DEERFIELD BEACH — The unpaid suspension of city of Deerfield Beach maintenance worker, Cassandra Moye, for failing to greet Mayor Peggy Noland on Monday, Aug. 3 was downgraded on Wednesday, Aug. 5, to a written counseling.
The move came after the South Florida Times published reports about the issue on its website on Tuesday.
“After reviewing my memorandum of August 3, 2009 to you (copy attached) recommending a two day suspension without pay, I see the need for correction,” Acting Director of Parks and Recreation George Edmunds wrote in his Aug. 5 memo to Moye.
“My memorandum gives the impression that disciplinary action was requested by the Mayor. That is not correct and I want to make it clear. I observed your conduct and, in fact, felt it to be disrespectful to me, and the Mayor, and was in need of strong guidance and correction so that it does not reoccur. It clearly appeared that by your conduct you were attempting to demonstrate to those around you that you were ignoring the Mayor.”
Edmunds also laid out Moye’s new punishment in the memo: “In addition, your conduct in my office toward me upon receiving my August 3, 2009 memorandum was disrespectful and a violation of the Personnel Rules and Regulations, Article 9.03 h. as follows: ‘Offensive conduct or language toward the public, toward City officials or toward other employees.’
The memo continues, “As a City employee you are expected to treat all persons with respect at all times. In consideration of the above and after reviewing your personnel file with Linda King, Acting Director of Human Resources, it is my decision to change my recommendation for a two day suspension without pay to a written counseling.”
Moye said she did nothing wrong and intends to fight the new charge and to seek back pay and full exoneration.
“I’m going forward with my grievances,” said Moye, who returned to work on Thursday, Aug 6. “This is childish retaliation and discrimination.”
It is not clear if Moye will be paid for the two days off from work, but union officials said they intend to fight for her full reimbursement.
In the initial suspension notice Edmunds issued to Moye, he relied in part, on information reportedly provided by Noland as the basis for deciding to take the disciplinary action against Moye.
“On Monday, August 3, 2009 at approximately 9:00 AM at the North Pavilion the disrespectful attitude you displayed to the Mayor was unacceptable. 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,” the notice states.
However, in a memo she sent to Edmunds on Wed., Aug. 5, following published reports about the suspension, Noland denied commenting about Moye’s behavior.
“I have read your recommendation with regard to a two day suspension for Cassandra Moye for a certain incident that occurred on August 3, 2009,” Noland wrote. “I want to be clear that I have not advocated any discipline against Ms. Moye. I did not notice any conduct by Ms. Moye and did not comment on any behavior on her part.”
Neither Edmunds, nor City Manager Michael Mahaney responded to calls or emails from the newspaper about Edmunds’ and Noland’s conflicting versions of the incident.
However, Moye’s union representative said the mayor denied the memo’s content to them as well.
“We are asking those questions. I met with the Mayor, and she told me Cassandra didn’t do anything improper,” acknowledged Joseph Metts, president of local 1010 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) union, which represents over 500 tradesman, maintenance and clerical workers employed by the city of Deerfield Beach.
“She [Mayor Peggy Noland] said she had nothing to do with the suspension, and that she [Moye] got out of her truck and walked past them, and nobody said anything to anyone, and there was no problem with her conduct at all.”
Edmunds has rescinded the original charges and suspension, but he has now accused Moye of a new violation related to the mayoral snub. This time he has recommended a written counseling as punishment, even though Moye already served her two-day suspension without pay on Aug. 4 and 5.
Barry Butin, Co-Chair of the Broward County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Legal Panel, said the freedom of speech organization is now monitoring the case.
“I think she has an absolute right not to speak, maybe she was busy working or thinking about something, but even if she wasn’t, this is outrageous. Unless there are a lot of things missing from this memo, it’s not a work related issue and it is absolutely ridiculous.”
“We normally don’t get involved with employment matters, but this is so ridiculous, we sent it to our Legal Panel to review, and they decided to monitor this case,” Butin explained. “She should be made whole and the city should have those records stricken,” he said.
Moye, 44, is a five-year maintenance worker in the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. She earns $12.33 an hour keeping the city’s beach area clean, including public restrooms and pavilions.
Moye said she walked past Noland, another employee and Edmunds, who were talking on a sidewalk. She said she neither spoke to nor interrupted them.
Less than an hour later, Edmunds summoned Moye into his office, which is located across town in the city’s maintenance facilities at 210 Goolsby Blvd. There, Moye said, Edmunds gave her a stern counseling for not speaking to Noland, and informed her she could face termination. He then issued the notice of suspension without pay.
“We are filing a grievance because she did nothing wrong and did not violate any rule,” Metts, the union president, vowed.
“Secondly, he [Edmunds] does not have the authority to suspend any employee. He can only recommend, and then the city manager makes the final decision, after a hearing.”
During a meeting with Edmunds on Wednesday, Metts said Edmunds remained adamant that Moye’s failure to greet the mayor amounts to insubordination and warrants action.
“He said he will not apologize or withdraw the charges,” Metts said. “So our first witness against him will be the mayor.”
Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff: Cassandra Moye