OFFICIALS SAY TERMINATION BASED ON AUDIT

Discrimination complaint filed by ex-town clerk


Published: Thursday, January 15, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 15, 2004 at 12:36 a.m.

MICANOPY - A former town clerk has filed a complaint against the town with the state Commission on Human Relations saying she was discriminated against because of her race and gender before being fired last year.

Karen Strobles was fired by the Town Commission in September. Town officials said the action was taken based on an audit that revealed sloppy handling of the town's money, for which Strobles was in charge of keeping account.

According to a copy of the complaint obtained by The Sun, Strobles, who is black, said she was audited in a way that was not consistent with past practices and questioned about the use of company credit cards she had been approved by commissioners to use. Strobles also wrote that she was terminated despite having had an "outstanding" evaluation months earlier.

The complaint was also sent to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Town officials said the audit was not directed at Strobles, but was requested after the firing of Everett Brown as town recreation director. Brown was fired after he was arrested on charges related to the beating of his girlfriend, officials said.

"The audit was called due to the fact that the recreation director had access to the safe and other monies and he was the one that was in trouble at the time," Commissioner Carson Roberts said. "So we called for an audit to see if he was involved in anything and, as a result of that, we found other discrepancies."

According to a preliminary draft of information the town was asked to send to the state commission, the audit found incomplete accounting records and bank reconciliations, and problems with accounting procedures.

Strobles, who served as deputy clerk for eight years before being promoted, had said when the audit was released that she was overworked and not given proper training to use financial software.

After a complaint is filed with the state Commission on Human Resources it is reviewed and, if accepted, those involved have the option of coming to a resolution through mediation, according to the state commission. Town officials said they were told Strobles had declined to go through mediation.

If mediation is unsuccessful, the complaint is reviewed by an investigator who conducts interviews, reviews documents and prepares a recommendation.

That recommendation goes to the Commission on Human Resources executive director, who determines if there is cause to believe discrimination occurred.

The case can be taken to court at any time during the process, according to the state commission.

Attempts to reach Strobles were unsuccessful.

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