position that I am not entitled to my annual payout by stating I did not resign nor did I leave in good standing. I have attached my “separation” letter and your “appreciation for assistance” letter which these documents dispute you and Brett Schneider’s reasoning to why I am not entitled. Please note, that these are the exact documents Brett Schneider submitted to Unemployment Compensation. It deeply concerns me that Brett Schneider contacted me proposing an annual payout given I sign a Separation Agreement and General Release (not a settlement and release). Why did you and Brett Schneider feel the need to contact me with such a proposal if you strongly believed I was not legally entitled?

Referencing your reply below, It’s unfortunately that what you are stating below is misleading to the Town. As you stated below, you are not disputing my separation but constructive discharge. If you are no longer disputing my separation, I should be expecting my annual payout. You and Brett had no idea about the constructive discharge because it was not filed when Brett Schneider contacted me on July 16, 2010 (a week after my separation) with the ultimatum. This is a direct indication that you and Brett must have known about how I was constructively discharge and wanted to cover it up with a Separation Agreement and General Release before it became an issue. How can you withhold what’s entitled to me (my annual payout) in lieu of signing a Separation Agreement and General Release? Is that legally, ethically, morally and discriminately wrong?

When Brett Schneider contacted me on July 16, 2010, I had no idea there would a problem with my annual payout nor would it come to this. I had no expectation for my sick payout. As stated below, since my separation is no longer the dispute, what is the delay with processing my annual payout?

I am sure you and Brett Schneider are intelligent enough to know that by withholding former employee’s payout, that incurring additional attorney fees would be the choice of the employer and not the former employee as stated. Anytime an employer withhold an employee funds, legal actions are likely to occur.

Regardless of the separation or WHATEVER form of discharge/termination of former employees of the Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, ALL employees received at least their annual payout. It is the policy and procedure and past history practice of the Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea . Why I have to fight for what I am entitled and why are my funds being withheld is a matter of legal concern.

Kaola King

—–Original Message—–
From: Connie Hoffmann
To: kthk
Cc: Brett J. Schneider
Sent: Tue, Sep 21, 2010 5:40 pm
Subject: RE: LBTS — Severance Agreement
Hello, Kaola. I hope you are well.

In response to your inquiry below, it is my understanding that Brett Schneider explained to you in a telephone conversation back in July (and in the July 16, 2010 email to you that is part of this email chain) that it is the Town’s position that you are not legally entitled to any payouts for your sick or vacation leave because you resigned without notice and, therefore, left the Town’s employ not in good standing. Contrary to what you have suggested in your email, we do not dispute that you resigned from your position. What Brett and I have both disputed is that you were constructively discharged from your position as you have alleged in several documents you have filed with other agencies.

As far as incurring attorney’s costs, it was my desire to avoid such costs for the Town and that is why we offered to enter into a settlement and release agreement with you. In that July conversation, Brett indicates he advised you that the Town would be willing to pay you for your accumulated vacation leave if you would sign a settlement and release agreement not to pursue any further claims against the Town. He followed that offer up in writing. But you rejected that offer and your subsequent actions have caused us to incur additional attorney’s fees. It makes little sense for the Town to make a payment to you that we do not think you are legally entitled to and still leave ourselves open to further claims from you and have to expend further time, effort and attorney fees to dispute your claims.

In summary, the Town has already conveyed to you via our attorney that we do not agree with your position that you are owed any further compensation. If you wish to reconsider the offer we made to you earlier and that you rejected, please advise us. But our position that you are not legally entitled to further compensation is not something that we wish to continue to debate with you.

Connie Hoffmann

From: kthk
Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2010 10:08 AM
To: Marta Isla
Cc: Connie Hoffmann
Subject: Fwd: LBTS — Severance Agreement

Please see below

—–Original Message—–
From: kthk
To: [email protected]; [email protected]
Cc: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]
Sent: Tue, Sep 21, 2010 10:02 am
Subject: Fwd: LBTS — Severance Agreement
Hello Connie,

Congratulations on your appointment of Town Manager.

