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Fired aide says her services were misused

When council member Gwen Miller fired her aide last week, she said the aide's lapses went beyond the recent bad judgment of telling a Clearwater man to "go to hell" via an e-mail message.

The aide, Tracy Davis, also was accused of regularly using the city e-mail system for personal messages.

While Davis did not contest the firing, she now contends that it was the work she was doing for Miller that contributed to her losing her temper in the e-mail. Davis said Miller saddled her with about 20 hours per month of the council member's personal work, performed on city equipment and on a taxpayer-funded salary. The work involved typing, faxing and copying letters for charity and civic organizations to which Miller belongs.

Davis said Miller started asking her to do such work in 1997 and increased the frequency over the years.

"I was under a lot of stress, typing all this stuff for her," Davis said. "I didn't complain about it to her because I didn't want to make a stink. It drove me bonkers because this wasn't part of my job description."

A public records request by the Times of Miller's office computer revealed letters soliciting support for the Charmettes, the Silhouettes, and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women _ local groups that fund scholarships for low-income black students _ and the Belmont Heights Little League.

Gwen Miller defended her actions.

"There's a charitable reason the letters were written," Miller said. "It's helping people in the community. It's part of my job to help people in the community."

Sarah Lang, the city's director of administration, referred questions about the propriety of Miller's actions to the city attorney's office. "It's always been my understanding that a city employee would be doing city work," she said.

City attorney Jim Palermo said he had not had a chance to examine the matter yet. He said he would have to look at the letters in question before giving an opinion.

_ Times Staff Writer Bill Varian contributed to this report. Christopher Goffard can be reached at (813) 226-3337 or