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Fired Hernando County official Mixson files age discrimination complaint

BROOKSVILLE — Former county public works director Charles Mixson has filed an age discrimination complaint against the county, alleging his firing in January by County Administrator David Hamilton was part of a plan to purge older employees.

"The termination notice was not factually supported," Mixson, who turned 61 last month, writes in a complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on July 2.

"I believe the notice was a pretext to get rid of me as a department manager who was over age 55. I also believe it was a plan to get rid (of) all managers over age 55."

The county has until Aug. 6 to file a response that should include "specific, factual responses to every allegation of the charge," Belinda Wickes, the federal investigator assigned to the case, wrote in a letter accompanying the complaint. The complaint also notes that the county can elect to go to mediation.

County officials could not be reached Thursday evening.

"I don't want to comment," Mixson said, hanging up abruptly when reached at his Brooksville home.

Mixson had worked for Hernando County since July 1986 and was county engineer in addition to public works director.

His evaluations going back more than 10 years contain numerous references to performance problems. When Hamilton fired Mixson, he extensively documented Mixson's missteps as well as the scathing warnings he had given Mixson over just the last year and a half.

Hamilton noted that Mixson had been told his job was in jeopardy and that he must get the Hernando Beach Channel dredging project started or be fired. Hamilton even suspended Mixson without pay at one point.

Another of Mixson's projects was the soil testing and cleanup of the polluted site of the old public works compound in South Brooksville.

A dozen years have passed and the costs have risen from a contracted $77,000 to more than $3 million, and the cleanup has yet to begin.

Mixson took issue with some of Hamilton's conclusions about his oversight of the dredge.

By March, Mixson had hired Brooksville attorney Bruce Snow and requested a name-clearing hearing with the county. The hearing was scheduled, postponed and has yet to happen.

Jim Gantt, the county's former purchasing director, made a similar public accusation in May after Hamilton recommended that Gantt's position be eliminated. Gantt worked for the county for 17 years.

Gantt, 63, criticized Hamilton's methods of downsizing county government, saying Hamilton is targeting older, higher-paid workers. Hamilton declined at the time to address those remarks.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@sptimes.com.

Fired Hernando County official Mixson files age discrimination complaint 07/08/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 8, 2010 8:39pm]
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