Leo Daniel Parrot (Parrott) was hired by the City of Debary (the City) as its City Manager on February 8, 2010. The Plaintiff, Stacy Tebo (Tebo) had been hired by the City of DeBary as its City Clerk in April 2005. Tebo had been supervised and evaluated by the City’s Finance Director, James Sealbinder, until 2010 when Parrott transferred her from under the Finance Director to directly report to him as the City Manager.
Tebo was terminated effective May 17, 2015. Parrott set out the reasons for the Plaintiff’s termination in his letter of April 17, 2015 and April 24, 2015. In general terms Tebo was fired as a result of a number of incidents of insubordination and acts of disloyalty.
The record is replete with evidence of Tebo’s insubordination and disloyalty. The most obvious evidence is the indisputable efforts of Tebo to get Parrott fired. Parrott became aware, from various sources, that Tebo was going behind his back to City Council members to voice complaints about his performance as City Manager. During Tebo’s November 20, 2014 evaluation meeting, Parrott instructed Tebo, his subordinate, to desist from complaining about him to City Council members. He warned her that he could fire her whenever he wanted and she understood that she was an at will employee.
Tebo acknowledges that despite being a direct report to the City Manager, and having been warned by the City Manager to desist in her efforts to undermine his position, she nonetheless continued to complain to City Council members about his performance as City Manager. Tebo, when asked in her deposition whether she understood that it was improper and taboo to go to Council members to complain about a City Manager, her answer was “Yes. It’s a good way to get fired”. In her initial brief, she tries to justify this misconduct by stating that ther was “no mechanism” for her to raise her complaints about the City Manager. Of course, she had no choice, given her service as the City’s HR Director, but to admit that she was aware of the EEOC.
Tebo would have the Court believe that she went to Council members Carson, Hunt and Koval in a desperate attempt to get Parrott to stop discriminating against her. This is nonsense. Tebo went to Council members to complain about Parrott’s performance. She complained that Parrott was “unresponsive to her requests for information or direction” and her resulting “Frustration”.
The City and Parrot argues that her complaints to City Council members were a pretextual reason for her termination in 2015, because her complaints to City Council members were made in 2013, and Parrot was aware of same in 2013. However, what she claims did or didn’t do is not the issue, the question is what Parrott believed she was doing. In any event, by her own testimony, she continued to complain about Parrott, to at least one council member into May of 2014.
Another basis for her termination was that she called a City Council member to inquire about the confidential executive session meeting, where Parrott was assigned her City Clerk duties. Parrott testified that Council member Dwyer reported that Tebo had been insistent in trying to get information from him regarding a confidential executive session. Tebo denies being insistent.
Not satisfied with merely complainging about her supervios, Tebo also admits encouraging other employees to complain about the City Manager. In fact, Tebo believes her complaints about Parrott were ultimately successful and were a contributing factor in his separating employment with the City.
Furthermore, despite Parrott having told her not to speak about him to City Council members during their meeting of November 20, 2014, Tebo spoke with the Mayor about Parrott’s potential termination in March of 2015. Parrott finally decided to Terminate ?Tebo after receiving a report from them City Mayor, Clint Johnson, that followed a City Council Meeting (in March of 2015), Tebo raised with him reasons for terminating Parrott’s employment and opined as to how other council members might vote on that issue. Mayor Johnson also reported to Parrott that Tebo was going through his e-mails searching for unflattering materials.
Another identified basis for her termination relates to a public records request by Barry Maguire. Tebo acknowledged difficulty in responding to Mr. Maguire’s public records e-mail requests. Though Tebo denies not providing Parrott with a complete set of documents that had been requested by Mr. Maguire, a fair reading of her testimony reflects substantial confusion over the process and contents of the e-mails provided to Mr. Maguire and the copies supplied to Parrott. Regarding Parrott’s belief that Tebo provided him with an incomplete response to his request for the e-mails produced to Mr. Maguire, there is no dispute that his opinion resulted fromm his comparison of the e-mails she produced and those provided to him by Eric Frankton, the City’s IT person. Though Tebo claims that neither Parrott nor Mr. Frankton understood the City’s e-mail archiver system; she offered no evidence that Parrott did not reasonably believe that she had failed to provide him with a complete copy of the Maguire public records response.With regard to the e-mail account for City business that she created in her own name, Tebo had a lengthly and confusing explanation as to why it was necessary and her contention that Parrott had several years earlier authorized her use of same. Parrott denied any knowledge of, or authorization for, the separate e-mail account. He also explained that, in addition to it being password protected, this e-mail account was not within the City’s archival system and the City had no record of what went in and out of it.
Tebo asserts as evidence of Parrott’s discriminatory motivation, his alleged comments that women were catty, emotional, had too much estrogen, and were always bitching. Nevertheless, this alleged inappropriate behavior did ot cause her to hesitate from making requests of Parrott for cash payment of accrued personal hours, or for a raise. All requests that Parrot granted. Likewise, his claimed discriminatory behavior did not keep her from receiving favorable evaluations.
Tebo claims that Parrott was a sexist and did not want to hire or work with women, yet he hired Kassandra Blissitt as his Assistant City Manager. Though she claims he did not want to, Parrot replaced the City’s retiring male finance director with a female. He also made Tebo a direct report.
