mike_shehadeh_web.jpgHOMESTEAD — A man of Palestinian descent who was fired from his nearly $180,000 city government job after allegedly viewing a fetish website at work and sending sexually suggestive text messages to a subordinate on his city-issued Blackberry has filed an employment discrimination complaint.

Former Homestead City Manager Mohammad Aref  “Mike” Shehadeh, 52, was placed on administrative leave on Nov. 4, pending the outcome of an investigation into his work activities. He was fired for conduct unbecoming a city manager at a special Feb. 3 city council meeting after a private investigative firm reported the results of its probe into his work activities.


The probe revealed that Shehadeh used his city computer to spend time at Arab dating websites, with more than 300 visits. He also allegedly solicited business for his brother’s firm, engaged in political activities on behalf of some council members, and visited GoddessQetesh.com, a dominatrix website.

The hostess of GoddessQetesh.com describes herself as being interested in forced bi-curious activities, and states that she is seeking personal and financial slave servants.

The hostess further states that she enjoys doling out whippings, public humiliation and other risqué desires.

Shehadeh could not be reached for comment.

His April 16 complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission comes less than three weeks after he filed a breach of contract lawsuit, also related to his firing, against the city. The lawsuit seeks $1.3 million over contentions that he was fired without reason, and that he was denied severance and other benefits stipulated in his contract.

The EEOC complaint does not make any demands or state how Shehadeh is seeking to resolve it. Alfonso J. Perez, his attorney, did not respond to repeated calls made to his office, or emails seeking comment.  The city has 20 days from the date the complaint was served to answer it.

The EEOC complaint states that, “Petitioner, who is a practicing Muslim of Palestinian/Arab descent, was employed by the City [of Homestead, Florida] from 1994 to 2010. 

During that time, Petitioner consistently received accolades from City officials for his job performance resulting in Petitioner being promoted six times, the last being named as City Manager.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against job applicants or employees because of their race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability or genetics.

“Despite Petitioner’s exemplary job performance, Petitioner was constantly subject to a discriminatory work environment and discriminatory practices against him based on his religion [Muslim] and ethnicity [Arab-Palestinian],” Shehadeh’s complaint further states.

Homestead city officials were served notice of the EEOC complaint on Thursday, April 29. City Attorney Richard Weiss could not be reached for comment about the city’s response.

Several concerns about Shehadeh’s work surfaced before he was fired.

On Friday, Feb. 5, just two days after Homestead council members voted 6 to 1 to fire Shehadeh from his $179,431-a-year job, concerns surfaced about his use of a city-issued Blackberry to engage in countless incidents of “sexting.” Sexting is the exchange of sexually explicit text messages.  Shehadeh allegedly did the sexting with his married subordinate, former Deputy City Manager Johanna Faddis, who was also fired.

In his complaint, Shehadeh also alleges that he endured years of belittlement.

“For example, following the promotion of an African-American individual, the Petitioner was told by a City Council member that ‘this community is not ready for a [N-word] to be a director.’”

Shehadeh did not name the council member who allegedly made the remark, and he did not return messages left on his home phone, seeking clarification.

But in the complaint, he cites numerous incidents involving Homestead Vice Mayor Judy Waldman and her husband as examples of religious and national origin bigotry that he endured.

“For years, Petitioner was subjected to harassment, blackmail, threats and mental anguish at the hands of Waldman,” the complaint alleges.

“For instance, after discovering a prayer rug in Petitioner’s office, while the Petitioner was on administrative leave, Waldman asked other City officials if they had heard the Petitioner reciting the Koran to City staff members, and later referred to Muslims as “crazy people,” Shehadeh’s complaint states.

“Additionally, Waldman told other City officials that she was scared that the Petitioner was a suicide bomber,” the complaint states.

The complaint further states that, during one encounter, Waldman’s husband referred to him as the “Palestinian City Manager.”

On another occasion, Waldman allegedly responded, “That’s a shame,” after he informed her that as a Muslim, he did not celebrate Christmas.

Waldman said she has read the complaint, and she denied the allegations.

“Since there is pending litigation, I am reluctant to comment,” Waldman said when contacted. “However, statements made in the complaint are false and outrageous.”

Waldman is a life-long Christian and former Sunday school teacher. Her husband is a non-practicing Jew, Waldman explained.

She said she regularly gave out Christmas gifts to city employees, including Shehadeh, who always accepted them. She said the complaint is the first time she has been made aware that Shehadeh does not recognize Christmas.

The controversy involving Shehadeh began when five of the seven incumbent Homestead city council members were up for reelection in 2009, four of whom were Shehadeh supporters.

After the Nov. 3 election, all four council members who supported Shehadeh were defeated. After the results came in on the evening of the election, Shehadeh was immediately placed on administrative leave with pay.

Shehadeh’s contract did not allow for his immediate termination until 90 days after the election, which set up the Feb. 3 meeting where he was fired. In the interim, city officials hired Franklin Investigations, Inc. of North Miami Beach, to conduct an investigation into his work activities and performance.

The review determined that Shehadeh allegedly engaged in political activities on behalf of some council members, was rude to a citizen, and may have violated other city policies.

Two days after Shehadeh was fired, city council members held another meeting at which the private investigations firm provided details about his Shehadeh’s Internet activities and sexting.

If the complaint is not resolved, the EEOC will complete a preliminary review and then either dismiss it or conduct its own investigation into the allegations.


EJones@SFLTimes.com

Photo: Mohammad Aref “Mike” Shehadeh