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Ex-sheriff's worker: I want what's fair

Cindy Kuhn says she just wants to put the whole mess behind her and get on with her life.

But if Pasco Sheriff Jim Gillum chooses not to settle a 3-year-old sex discrimination case, which Kuhn has won at the state level, Kuhn may take it to federal court.

Kuhn was fired in March 1989 for, among other things, allegedly lying to her bosses at the Pasco Sheriff's Office. With a mark like that on her record, she couldn't get a job with another law enforcement agency even if she wished.

But last month, the Florida Commission on Human Relations ruled that she had been wrongfully fired, that she should be reinstated as a lieutenant and that she should get about $90,000 in back pay and legal fees.

On Jan. 31, Kuhn made a settlement offer. She hand-delivered to the Sheriff's Office a letter in which she offered to resign if she was reinstated, as long as Gillum gave her back pay, and money to cover her legal fees, lost benefits and expenses incurred during the course of her case.

"I'm not trying to make a pile of money here," Kuhn said Tuesday. "I just want to get it settled."

In the letter, she said that if Gillum agreed to her terms, she wouldn't file a discrimination suit in federal court. She asked that he respond by 5 p.m. last Friday.

In an interview Tuesday, she said she also is willing to subtract from her potential award about $43,000 of income she has earned in subsequent jobs, including her latest position as executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Pasco County. That means she would have agreed to take about $47,000.

But as of Tuesday, she still hadn't heard from Gillum or his outside attorney, Keith Tischler of Tallahassee. Her attorney, Tampa lawyer Joe Episcopo, said he may file the federal suit before the month ends.

If the legal fees for all this were coming out of Gillum's pocket, the case would have been settled two years ago, Episcopo said Tuesday.

But Tischler indicated no willingness to settle. "We feel, probably as strongly as she does, that an injustice has been done here," Tischler said.

"I don't, and the sheriff doesn't, feel she was done wrong. I feel like legally we're right. I just don't think she proved her case."

Gillum declined comment about the case Tuesday.

Kuhn, who has been struggling with this case for nearly three years, says she is tired of the hearings, rulings and apparent foot-dragging by the Sheriff's Office.

But she refuses to give up until the department says it wrongly fired her, reinstates her and gives her the back pay.

"I just want what's fair," she said.