Our local government has stained the reputation of three of our fellow citizens. Now, through legal maneuvers, they are trying to break their spirit and hide the truth.
This is an embarrassing story of how the powerful hide their own failings at the expense of hard working public servants.
Three dedicated public servants got up each morning and went to work. For years they did their job and kept our community safe through their work in law enforcement.
Then the Community Dispatch Agency (CDA) was created and everything changed.
Since its inception, the problems with the CDA have been well documented. System failures, bad directions, life impacting delays, and hang-ups. The type of things we did not read about before the CDA was created.
And then tragedy struck. A law enforcement officer was killed by a mad man and the CDA was front page news again. More problems.
This time the high level bureaucrats needed scapegoats. And with little resistance from our elected leaders, they found them with three veteran employees.
Fire dispatcher Darryl Newman, dispatcher Doyal Hester and dispatch supervisor Gwendolyn Forehand were fired Dec. 5, 2014 by CDA Director Tim Lee.
Mr. Lee fired the three workers for not following proper protocol related to premise hazards. Mr. Lee claimed their actions led to the ambush and death of Leon County Sheriff’s deputy Chris Smith.
The three workers were distraught and felt betrayed.
After they were fired, the problems at the CDA continued, memorialized in a number of headlines. And then an audit requested by City Commissioner Scott Maddox, revealed troubling findings about CDA operations.
For example, the audit found that the “areas for which formal policies and procedures have not been completed as of the date of our review included, for example, premises hazards, training, and fire dispatching.” (Page 104 City Audit 1505, emphasis added).
The protocol that Mr. Lee said the three CDA employees did not follow, did not seem to exist.
And then it was discovered that Mr. Lee was aware of the protocol problems before Deputy Chris Smith was killed.
Not surprisingly, CDA Director Tim Lee resigned in December, 2015.
In January, 2016 the fired dispatchers filed a lawsuit that argued they never received proper training on alerting law enforcement to premise hazards. The suit also accuses LCSO of discriminating against the dispatchers because they were former City of Tallahassee employees.
Given the facts, you would think our local government would work with these three fired employees toward a settlement. Instead our government is now attempting to avoid a trial – where the truth would be revealed – by legal maneuvering.
In response to the former employees’ lawsuit in early August, the CDA contends that former Director Tim Lee had the authority to approve exceptions to employment policies and dismiss employees.
In other words, the three fired employees have no recourse in court because our local government has “the unilateral right to decide what constitutes misconduct, what constitutes poor performance.”
This disgusting display of bureaucratic arrogance should concern everyone.
It is time for our elected officials to get involved.
This lawsuit should be settled and the three fired CDA dispatchers should receive an apology while there is still an opportunity for them to restore the reputation they have worked a lifetime to secure.
By the way, after Mr. Lee resigned as the CDA Director, he was hired by the City of Tallahassee.