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City Wants to Pay FF $500K To Stay Away for Good

City Wants to Pay FF $500K To Stay Away for Good

The Orlando Sentinal via YellowBrix

January 06, 2011

DAYTONA BEACH — A city firefighter has been offered a deal that would give her more than $500,000 over the next three years, and she would never once have to show up for work.

At their meeting Wednesday night, city commissioners agreed to the deal that would put the firefighter on paid leave until she retires. The firefighter, Kristine Gray, signed off on it Monday but she still has a week to back out if she wants.

The deal stems from Gray’s allegations that she was unfairly demoted in 2008 because of her gender and as part of retaliation against her.

Back in 2008, Gray was working as the city’s first female battalion chief. Gray, who is in her early 40s now, had been promoted in 2007.

After an October 2008 fire at an art gallery on Segrave Street, top firefighters accused Gray of mishandling leadership on the blaze. After an investigation, she was demoted to lieutenant.

Gray, who’s been a Daytona Beach firefighter since 1994, responded by filing various charges against the city with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as well as the Florida Human Relations Commission. She has maintained the fire was handled properly.

Now the city and Gray have come up with a settlement agreement that would bar Gray from pursuing her current complaints or other claims against the city in the future. The settlement states “the city denies all of Gray’s allegations in their entirety.” In return, Gray would be put on paid administrative leave for the next three years, earning more than $99,000 annually for the next three years along with full benefits.

The city also would pay $235,000 for her attorney’s fees within the next month. After she retires in three years, Gray would be given an estimated $70,000 per year in pension payments as well as a lump sum payment for her accrued personal leave time, according to city records and city officials. Gray has continued to work as a lieutenant for the department for the past two years, and currently earns $68,000 a year, city spokeswoman Susan Cerbone said Wednesday.

With no discussion, commissioners voted to accept the settlement Wednesday night. Various city officials declined to comment on the case, citing the seven days Gray still has to change her mind.

Gray could not be reached for comment, and her attorney did not return a call Wednesday. Both Gray and her attorney, Judith Lane, signed the settlement Monday.

The deal would bar Gray from ever stepping foot on Fire Department property, or working for the city again. But the settlement included a letter of recommendation from Fire Chief James Bland. Bland, who was not chief when Gray was demoted, wrote in his letter that she was a “valuable member” of the department, she was leaving “in good standing with the city,” and that she’s “ambitious and highly motivated.” If the deal remains in place, the city will rescind the 2008 demotion and the findings on which it was based. All the paperwork in her personnel files related to the demotion would be marked rescinded.

Although she would never return to work, Gray would be retroactively reinstated to the position of battalion chief, and then she would be promoted to deputy chief.

She would reach 20 years of service in January 2014, and has already agreed to an irrevocable letter of resignation that would be effective in three years.

The city could terminate Gray if she violated the terms of the settlement.

The deal has received the endorsement of the attorney representing the city, the city’s human resources director and top city officials on a review committee.

“In light of the significant expense of continued litigation with Ms. Gray, both administratively and in the courts, and the uncertainty of litigation outcomes, I concur with the recommendations,” City Attorney Marie Hartman said in a memo she wrote this week.