DEERFIELD BEACH — A municipal worker who claims she was wrongfully suspended and eventually laid off after failing to say hello to Mayor Peggy Nolan is back on the job. But the controversy is continuing.
Cassandra Moye, 46, a part-time maintenance worker with the city of Deerfield Beach, lost her job in July 2010. She was among 24 full-time and 106 part-time workers the city said it had to lay- off to help balance its budget.
The layoffs were supposed to be based on seniority, but Moye complained from the outset that she had more seniority than several other part-time employees who did not receive pink slips.
Moye maintained she was the victim of retaliation for successfully challenging a two-day suspension in 2009 for not greeting the mayor. That controversy garnered international media attention and upset the community.
“I had more seniority but I was laid off anyway,” Moye said. “All this time I have been asking them to explain why I was placed on the layoff list but no one would hear my case.”
Moye said during a recent meeting she set up with City Manager Burgess Hanson and Human Resources Director Mike Malinowski, the two officials acknowledged she was improperly laid off. She said they told her she would be reinstated. A few days later, she received notice of her new work assignment.
“Effective August 12, 2011 I am assigning you the following daily duties as a P/T [part time] maintenance worker,” Vernell Higgs, a supervisor at the city’s pier, wrote in a memo to Moye.
Higgs’ memo does not state the reason for her reinstatement but it provides details of her new assignment at the city’s pier. Several phone calls to Hanson by the South Florida Times were not returned.
Malinowski, however, described Moye’s version of what took place in the meeting as “categorically untrue.”
“She is being recalled because she was at the top of the recall list,” Malinowski said. “The meeting took place after our human resources department contacted her about the recall.”
Malinowski explained Moye’s seniority would resume from the time she was laid off, but she will not receive any back pay or retroactive benefits. He denied that Moye was “targeted” or “improperly laid off.” He also said Moye never questioned the reasons she was laid off until now and he rejected her allegation that she was the victim of retaliation.
Moye, though, is adamant about her account of what was said during the meeting and she says documents in her possession back up her version of the dispute.
The documents include copies of the original layoff and current recall lists which, she says; show she should not have been laid off. Additionally, Moye says a recently retired supervisor, whom she did not name, told her that she had indeed been laid off due to the controversy involving the mayor, and that she was denied opportunities for a full-time employment because of it.
“I never should have been laid off in the first place,” Moye said. “I believe it was retaliation for not speaking to [Mayor] Peggy Nolan.”
Moye had worked for the city for six years when she was laid off. At the time, she was assigned to cleaning facilities and picking up debris on the city’s beach. She was suspended without pay for not saying hello to Nolan when the mayor visited the beach area one day.
“On Monday, August 3, 2009 at approximately 9:00 AM at the North Pavilion the disrespectful attitude you displayed to the Mayor as unacceptable,” George Edmunds, who at the time was the city’s acting director of Parks and Recreation, wrote in a suspension notification memo to Moye. “The Mayor indicated that this was not the first time that you had not acknowledged her when you came into contact. This type of behavior will not be tolerated and is detrimental to the department. Your actions have caused irrevocable damage to the welfare of the department and your fellow workers.’’
In his memo, Edmunds also used terms such as "insubordination" and "disgraceful" to describe Moye’s failure to greet Nolan.
Nolan, who is white, has never publicly addressed the controversy and could not be reached this week for comment on Moye’s reinstatement and her retaliation claims.
At the time of the suspension, Moye explained that she encountered hundreds of people each day on the beach. She said she was likely busy working and did not remember seeing the mayor.
Her suspension caused an uproar in the predominantly black communities of the city.
Some residents questioned whether race had been a factor in the disciplinary action. Pastors held meetings and the controversy simmered until the suspension was rescinded.
Moye’s supervisor, Edmunds, was issued a letter of counseling over the manner in which he handled the matter. Moye, who works in Parks and Recreation, earns $12.33 per hour. She said the time off from work hurt her financially and emotionally.
“This was not a mistake at all. It was done on purpose and I deserve all of my back pay for the time I was off,” she said. “I suffered and should not have been put through this.”
According to Reginald Clyne, a Coral Gables-based employment attorney who haslectured at Florida International University law school on labor laws, Moye may have a case.
“She could be entitled to back pay if there is proof she was improperly laid off through no fault of her own,” Clyne said. “If that’s the case, then she may also be entitled to any benefits she would have received during that time as well.”
***Pictured above is Cassandra Moye and Mayor Peggy Noland