The fallout is continuing at the Wilton Manors police department which is mired in a scandal involving the circulation of racist e-mails and abuse of vacation policies among its command staff.
In the latest action, City Manager Joseph Gallegos suspended without pay for seven days the acting chief who had been given temporary control of the department after the chief was first suspended and then forced to resign.
Gallegos sent Capt. Doris Seibert home for a week from her $94,786 job on Oct. 12.
“With respect to the violations of the use of City computers for personal use over the time period investigated, I find a total of 13 violations,” Gallegos wrote in a memo to Seibert on Oct. 12.
In addition, Sgt. Peter “Pete” Bigelsen, one of the most prolific distributors of offensive e-mails in the department, was placed on paid administrative leave, in keeping with the union agreement, pending the outcome of an investigation.
The scandal at police headquarters blew up in early August when South Florida Times first reported that e-mails highly offensive to President Barack Obama, other African Americans and Muslims had been sent from then Police Chief Richard Perez’s city e-mail account.
Gallegos suspended Perez for 30 days and ordered him to undergo sensitivity training. Gallegos named Siebert as temporary chief. But before he could return to the job, Perez was forced to resign after an investigation concluded he had abused the city’s leave policies.
Seibert could not be reached for comment and she did not respond to several e-mails seeking comment. She has been replaced as acting chief by Capt. Ed Costello who will serve until a permanent replacement is hired.
Gallegos wrote in his memo that, like Perez, Siebert violated federal labor laws and city policies and did not submit forms so time could be deducted from her accrued vacation hours when she took time off from work.
“In summary, for the above you will be suspended without pay for seven (7) calendar days effective Monday, October 18, 2010, and will forfeit your existing vacation balance, which should have been utilized when the ‘logged’ time off was taken in lieu of normal vacation time,” Gallegos wrote.
By failing to submit the required forms, a city employee could be paid while at the same time not depleting their hours of sick, vacation and executive time accrued over the years.
That banked time could then be used as a reserve to pay their salary in case a catastrophic illness or some other circumstance that prevents the employee from working. It could also be exchanged for cash when the person retires or leaves the job under acceptable conditions.
According to sources, the leave time review for Perez covered only the past two years, when he allegedly took time off from work while being paid but did not submit the required vacation leave forms. That practice during that period netted him more than $9,000 in apparently improper pay.
City officials have not disclosed the amount of time for which Seibert supposedly was improperly paid, but they have turned documents over to prosecutors in the Broward State Attorney’s Office, which is investigating the matter.
State Attorney Spokes-man Ron Ishoy declined comment when asked about the probe.
Even though Perez and Seibert both allegedly abused city leave policies, only Seibert was stripped of the remaining vacation hours she had accumulated. By contrast, Perez was allowed to cash in his accrued hours, which amounted to $24,168.81 when he resigned.
Gallegos did not respond to questions about that apparent discrepancy. At least one expert said it could present problems in the future.
“If employees in substantially similar positions violated the same rule in the same way and they are treated disparately as to discipline, that would raise an issue if there was evidence showing that gender, race, national origin or any other protected category was a motivating factor in the disparate discipline,” said civil rights attorney and employment law expert Randy A. Fleischer, who also chairs Broward County’s Human Rights Board.
“Whether gender was a factor here would be investigated if Siebert complained about discrimination,” Fleischer said.
Elgin Jones may be reached at EJones@SFLTimes.com
Pictured Above: Dorris Seibert, top, Peter Bigelsen, below, and Richard E. Perez, bottom.