The Bunnell City Commission is going behind closed doors this evening to discuss how to proceed with–and whether to settle–a lawsuit brought against the city by Lisa Moore, a former custodian who claims she was forced to resign at the end of 2019.
Moore is seeking more than $30,000 in damages
The city hired Moore as a part-time custodian in August 2015 and employed her full time by that November. According to her lawsuit, she complained to human resources about her supervisor, Perry Mitrano, in 2017. Mitrano, who retired in 2019, was the public works director at the time. Moore claims Mitrano discriminated against her, gave male employees better hours, called her a “blonde witch,” made her carry out menial tasks that should have been done by male employees on a different shift and talked to her “in a demeaning and sexist fashion” before reclassifying her job title as retaliation. She was paid less than men in the same classification despite working at the city longer.
Mitrano denies most of it.
“I would never disparage women, ever, in that way, my mother never taught me to do that, that’s a lie,” Mitrano said today. “I never heard any of this. I’ve never been called to be a witness of anything, noting, I didn’t even know that this lawsuit truly existed. I heard that she was going to sue, but I don’t know. What she did say to me was, ‘if I sue, I’m going to retire off the city of Bunnell.’ Now, as far as her going back to eliminating her job position, well, that’s kind of true, but let me tell you what it was. I was eliminating the budget position of housekeeping from the line in the budget. What I was doing was replacing the position with a tech position, OK? Now, she benefited from that, because I wanted to eliminate the housekeeping position and put a tech position, which the tech position was multipurpose. In housekeeping they only specified that they do housekeeping.”
The tech position allowed for more versatility and paid better, Mitrano said. “She was moved into the tech position and she got a raise for it, so what’s her complaint? I don’t understand. I was never targeting her,” he said.
In March 2019, Moore filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That year, her supervisor, Ronnie Jones, “had written a glowing evaluation” of her. But when he turned it in, Moore claims, City Manager Alvin Jackson and City Clerk Kristen Bates “decided that they would rewrite the evaluation in violation of the city’s policies in order to create a pretextual reason to fire” Moore.
Jones himself made those claims publicly before the city commission at an October 2019 meeting. Subsequently, the Jones-Moore issue played a role in then-City Commissioner Jan Reeger’s attempt several times to fire Jackson. The attempts garnered no support from fellow commissioners.
Moore’s 2018 evaluation was in fact glowing. She was rated to have “excellent professional job knowledge,” her productivity and work quality was “outstanding,” and other categories were “above standards.” Her overall evaluation found her to have improved her patience while working with others, noted her work quality and dependability, and her command of her assignments. She was given a 6.6 rating out of 7 and recommended for a raise. Mitrano and Jones signed her evaluation.
Her 2019 evaluation was a different story–at least the one that was signed and filed in her employee record. It did not bear Jones’s signatures. (Mitrano had been moved back to a different department, so he didn’t have supervisory authority over Moore at that point.) Rather, it bore the signatures of Jackson and Bates. It wasn’t nearly as glowing. She was rated “effective” on a few categories and “needs improvement” on others, was given a work plan to complete, and was said to “not always communicate well with co-workers, supervisors or directors & has been heard and observed to be disrespectful in words & tone. Other directors have reported her complaining, reliance on gossip & spreading of rumor has caused morale issues among other employees.” Still, she was also found to be “a capable worker” who “can work without direct oversight.”
In her lawsuit, Moore claims that “Jones was told by the city clerk that [Moore] had disrespected him and he continuously denied that allegation and reported that [Moore] was a very reliable and a good employee. Due to the fact that Mr. Jones would not agree with the city clerk and the city manager’s opinion of [Moore], Mr. Jones was terminated in retaliation.” (Jones was eventually rehired.) The city, Moore claims, continued to “discriminate, bully and harass” her and “forced her constructive discharge” in late December 2019.
Moore contends the city violated the Whistle-Blower Act by allegedly retaliating against her after she filed her EEOC complaint, that the city discriminated against her because she is a woman, and that the city retaliated. The suit was originally filed last June.
Bunnell denies the charges of discrimination against Moore or favoritism toward other employees and that “all adverse employment actions taken against [Moore] were based upon legitimate non-discriminatory reasons.”
The two sides have since exchanged or countered requests for information, a routine but adversarial step in such proceedings. Michael Bowling of Bell and Roper, the Orlando law firm, is representing the city. Kelly Chanfrau of Chanfrau and Chanfrau, the Daytona Beach and Palm Coast law firm, is representing Moore. The case has not been set for a hearing yet in Circuit Court.