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Madeira Beach HR manager locks horns with mayor, two commissioners

MADEIRA BEACH — The city's human resources manager has broadened her complaint of a hostile work environment to include Mayor Travis Palladeno and Commissioner Nancy Oakley.

The original complaint was filed against Commissioner Robin Vander Velde weeks ago but gave little detail.

In a four-page memo sent to Interim City Manager Bill Mallory last week, Deborah Cline produced details not only against Vander Velde but against Palladeno and Oakley.

Describing the alleged actions by the three as "unwelcome behavior," Cline gave half a dozen examples that she says interfere with her ability to do her job.

"I will view any attempt to remove me from the city of Madeira Beach's employ, or from my position as human resources manager, as retaliatory in nature," Cline said in her memo.

Palladeno on Tuesday questioned Cline's "motivation" for the complaint. At the same time, he acknowledged that he, Vander Velde and Oakley are on the record as favoring the elimination of her position in next year's city budget.

During his election campaign, Palladeno promised to reduce city operational costs by eliminating and/or outsourcing administrative functions so that the saved money could be spent on improving the city's infrastructure.

"I am not raising taxes in this town. I am not going to do it," Palladeno said. "I won with 64 percent of the vote and I am doing what I said I would do."

When reached Tuesday about her complaints, Cline would only say that she wants her issues "resolved quickly" so that "everyone involved" can "focus on the pressing issues facing the city."

Specifically, Cline said she wants Vander Velde, Oakley and Palladeno to allow her to perform her job "without interference."

That interference, according to Cline, includes:

• The mayor questioning her right to speak with a St. Petersburg Times reporter.

• Comments by the mayor in multiple news articles that "disparage (Cline's) reputation and create hostile or disagreeable feelings" toward her.

• "Intentional sabotage" by Vander Velde and Oakley that violated the city's personnel policies and the city charter when they questioned Cline's ability to perform her recruitment and hiring duties.

• Vander Velde's questioning of Cline's ability to maintain security of personnel documents, and comments that Cline's sole possession of keys to locked personnel records was "a critical point of failure" in the city's security procedures.

"Her (Vander Velde's) implication that I did not hold records securely was an insult," Cline wrote. "Her accusations and implications are without merit and detrimental to my professional reputation."

Cline maintains that the "scrutiny and verbal attack" by Palladeno constitutes harassment.

She also complained about City Attorney Tom Trask, who she said told her he had been "told a number of things in confidence that I cannot divulge to you."

Trask, reached Tuesday, declined to comment and said the city's labor attorney, Tom Gonzalez, was handling the matter.

As remediation for her complaints, Cline not only wants them to stop but is demanding that no commissioner, the mayor or "their agents or representatives" be allowed to make "any disparaging comments/innuendos" about her ability to perform her job.

"Our attorney told me the allegations are just plain silly," Palladeno said Tuesday.

In an e-mail to Palladeno and Mallory, Gonzalez dismissed the human resources manager's claims.

"I see nothing in the complaint which describes a legally hostile workplace or harassment," Gonzalez wrote.

Specifically, he said, the "interference" alleged by Cline does not legally exist because "an individual commissioner has no authority," and that their actions are "not a violation of law" and don't "rise to the level of a grievance or complaint."

Gonzalez also said Palladeno's attempt to find out whether Cline had contact with a Times reporter is not an "unlawful" action.

Palladeno said Tuesday he intends to enforce the city's policy manual, which he says specifies that only the city manager, the city clerk, the mayor and commissioners are allowed to talk to the media.

"It's the rules, it's policy," he said, adding that if other city employees talk to the press, "they are not doing themselves any good."

Madeira Beach HR manager locks horns with mayor, two commissioners 06/14/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 5:23pm]
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