Julie Montanaro of WCTV is reporting that a verdict has been reached in a Tallahassee whistleblower trial involving a City of Tallahassee firefighter.
WCTV reports that former firefighter Mark DeCarlo, who claimed he was fired for blowing the whistle on leaky hoses and unsafe equipment, was awarded nearly $850,000 dollars in lost wages and benefits late this afternoon.
Late last year the City attempted to get the case dismissed.
However Senior United States Judge, William Stafford denied the City of Tallahassee’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Stafford said in an order dated September 18, 2015, that the “court finds that there are genuine disputes as to the material facts” in the case and informed the City that the clerk will set a trial date.
The complete order can be read here.
In January Tallahassee Reports wrote about how City officials retaliated against Mr. DeCarlo. That story is listed below.
Check back for updates on this report.
City of Tallahassee Used Police Department For “Work Up” On City Employee
On May 8, 2013, then Assistant City Manager Tom Coe requested that Jessica Dunk-Miller of the TPD Criminal Intelligence Unit complete a “work up” on TFD engineer Mark DeCarlo.
Ms. Dunk-Miller wrote in an email to a colleague:
“I received a request a few minutes ago from DC John Gatlin on behalf of Tom Coe requesting a work up on TFD Engineer Mark DeCarlo. DeCarlo was sent home this morning for insubordination after refusing to attend a meeting. I’m working on the request now and will CC you when it’s complete.”
TR has learned that a “work-up” is a background check that can include the use of state and federal law enforcement databases. TR was told by law enforcement officials that the misuse of access to this information can result in dismissal and possible criminal prosecution.
On May 9, 2013, then Police Chief Dennis Jones requested a hold on the “work up” through City employee Lewis Johnson.
When informed by Lt. Steven Slade that the “work up” had already been completed, Mr. Johnson replied via email that “this has stirred up quite a hornets nest upstairs.”
Mr. DeCarlo was officially dismissed after July 8th, 2013 and is currently suing the City of Tallahassee in federal court. See our previous report here.
One of DeCarlo’s claims is that City management tried to intimidate him because he was revealing problems within the Tallahassee Fire Department.
Why the Work Up?
On April 29th, 2013, Mr. DeCarlo sent an email to all City Commissioners and City Manager Anita Favors-Thompson. The email documented inventory and equipment issues within the Tallahassee Fire Department.
Emails show Mr. DeCarlo’s communication with the City Commissioners did not sit well with Fire Chief Cindy Dick. She wrote in an email to Assistant City Manager Tom Coe on April 30th, 2013:
“The accusations are vague, non-specific and repetitive. I take great exception to this and certainly hope that the city policies and procedures will serve to protect those impacted by these negative and false allegations.”
After the above email, Tom Coe met with Cassandra Jackson in the City Attorney’s office to discuss Mr. DeCarlo’s communications with the City Commissioners.
After the meeting, on May 2, 2013, Ms. Jackson in an email to Lew Shelly, the City Attorney, wrote “I do not think the CAO (City Attorney’s Office) should recommend action toward Mr. DeCarlo in any way beyond telling him to submit his requests to the City Manager…”
The “work up” was requested by Mr. Coe four business days later.
Mr. DeCarlo claims that the City broke the law by searching state and federal databases for information without a legal basis. In fact, DeCarlo claims the City was fishing for information to use against him.
The federal trial is scheduled to begin February 22, 2016.