Tebo claims that his conduct with regard to Kendra Kabbas’s exit interfiew form was evidence of Parrott’s discriminatory behavior toward women. Ms. Kabbas resigned on January 29, 2014. Her exit interview form reflected a “good work experience,” but for some inappropriate comments by supervisors. Tebo raised the “inappropriate comments” statement to Parrott who gave her “a very stern order” not to speak to the former employee about her complaint. Dispite having been so instructed by Parrott, Tebo allowed Ms. Kabbas to enter City offices after 5 PM, advised her of Mr. Parrott’s intention to take no action on the “inappropriate comments” reference and accommodated her amendment to the exit form to clarify the comment she had made about her supervisors so as to specifically identify Mr. Fletcher as the supervisor. Tebo did this knowing that Parrott wanted her to take no action on the complaint of this former employee.
Tebo testified that she did not know what, if anything, Parrott did after receiving former employee Kabbas’s amended exit interview form specifying that her complaint was about Mr. Fletcher. However, after receiving the amended exit interview form, Parrott interviewed the relevant employee witnesses regarding the incident and found no proof of the misconduct claimed by Tebo. The investigation led Parrott to lose trust in Tebo’s handling of H.R. matters and caused him to transfer the H.R. functions to Assistant City Manager Blissett.
Parrott also investigated the complaint of Melanie Martinez about Mr. Fletcher, which was made over a year later. Her complaint was not of sexual harassment, but about her belief that she was being unfairly assigned duties, excessively criticized, and not made to feel part of the team. As a result, Parrott ordered Mr. Fletcher to attend a team building workshop, which he did.
Tebo contends that the results of the pay study were discriminatory to women. This contention is meritless. The purpose of the pay study was to address turnover issues with the City’s hourly field workers. The study was performed by an outside firm selected through the RFP process. The study concluded that City administration employees (comprising virtually all of the City’s female employees) were being paid a competitive wage. However, the City’s field employees (exclusively male) were underpaid compared to the market. That the pay study recommended higher percentage pay increases for the field employees was to be expected and certainly was not discriminatory.
Tebo’s assertion that she was personally subject to sex discrimination as a result of the pay study centers on her belief she should have been assigned pay grade 22, not pay grade 20. Tebo cites to a conclusory allegation in an affidavit of Kassandra Blissett who claims she was present when Parrott “personally and arbitrarily lowered Tebo’s proposed class (lower than any supervisor or department director grade)
The pay grades assigned to City employees were done as part of the pay study, not by Parrott. The grade assigned to particular positions reflected the job responsibilities of the position in light of similar positions in nearby Cities and Counties. Even assuming that Parrott personally lowered Tebo’s class, her belief that she should have been a grade 22 (the Department Director level) is unjustified. At this point in time, Tebo was no longer performing the H.R. functions, she had no subordinates to supervise and the City Clerk was not an independent department. Further, as to Tebo in particular, the pay study reflected that her salary was $4,000 above the market rate.
In her brief, Tebo alleges various events (some of which were not raised to the Trial Judge) which she contends constitute evidence of pretext. Tebo asserts that in May of 2014, Parrott tried to force Assistant City Manager Blissett to fire her and that this is evidence of pretext. How this is evidence of pretext regarding the City’s termination decision made almost a year later escapes understanding. More importantly is the fact that the statement simply cannot be true. Even if one were to disregard that Tebo was a direct report to Parrott, not Ms. Blissett, Ms. Blissett lacked the authority to terminate Tebo, or any City employee for that matter. City policy vested that authority solely in the City Manager.
Tebo would also like the Court to believe that Parrott called Assistant City Manager Blissett the “County whore”. Parrott did not, he advised Ms. Blissett of the comment which had been made by an elected official.
Tebo claims that Parrott “arbitrarily” gave Warren Graham an 8% raise, but not the longer tenured female, Accounting Clerk, Deanna Hutchinson. She ignores the fact that Graham held a higher-level position.
Another previously unraised “fact” presented as evidence of pretext is that Ms. Martinez told them Mr. Fletcher made a “number of comments” about her “body…” This assertion is neither supported by the page cited, or anywhere else in the record. The incident in record relates to a single comment by Mr. Fletcher to Ms. Martinez regarding her ass being chewed out (mis-transcribed as “shoot” in the deposition).
Another issue not raised in Tebo’s Response to the City’s Motion for Summary Judgment, is a claim that late in 2013, Parrott intended to fire her, as evidence by an error in the resolution substituting the Panning Administrator’s name, Rebecca Hammock, for Tebo’s on the signature line of a resolution. How this has any relevance to the issue of pretext with regard to a decision made over a year later is a mystery.
Moreover, the entire issue is nonsense, as Parrott explained it was a mistake by an associate at the law firm of the City Attorney. A fact which the City and Parrott would have established in their Summary Judgment Reply had they been given the opportunity. Relevant evidence, such as the affidavit of Chris Conley, the associate to the City Attorney, who accepted responsibility for the mix-up and apologized, would have been submitted.
The Plaintiff alleges that she was retaliated against as a result of her complaining of sex discrimination to the EEOC. Tebo wrote a letter to the EEOC on March 16, 2015. However, TEbo did not write this letter to protect her civil rights. Tebo wrote the letter so as to increase Parrott’s “general displeasure with having to deal with issues (personnel problems) that arise being a City Manager” She testified that “honestly, I thought he would quit if he saw an EEOC complaint, but I was super wrong, and if he would have quit, that that would have been the end of it.”
Tebo filed her actual charge of discrimination on April 23, 2015. This filing was six days after her notification that her employment was to be terminated effective May 17, 2015.