Several staff members of the Town of Fort Myers Beach have registered complaints with their supervisors and the Town Manager over remarks made by Vice Mayor Tracey Gore at the May 15th Town Council meeting. At that meeting she made what she contends were metaphorical comments about “little flying monkeys” during a conversation in which she urged the town to do more about controlling noise levels downtown.
During Council Member Items she brought up a complaint she’d registered with Town Manager Roger Hernstadt the previous weekend about loud music downtown. She urged the town to do something about noise ordinance violations and praised the manner in which Santini Plaza bars handle noise complaints.
Council member Anita Cereceda explained that Santini Plaza has one property owner to deal with. Gore replied that there are different owners that rent there, leading Cereceda to explain, “Yes, but there is a king.” Gore then said that council was the ‘king’ of Times Square and should do something.
“Our little flying monkeys need to make sure that they do something about this. It’s not OK,” Gore said.
Staff interpreted her comments as directed at them and sent letters of complaint to their supervisors. The Island Sand Paper obtained copies of these letters this week by filing a Public Records Request.
Doug Molloy of Street Parking wrote, “A lot of negative things have been said in the last 6 months or so in Town meetings that are impacting the public (perception) of the Town Staff in a negative way. How are citizens and visitors supposed to respect the Town when the council is making disparaging remarks publicly about its employees? The moral(e) is the lowest…I have seen in the last 17 years I have worked with the Town.”
“I have to say it is offensive, insulting and down right hurtful,” wrote Jim DeMilia. “I’ve worked here now 10+ years. I’ve lived on the island 30+ years. Like a lot of people, I’m raising a family, putting two kids through college and pay the bills like everyone else. The hostility she pushes upon us makes me wonder day to day if I will still be employed tomorrow.”
Another employee asking for confidentially, expressed concern about losing his job. “Back in 2007 when I received this job I remember saying to myself I’m going to retire from this place. But now that might be in jeopardy because of me speaking out against unrighteous comments made by Gore… I’m not a resident here, but I really enjoy serving this community.”
Stating he wanted to file an official grievance regarding Vice Mayor Gore’s comments, Public Works Supervisor Jeff Richard wrote, “Ms. Gore continues to attack staff with threats of outsourcing even though budget numbers prove that it would not be fiscally sound. There have been numerous occasions where Ms. Gore has disrespected staff such as the instance a few weeks ago when she replied that ‘most staff don’t live here anyway,’ in response to the idea of outsourcing. I myself have lived on the Island since 1999. I have raised my children here. I have worked at nearly every capacity in Public Works for the beach for over 7 years. There is hardly a day where I don’t receive a call or have to take care of a problem on my time off. This beach is my life and I, along with other Town staff, put the citizens of this beach, their safety and concern at the forefront of our mission to serve the community.”
A similar grievance was voiced by Beach Leader Chuck Gallagher who said he and other staff frequently take after-hours calls from residents. He complained of a hostile work environment and asked for an official investigation over past comments made by Vice Mayor Gore.
James Rediske joined his fellow staff members in a complaint regarding the “little flying monkeys” comment, calling it a “demeaning statement” and expressing concern at the lack of any other council member admonishing Vice Mayor Gore. “This type of behavior is not only unacceptable behavior from an elected official, but also violates the State of Florida Code of Ethics for a council member. Behavior such as this also further erodes the morale of an already fragile work force. A work force that has been regularly threatened with outsourcing, job elimination and has had to make (do) with inadequate resources to accomplish our duties.
“In our department (BASE) there are three retired Police Officers, one retired U.S. Marshal, a retired Fire Captain and a retired Army Officer, all totaling in excess of 165 years of public service and safety experience. In addition (Doug Molloy has) over 18 years experience in the parking enforcement field…Rather than calling us such a demeaning term as “Little Flying Monkeys,” I would suggest the Vice Mayor, and the Town Council, thank their lucky stars the Town has been able to assemble such a distinguished and dedicated team, and issue a public apology for their ignorance.”
Vice Mayor Gore did not respond to a request for comment on her original May 15th statement or Town staff complaints.
The next Town Council meeting is Tuesday, June 6, 2017 at 9am.