Monday, October 22, 2018
Opinion

Daniel Ruth: Did wronged female firefighter assume Tampa Fire would change its good old boy ways? Perish the thought.

Letís be honest. The latest travails of the much beleaguered Tampa firefighter Tanja Vidovic are largely of her own making. Cruel, perhaps. But true.

You might recall it was Vidovic who waged a long, bitter legal battle in federal court with Tampa Fire Rescue, accusing the department, and by extension the city of Tampa, of engaging in workplace discrimination and retaliation against her.

Vidovic prevailed, winning $245,000 damages after a jury agreed the firefighter had been discriminated against when she became pregnant and retaliated against her after she filed a complaint over her treatment.

RELATED COVERAGE Tanja Vidovic won her job back in court. Now she could face new disciplinary action

After the trial, U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich ordered the city to reinstate Vidovic to her old job. That was in April. But it didnít take long for her to find herself getting sideways with her bosses.

Days ago Vidovic was ordered by the fire chief himself, Nick LoCicero, to appear before a department star chamber to answer to allegations she had created a hostile work environment and had been untruthful.

The department also imposed a gag order on Vidovic, preventing her from publicly telling her side of the story.

But letís be honest here. Vidovic is guilty, guilty, guilty as sin.

Perhaps Vidovic was naive enough to think she could simply waltz back into her old job of serving the public and saving lives and all would be forgiven.

Perhaps she was Pollyannish enough to believe she could spend two years in a court fight exposing Tampa Fire Rescue as a good olí boys club that treated female colleagues as cute window dressing and the very people she had called out as misogynist oafs would welcome her back with air kisses and pat on the back for a job well done.

And perhaps Vidovic was gullible enough to expect her court victory might at least provide some protection against future mistreatment.

But she was wrong.

You better believe Vidovic has created a hostile work environment. Her mere presence in the fire house is a constant reminder of the embarrassment she revealed within Tampa Fire Rescue.

So you sort of have to suspect if Vidovic denied she had created a hostile work environment by simply showing up for work, within the Kafkaesque confines of Tampa Fire Rescue, that would certainly qualify as a boldfaced lie. Ergo, untruthfulness.

Adding to the kangaroo court-like proceedings is the fact that the very people now sitting in judgment over Vidovic ó who have the power to fire her, ruin her career and deny her a pension ó are the very hierarchy she was suing in federal court just a few short months ago.

Do you think there just might be a pinch of conflict of interest here?

And that brings us, sadly again, to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who sided with Tampa Fire Rescue during the Vidovic lawsuit and practically had to be slapped upside the head to be persuaded to drop an appeal of the jury verdict the city was sure to lose.

From day one of the Vidovic saga, Buckhorn could have ordered the city to settle with the firefighter. He could have implemented sweeping reforms of the department to protect its female employees from harassment and discrimination. But he didnít.

Hereís a tea leaf to watch. By the end of this month, the Democrats will have selected their gubernatorial nominee. The nominee will need a running mate. And being the mayor of Tampa, which is the fulcrum of the key I-4 corridor mother lode of votes, would be a major asset to anyone aspiring to become governor.

But what candidate for governor, especially in this #MeToo era, would tap a running mate who has stood by and allowed a female firefighter to be mistreated by the departmentís alleged leadership ó for a second time, no less?

Itís always worth noting that Buckhorn has been a very fine mayor for the city. Heís a good man, too. But when it comes to the egregious maltreatment of Tanja Vidovic, Hizzoner has cultivated a tin ear.

As a result Vidovic could lose her career. Buckhorn, too.

 
Comments
Editorial notebook: Times editorial writers reminisce about Sears

Editorial notebook: Times editorial writers reminisce about Sears

Sharing memories of the “wish book,” shopping on Saturday nights and many memorable purchases
Published: 10/19/18

Editorial: FBI should take a hard look at CareerSource

The scrutiny now extends to the state agency that oversees the local jobs centers
Published: 10/19/18
Editorial: Toughen Florida’s building code

Editorial: Toughen Florida’s building code

Experts are right that Hurricane Michael should force a review of Florida’s building standards. While newer homes generally fared better than older ones, the state needs to reassess the risks posed by high winds and storm surge.
Published: 10/19/18
Editorial: Those who fail to cast ballots in Hillsborough are running out of excuses

Editorial: Those who fail to cast ballots in Hillsborough are running out of excuses

You wouldn't skip a trip to the gas pump, would you?Then don't miss the chance to cast your general election ballot, either, when Hillsborough County opens its many early voting sites Monday morning for a two-week engagement.If you do your homework a...
Published: 10/19/18

Editorial: Glazer Children’s Museum quickly regained its step

Jennifer Stancil was terminated from her $169,280 a year job last month as museum president and chief executive, a post she held for three years. Exactly why remained a mystery to those outside the museum.
Published: 10/18/18
Updated: 10/19/18
Editorial: Trump should demand Saudis account for journalist

Editorial: Trump should demand Saudis account for journalist

Twenty-seven journalists have been murdered so far this year just for doing their jobs, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. That number doesn’t even include Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident journalist who hasn’t been ...
Published: 10/17/18
Updated: 10/19/18
Editorial: Restart selection process for Florida Supreme Court justices

Editorial: Restart selection process for Florida Supreme Court justices

The Florida Supreme Court reached the right conclusion by ruling that the next governor has the authority to appoint three new justices to the court rather than departing Gov. Rick Scott. That is practical and reasonable, and it reflects the will of ...
Published: 10/16/18
Updated: 10/19/18

Editorial: Housecleaning was necessary at Clearwater parks department

The theft of money and a hostile atmosphere show a city department out of control
Published: 10/15/18
Updated: 10/19/18
Editorial: Bilirakis mimics Trump, colleagues in misleading voters

Editorial: Bilirakis mimics Trump, colleagues in misleading voters

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis wants voters to believe he is different than his Republican colleagues in Congress and President Donald Trump. The Palm Harbor Republican says he pays more attention to local issues than to the president, claims he doesnȁ...
Published: 10/15/18
Updated: 10/16/18
Editorial: Answering questions about Hillsborough school tax

Editorial: Answering questions about Hillsborough school tax

The Hillsborough County school tax on the Nov. 6 ballot is a smart, necessary investment in the nation's eighth-largest school system. The 10-year, half-penny sales tax would create stronger, safer schools and a healthier learning environment for mor...
Published: 10/12/18
Updated: 10/19/18