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BROOKSVILLE FIRES PUBLIC WORKS BOSS OVER LIE

The city manager says he tried to cover up improper work on the Good Neighbor Trail.

Longtime Brooksville Public Works director Emory Pierce was fired Friday for insubordination and for allowing unauthorized work to take place in the construction of the city's portion of the Good Neighbor Trail project.

In the letter of termination, City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha accused Pierce of preparing different sets of construction plans for the trail project site that called for the installation of a culvert and berm system that had not been permitted by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which is often referred to as Swiftmud.

When he was questioned about the matter, Norman-Vacha said that Pierce lied to her and the City Council for weeks until disclosing the truth.

"Your conduct has greatly affected the City's reputation and relationship with (Swiftmud) and may hinder future interactions with (the agency) and/or other regulatory agencies," Norman-Vacha wrote.

Pierce was placed on administrative leave Sept. 5 while Norman-Vacha completed her investigation. It began after the city received a letter in early August from Clay Black, with Swiftmud's regulation department, about unauthorized construction at the site.

Black said it appeared the city failed to obtain the required environmental resource permit before starting the job and that not doing so was a violation of state law.

Norman-Vacha said that Pierce assured her that the city had received an exemption from having the required permit, and in a July 30 e-mail said that a Swiftmud inspector who had visited the site "had no problem with any of our work."

Norman-Vacha said that the city has since corrected the mistakes and that work on the trail has not been impeded.

The trail, which is part of the city's revitalization plan, is being built in conjunction with Hernando County. The city's $209,000 portion of the Good Neighbor Trail is being paid for with a combination of state grants and city funds. When eventually completed, the roughly 11-mile trail will extend from Brooksville to Ridge Manor.

Before coming to the city in 1996, Pierce had overseen sewage plants in jobs with other public agencies and once worked with a private firm in Jacksonville in the mid 1980s. He received an engineering degree from the University of Florida in 1983.

In May, Pierce received high marks on his evaluation for job knowledge, reliability, initiative and adherence to policy and department rules. However, Norman-Vacha noted he needed improvements in his work quality, saying that "little effort has been taken to move the department and its functions 'to the next level.'"

Richard Radacky, Hernando County's former utilities director who was brought in during Pierce's leave, will continue to oversee the Public Works Department on an interim basis.

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or 848-1435.

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