Former employee files suit against City of Tallahassee

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By: Mariel Carbone WCTV Eyewitness News
November 13, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) --- A former employee for the City of Tallahassee has filed suit against the city and the General Manager of electric utilities alleging improper conduct by city leaders during power restoration efforts following Hurricane Hermine, among other things.

In court documents obtained by WCTV, plaintiff Clinton Smith alleges special treatment for the family and friends of city officials. The suit goes on to claim that power restoration was intentionally made available to those individuals. Smith worked for the city for nearly two years. He was laid off earlier this year along with dozens of other employees to make up for a budget shortfall.

According to the suit, the "Plaintiff received repeated and/or incessant text messages and other communications from various elected city official and senior management advising and/or directing him to give priority to and/or address power outages in so-called 'hot spots.'"

It goes on to say that Smith was "furnished with street addresses to which he was directed by city officials to give special attention above other areas of the city that were experiencing outages."

He accuses these officials of providing fake addresses, which happened to be adjacent or near the city official's home or that of their friends and family.

The suit also claims that efforts were slowed at the Governor's mansion, alleging that General Manager of Electric Utilities Rob McGarrah said, "he (the Governor) will be the last SOB the city to get power."

The suit further details what the plaintiff recalls as a misappropriation of funds when it came to a bid for contractors to restore power.

It also details an instance where families were allegedly being shocked at a playground maintained by the City of Tallahassee.

The playground is along FAMU Way and was built as part of a Blueprint 2000 project. The report indicates that Smith believed the shock was being caused "by the interaction between the artificial turf that had been installed in the park and the static charges from the electrical transmission line over the park."

Smith accused McGarrah of not wanted to take financial responsibility for the issue and instead followed recommendations to pour Downy fabric softener onto the turf to reduce the static.

Autumn Calder, with Blueprint 2000, confirmed the Downy solution. She indicated that the issue of static shock is common for newly laid artificial turf, and that the use of fabric softener was a solution recommended by the manufacturer of the turf. She also explained that once that method was used, the problem seemed to be resolved.

Another accusation alludes to city officials working with developer JT Burnette to manipulate an eminent domain case.

According to the law suit Smith was "told of a plan that... contemplated sending an individual to the subject property owner under the guise of a private 'interested' party for the purpose of buying/securing options on the property which he could then, in turn, sell directly to the City."

JT Burnette is also named in two federal subpoenas delivered to the City of Tallahassee for an investigation delving into development deals.

Mayor Andrew Gillum responded to the suit with the following statement:

"The City of Tallahassee is committed to providing excellent customer service to all of our residents. While the source of these accusations
is an employee who was terminated from his position at the city almost a year after Hurricane Hermine, I still take any talk of wrongdoing very seriously.

"I will take a look at any and all evidence that is provided, though to this point none has been brought to our attention. I have full confidence that the men and women who worked during the storm performed their duties fairly and tirelessly to restore power to all citizens in the most effective and efficient way possible, and that will continue to be the policy of our government moving forward."

Deputy City Manager, now Interim City Manager, Reese Goad said, "the accusations are unsubstantiated and baseless and appear to be designed to disparage the City and its employees."

The suit is seeking $15,000 in damages.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News
November 12, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) --- A former employee for the City of Tallahassee has filed suit against the city, alleging improper conduct by city leaders during power restoration efforts following Hurricane Hermine.

In court documents obtained by WCTV, plaintiff Clinton Smith alleges special treatment for the family and friends of city officials. The suit goes on to claim that power restoration was intentionally made available to those individuals.

The suit also claims that efforts were slowed at the Governor's mansion.

The suit further details what the plaintiff recalls as a misappropriation of funds when it came to a bid for contractors to restore power.

Mayor Andrew Gillum responded to the suit with the following statement:

"The City of Tallahassee is committed to providing excellent customer service to all of our residents. While the source of these accusations is an employee who was terminated from his position at the city almost a year after Hurricane Hermine, I still take any talk of wrongdoing very seriously.

"I will take a look at any and all evidence that is provided, though to this point none has been brought to our attention. I have full confidence that the men and women who worked during the storm performed their duties fairly and tirelessly to restore power to all citizens in the most effective and efficient way possible, and that will continue to be the policy of our government moving forward."

The suit is seeking $15,000 in damages.



 
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