I have attached my response letter to Brett Schneider of Weiss, a copy of the personnel manual of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea and the Final Severance Agreement proposed from Brett Schneider of Weiss and the Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea.

To date, I have not received my final annual payout nor have I received a response from you nor Brett Schnieder of Weiss. I am entitled to my annual payout according to the Town policy and I do not need to sign a Severance Agreement. According to Town policies, the Town should have issued my annual payout the following payroll. It is now going on three months. Brett Schneider of Weiss stated below, that I am not entitled since I did not resign, which you and he know I did. Why did you want me to sign a Severance Agreement and then provide me my annual payout if I am not entitled? Would this be a violation to the Town? Would this be a violation of Ethics?
Per stated below in Brett Schneider’s email, my annual payout is approximately $5,740 (143.7 hrs @ $39.95), I am sure the Town has already spent in excess in Attorney fees to fight what is legally entitled to me. Since this is becoming a legal matter, it is going to cost the Town more in legal fees and unnecessary negative publicity than to provide my annual payout without strings attached (Severance Agreement).

I look forward to your prompt response.

Thanks,

Kaola King

—–Original Message—–
From: kthk
To: BSchneider
Sent: Sun, Aug 15, 2010 10:32 pm
Subject: Re: LBTS — Severance Agreement
Brett,

Please see attached my letter responding to the Severance Agreement and Personnel Manual pages 13 and 14.

Thanks,

Kaola King

—–Original Message—–
From: Brett J. Schneider
To: kthk
Cc: Brett J. Schneider
Sent: Fri, Jul 16, 2010 9:59 am
Subject: LBTS — Severance Agreement
Kaola:

As you requested, attached is a draft Severance Agreement and waiver of claims against the Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea. As we discussed, although the Town is not obligated to provide you with a payout of your accrued vacation leave because, among other things, you resigned from your Town employment without notice, the Town will provide you with a payout of such leave (minus all appropriate tax withholdings) if you execute the attached Agreement.

Please note that for purposes of your payout under this Agreement, the Town has given you credit for vacation accrual through the current pay period. Thus, this Agreement reflects a payout of 143.7 hours of accrued vacation at the rate of $39.95/hour.

If you have any questions regarding the attached Agreement, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Regards,

Brett Schneider

Brett J. Schneider, Esq.
Partner

Weiss Serota Helfman Pastoriza Cole & Boniske, P.L.
200 East Broward Blvd., Suite 1900
Fort Lauderdale

