WILTON MANORS — A city supervisor who was suspended without pay, then demoted after distributing a racist email on her city computer, has inked a deal to leave city employment now, while being paid to stay at home until her retirement kicks in next year.
The attorneys representing former Assistant Community Services Director Ann Barnes finalized the agreement on Oct. 14, the South Florida Times has learned.
“It is my understanding that Ms. Barnes’ attorney contacted our city attorney to discuss the possibility of her retiring and requested that a separation agreement be drafted,” city of Wilton Manors Human Resources Manager Dio Sanchez said.
“Well, she’s expressed a desire to retire and she’s made certain demands,” City Manager Joseph Gallegos said. “The problem is that she wants to get paid outside of what we’re permitted to do, and quite frankly that’s not something we’re going to do.”
Nevertheless, the final deal will pay Barnes $42 per hour, or $3,360 bi-weekly, for a total of $47,040 from her accrued sick, vacation and compensatory time while she stays home, until the April 5, 2009 date of retirement.
The city will add a $244.40 per month stipend for healthcare considerations, and continue to make its share of her pension contributions. Additionally, $5,000 of the compensation she is receiving from her leave benefits is being paid in exchange for her agreeing not to sue the city, seek unemployment benefits or to ever apply for employment with Wilton Manors again.
As part of the agreement, Barnes has also been instructed not to speak negatively about the city, and vice versa.
“Employee shall not make any disparaging statements to anyone about the City,” the agreement states. “The City shall not make any disparaging statement to anyone about Barnes,” it reads.
Barnes, 60, was disciplined over her distributing an email from city hall titled, “Proud To Be White: Somebody Finally Said It,” on May 6, and as a result of a racial discrimination complaint filed against her by Lisa Wiggins, who was the department’s only black employee in an unrelated series of incidents.
“Everyone in the United States has privileges except the White race. They are the majority that made the U.S. what it is,” the email proclaimed. “Now look what it has become!”
“You rob us, carjack us, and shoot at us. But, when a white police officer shoots a black gang member or beats up a black drug-dealer who is running from the LAW and posing a threat to ALL of society…You call him racist.”
The email goes on to berate Arabs, Jews, Hispanics and numerous other ethnic groups with racial slurs.
“This email is not putting anyone down. It’s a desperate attempt to keep what we have earned, not been given. I’ve passed this on, now please do your part,” the email urges.
The issues surrounding the email first surfaced when the South Florida Times reported in its July 25 edition that no action was being taken against Barnes, even though at least one employee complained about the email.
After an investigation, Human Resources Director Brenda J. Clanton determined in an Aug. 22 internal memo to Gallegos and City Attorney Kerry Ezrol that Barnes “failed to properly supervise” employees, and that she “misused the City email system for personal purpose” and “exacerbated” conflicts within the department after Wiggins informed her of racial hostilities taking place.
Barnes was initially verbally reprimanded and suspended with pay over the email, but other disciplinary action followed after the news reports and the discrimination complaint.
“Ms. Barnes lacks the requisite skills to continue to perform in a supervisory management position,” Clanton concluded in the report.
On June 24, the city settled the complaint filed by Wiggins for $52,500. The complaint was filed with the Civil Rights Division of Broward County’s Office of Equal Opportunity on July 7. It alleged racial discrimination and retaliation.
Wiggins asserted that she encountered hostilities in her job as a community services technician, where she earned $27,905.31 annually.
As a condition of Wiggins’ settlement, and in addition to the payment, the city agreed to pay her medical insurance through Feb. 28, 2009 and provide her with a positive letter of recommendation for employment elsewhere. Wiggins agreed not to sue the city, and to resign her employment effective Sept. 12, and not to seek future employment with the city.
Clanton’s disciplinary recommendations for Barnes included a two-week suspension without pay from her $87,360-a-year job, plus workplace behavior and sensitivity training, a demotion and pay cut.
Barnes appealed, but served the suspension from Sept. 16 through 29. She was also demoted from her assistant director’s job effective Oct. 1, to the position of business technician receipt officer.
She remains in the Community Services Department and does not supervise any employees. Her annual salary was also cut by $25,576; down from $87,360 to $61,784.
Barnes could not be reached for comment. Her attorney, Jennifer Daley, of the Fort Lauderdale-based Amlong & Amlong law firm, did not return calls to the newspaper, or respond to messages left at her office seeking comment.
Barnes was hired in 1979, and on Nov. 11 she will have 29 years of service on the job. In an Aug. 6, 2004 performance evaluation, she received a blistering, five-page critique of her work and job performance.
“This employee has continuously neglected assigned duties to engage in activities to discredit the Director and other personnel,” wrote Harold Horne, Barnes’ former supervisor and former director of the Community Service Department, who has since retired.
“You continue to engage in divisive and insubordinate activities while your assigned duties are neglected,” Horne wrote.
Horne also detailed incidents of what he termed as insubordination, use of profanity, and yelling at him and others, including allegations of Barnes making false statements and providing erroneous information.
Prior to the agreement, when asked if he thought Barnes’ departure was necessary, Gallegos said, “I believe it’s time, but she is still a long-term employee who has value, but right now to have her in a supervisory position is not what’s best.”