City of Tallahassee HR Director fired, alleges ‘retaliation’

Ellen Blair advised strongly against retaining a TPD officer who tested positive for amphetamines.
Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 4:31 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The City of Tallahassee’s longtime Human Resources Director said she was fired on Friday morning “without notice or explanation,” in a statement provided to WCTV.

Ellen Blair, who served in the role for nearly 10 years, said she believes the decision was retaliatory.

“I have done right by the city of Tallahassee, and have performed my duties with the utmost care, honesty and integrity,” she wrote in a statement to WCTV. “I believe that my termination was in retaliation for certain reports made to city officials.”

WCTV reached out to city representatives multiple times beginning early Friday afternoon seeking clarity on the situation. Several calls and texts made to Communications Director Alison Farris were not acknowledged. No comment or explanation had been provided on behalf of the city as of late Friday night.

The move comes after recent controversy over the handling of an on-duty Tallahassee Police Department officer, who during a random drug test in June, tested positive for a controlled substance for which he did not have a subscription.

As WCTV reported last week, Police Chief Lawrence Revell chose to reinstate the senior-level officer after two tests of the same urine sample showed he had amphetamine in his system. The officer reportedly said he took his wife’s Adderal medication by accident.

Internal records show Blair pushed back against the reinstatement, stating in emails that the city has a strict zero-tolerance policy for drug use. The city terminated 21 employees since 2020 because of the rule, according to records obtained by WCTV. This officer was the sole exception.

Ellen Blair says her employment with the city was abruptly terminated Friday morning in a...
Ellen Blair says her employment with the city was abruptly terminated Friday morning in a decision she says was retaliatory.(City of Tallahassee)

In public records obtained by WCTV, Revell and other city officials referenced a rule in the Police Benevolent Association’s collective bargaining agreement that may provide the chief latitude in decision-making. However, internal emails show there were concerns from some city employees that the language in the PBA agreement did not match the language in the city’s copy of the agreement. As a result, the details of the city policy have been a source of debate.

Last week, the attorney for another Tallahassee Police Officer who was recently fired spoke out questioning if his client was treated fairly. Now-former TPD officer Derek Braxton was arrested for assault after getting into a physical argument while off-duty.

“I think there’s a difference in what we’re hearing now about, you know, the discipline procedure for other officers,” Tallahassee lawyer Mutaqee Akbar told WCTV at the time.

The former officer’s arrest and dismissal were not initially made public, but TPD answered a list of questions WCTV sent after the news became public.

At Wednesday night’s commission meeting, City Manager Reese Goad indicated commissioners voted to approve the policy in question.

“This commission is the one who adopted the policy provision that was exercised by the chief, you voted on it Commissioner Matlow, you voted on it.”

Goad also commented during the meeting on the decision to keep the officer.

“The people you heard from today, they are not going to throw the employees out with the trash. They’re going to give them the benefit of the doubt,” he said.

In Blair’s emails last year regarding the officer, she expressed concern for the precedent and liability keeping the officer on staff would create.

She wrote in her statement Friday that she is worried the dismissal could affect other city personnel.

Blair did not explicitly state if she believes her firing is linked to the controversy with the TPD officer. She declined to comment further on the situation, saying she needs time to process the morning’s events.

City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow publicly criticized Blair’s termination Friday morning.

“Honesty and integrity are noticeably absent from the fourth floor,” he wrote in a Tweet. ”The character assassination will likely come next.”