High Springs police must rehire fired employee

Published: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 7:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 7:48 p.m.

High Springs Police Chief Jim Troiano must rehire an employee who was fired in 2008 and grant her the pay she lost because she was denied due process in the termination, an arbitrator ruled in a challenge to the dismissal.

The local Police Benevolent Association, which represented Ginger Travers in a grievance against the firing, said the ruling backs its claim that Troiano mistreated employees since he was hired as chief in 2008.

"Her job...was taken away without due cause by someone who has a pattern of this kind of behavior. He is systematically trying to terminate every employee who doesn't see eye to eye with him or who he has had problems with in the past," said PBA President Brandon Kutner. "He did not go through the proper process of conducting the investigation."

Troiano said he will abide by the ruling and rehire Travers, but added he questions some of the conclusions reached by arbitrator Roger C. Williams, an attorney.

"His decision is contrary to every standard operating practice on this topic. It is going to hinder all law enforcement officials on how they conduct internal investigations," Troiano said. "The union has made it very clear they don't think my management style is the best, but come and review the records. We are documenting things and making this a professional agency."

Travers' worked at the department since 1981, primarily as an administrative assistant, and was involved in an incident in 2007 involving falsifying records. Travers said she did it at the request of a superior.

Troiano opened an internal investigation of the incident when he was hired. Another internal investigation was launched against Travers regarding comments she reportedly made to other employees about Troiano.

Troiano said Travers was told she could talk about the case with only her attorney, union representative and the internal investigator. He said that is standard procedure.

Kutner said Travers was not told what the investigation was about. She briefly mentioning the investigation with another employee. Troiano learned of that and recommended termination to City Manager Jim Drumm for insubordination. Drumm concurred.

Williams cited a U.S. appeals court decision of a Key West case in finding that Troiano's order to Travers to not discuss the case violated her constitutional free speech rights.

He also wrote that Travers' brief mention of the internal affairs investigation was not serious enough to warrant dismissal. He ordered her returned to her job and restored back pay.

Troiano said the amount of back pay has not been determined.

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