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Hernando County worker keeps job after appeal

BROOKSVILLE — The county utilities worker fired last week for making a sexually suggestive comment to a co-worker has won an appeal to keep his job.

Carl Kennedy, a county employee since December 1994, was terminated a week ago after saying to a female co-worker he passed in the hallway, "If I had a swing like that on my back porch, I would take it apart screw by screw.''

When his bosses called him into the office to ask him about the incident, Kennedy admitted making the comment. The paperwork on his termination cited the fact that the county had a zero-tolerance policy for any type of harassment.

Kennedy had also just recently been through training on how to avoid harassment — training county employees were ordered to attend after charges of racial discrimination and harassment were leveled against other workers in the Utilities Department several months ago.

Kennedy filed the appeal of his dismissal on Wednesday. The county's grievance process starts with that formal notice. The policy allows the employee to make his case to his direct supervisor and then up the chain of command until an agreement is reached.

The ultimate authority in such matters is the county administrator.

In Kennedy's case, the appeal was heard by Jesse Goodwin, assistant utilities director; Larry Jennings, deputy county administrator; Jon Jouben, assistant county attorney; and Beth Howley, employment coordinator for the Human Resources Department.

Their action rescinded the termination and replaced it with a three-day unpaid suspension, which ended Thursday. Kennedy is also on probation for six months, but has no other conditions to meet as part of that probation.

The panel members did not explain why they reversed the decision to fire Kennedy. Kennedy could not be reached for comment.

The other county employee who was fired last week for making sexually suggestive phone calls to two women, property management coordinator Michael Silvey, had not filed an appeal as of Friday afternoon. He has until Monday to do so.

Silvey was terminated after he called a secretary in the county's human resources office and an employee of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, both of whom he had worked with before, and asked them for sex.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando County worker keeps job after appeal 09/05/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 8, 2008 12:28pm]
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