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Union opposes suspension of city worker accused of referring to mayor as clown

Robin Wynn has worked for the city of St. Petersburg for 20 years.
Published Sep. 19, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — A city of St. Petersburg employee accused of referring to Mayor Rick Kriseman as a "clown" on Facebook has been suspended without pay for five days.

Robin Wynn, a crew leader in the stormwater department, posted the phrase "What a clown" on Sept. 6 on the Facebook page of a local Internet radio program, the Homemade Broadcast, according to a disciplinary notice issued Friday. The comment was under an item announcing an upcoming interview with Kriseman, the document said.

Wynn is accused of violating a city personnel rule that applies to "unlawful or improper conduct on or off the job, which would tend to affect the employee's relationship to the job, fellow workers, reputation or goodwill in the community."

"These comments were inappropriate, offensive and a deliberate attempt to denigrate the mayor," the notice said.

Union officials are fighting Wynn's suspension and will ask for a grievance hearing, said Rick Smith, chief of staff for the Florida Public Services Union/SEIU.

Smith said Wynn posted the phrase in a different context. He noted that Kriseman's name was not included in Wynn's comment, which was no longer online Friday. Either way, the disciplinary action is a "huge waste of taxpayer dollars" that also raises First Amendment issues, Smith said. "I don't think the mayor's office would engage in these kinds of things," he said. "Mayor Kriseman's got such thicker skin than that. We could be spending all of this time and energy supporting the mayor's community actions"

The mayor's staff noticed the comment and brought it to the attention of Kriseman and human resources, said spokesman Ben Kirby. HR officials consulted the city's legal staff and moved forward with the discipline, he said.

"The mayor didn't advise us to do anything," he said. "That's why we went to HR, as a simple inquiry, really: What do we do with this, if anything? If nothing, that's fine. They chose to take the action that they did."

Smith said Wynn hasn't received a written disciplinary notice in the 21 years she has worked for the city.

Contact Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

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