………………

BC-John Olinzock …has sent letters (prev. posts) to request the Commission to change their vote for his termination with cause to be without cause in order to receive compensation… The Town Manager has informed him the Commission was advised by the Town’s law firm they could vote to do so in the aftermath of the Esther Colon payout (prev. posts) that ended up with Ms. Colon being overpaid and incurring legal fees to rectify the situation as well as a Settlement Agreement and General Release (prev. post) leaving the Town unable to go after the former Town Manager for any wrongdoing she might have done in her time employed by the Town…One caveat to the Agreement/Release we are told is she could always be brought in to testify on any other wrongdoing by an employee and be held in contempt if she is not forthcoming or worse if she found untruthful… The chances of this coming to fruition are slim to none though in this writer’s opinion… sad to say… Mr Olinzock contends still that the Commissioners “polled” him in each directing him to stop the check from going out for Ms. Colon and states he believes due to Sunshine a special meeting was required… Hmmm… How is direction from 4 or 5 Comms. polling or a Sunshine violation when none knew what the others were doing?… Also, unfortunately for JohnO …in this writer’s opinion was the inclusion of the Town Attys. repeatedly asking for information (prev. posts) and stating the direction from the Commission required them to see the numbers before the payment was made….and the fact that it turned out …Esther Colon was….as the Comm/TAtty’s feared overpaid…OOPS!…Now he has hired an attorney…George Castrataro, who sent the Town a demand letter on behalf of John Olinzock….The letter was sent on Sept. 9, 2010 …It states based on their “preliminary investigation”…”it is their opinion that the Town has violated numerous State and Federal laws, has unlawfully retaliated against Mr. Olinzock, and has terminated his employment in violation of public policy.”…It goes on to address the April 20, 2010 Special Meeting …Colon’s termination… Unfortunately the facts are off  with the following statement “This meeting occurred only one month after the Town voted 5-0; in the affirmative; a vote of confidence regarding the performance of the Town Manager…The vote of confidence was made long before the election ….There would be no way Ms. Colon would receive such a vote in March of 2010…OOPS!…. It goes on to state no resolution was passed for Mr. Olinzock becoming Acting TM…That is because it was known to all he was put in that roll as a “gap stop” to hiring an Int. TM… Then comes the portion where they disagree with the TAtty. on the Comm. being able to terminate him due to his status not changing (Asst. TM?)… It states  the to be expected laundry list of sufferings affecting not only Olinzock but his family as a result …and that they “are confident he should prevail on his claims” and “may be entitled to awards of economic damages, emotional distress damages, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.”… After that it continues with wrongful termination in violation of public policy …Fl. Statute 112.3187 …dealing with suffering adverse employment consequences including but limited to retaliation, lack of promotion, negative reports and documentation against him in his employment file, discrimination, lack of employment benefits and employment opportunities, loss of paid leave, and dismissal; due to his disapproval of the Town’s failure to adhere to adhere to its own rules, regulations and policies….Collateral Tort Claims and an offer to compromise…Mr. Olionzock wants an expedient resolution of this demand… including  “properly document the nature of the separation in his personnel file/ provide severance equal to 8 months of pay , including costs of benefits /provide compensation for annual leave, and sick leave, as has been provided for in the Town Personnel Policy Manual ….”It gave the town until Sept. 18, 2010 to respond…

The Town responded on Sept. 21, 2010 … TAtty.Schneider reiterated the claim concerning Olinzock’s April 26, 2010 termination and stated “As set forth below, the Town categorically denies your allegations and states that the Town’s actions in terminating Mr. Olinzock were not only legal, but were necessary given Mr. Olinzock’s actions as Acting Town Manager…..They reviewed the correspondence and had phone call with Olinzock’s Atty. and our TAtty. Brett Schneider further stated “it is clear that Mr. Olinzock refuses to accept responsibility for the actions that he took with regard to Town Manager Esther Colon’s severance and leave payments, which actions ultimately gave rise to Mr. Olinzock’s for cause termination….He went over the history of the April 16, 2010 workshop to discuss the former TM…the April 20, 2010 special mtg….the April 21, 2010 attempts he (TAtty. Schneider) made to former HR Mgr. O’Brien….and the numerous attempts he , TAtty. Trevarthen and the Comm. made to Mr. Olinzock (prev. posts)…He further added the investigation done by Int. TM Hoffmann concerning the payout …the findings and the Commission’s vote to terminate Olinzock “with cause” based on those findings… Mr. Schneider ended with stating In light of the foregoing, it is abundantly clear that the Town Commission’s decisions to terminate Mr. Olinzock on April 26, 2010 and later to amend the grounds for his termination on June 8, 2010 were entirely appropriate and necessitated by Mr. Olinzock’s own actions or lack thereof. As such, there is simply no credible basis for any claim by Mr. Olinzock against the Town. Please be advised that the Town will vigorously defend itself against any such claim and will seek to recover its attorneys’ fees and costs from Mr. Olinzock personally should he bring such a baseless action against the Town. Please govern yourself accordingly.”

According to the TAtty ….Mr. Olinzock has not filed any claims against the Town to date….

BC- as stated above…as the mess left in the aftermath of the Colon/Olinzock/ King/O’Brien Administration continues to unfold and grow in number….it only strengthens the the Town’s position …in this writer’s opinion….

more to come….

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