By REID TUCKER
The DeFuniak Springs City Council members voted unanimously to fire two city employees, both of whom were recommended for termination by their supervisors on grounds of insubordinate behavior.
The two terminations occupied the majority of the meeting on Monday, Sept. 10, due to several lengthy comments by members of the public in one instance and by the former employee himself in another.
First up was a recommendation from City Marshal Mark Weeks to terminate the employment of Lt. David Krika, who, according to the letter of intent provided by Weeks to the City Council, had on Friday, July 27, admitted to “[turning] over a DFSPD file to an outside agency without proper authorization.” An internal affairs investigation into Krika’s conduct, which is in violation of department policy, on was opened on Monday, July 30, by Capt. Michael Lolley at Weeks’ direction. The results of the investigation sustained that a policy violation had occurred and, according to the letter of intent, it was Lolley’s recommendation to Weeks that Krika be demoted or fired, with the marshal opting to pursue the latter.
The letter goes on to show that Krika also failed to comply with a subpoena issued by the Public Defender’s Office for a criminal case the same day as the completion of the internal affairs investigation, Wednesday, Aug. 29. Weeks’ wrote in the letter that Lolley said he had “personally given the subpoena to [Krika].”
The details of the information Krika allegedly supplied to the outside agency was not officially confirmed at the Council meeting, but four different people, three of them residents of DeFuniak Springs, spoke during the time allotted for public comments, offering their own explanations to the councilmen.
One speaker, Michelle Kitsch, said she had obtained a copy of the 64-page internal affairs investigation report through a public records request with the DFSPD. Part of the report contained the personal information of one-time city manager candidate Mike Standley, including his driver’s license number and social security number. Kitsch contended that this information, though falling under the aegis of public information, had been supplied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
DeFuniak Springs resident David King went a step further, saying that the trouble as he saw it with Krika’s termination was that “part of this is public and part of this is hidden.” King said politics had become involved to the extent that the proceedings had become “shrouded,” which he said was a result of “retaliation” against Krika for a stance at odds with the city attorney during the last round of background checks prior to the selection of a new city manager last fall.
City Councilmen Ron Kelley, by way of addressing the concerns of those who spoke, said he had not heard anything about information being provided to the FBI, but rather that the decision reached by him and the other Council members was based on Krika’s violation of two police department policies. Councilman Mac Work went on to say that the vote for termination was not because of anyone on the board being “out to get” Krika.
The Council members also cast straight votes to follow Public Works Director Bill Holloway’s recommendation to fire Streets Department employee Kelby Russell on grounds of refusing to carry out his duties as a supervisor of state inmate laborers on Aug. 30. Holloway wrote in the letter recommending Russell’s termination that he was given several opportunities to change his mind about working with inmate labor crews, but Russell nevertheless declined to do the job and was suspended without pay.
Russell sustained non work-related injuries earlier in the year and was moved from his regular duties to supervising inmates until he had sufficiently recovered, Holloway said. At the time of Russell’s refusing to work with inmates, Holloway said there was no other work within the Streets Department Russell could perform due to his back injuries.
After the motion for termination was made and seconded, Russell addressed the Council in defense of his continued employment. Russell said municipal workers supervising inmate laborers, even non-violent offenders like he worked with, are put in danger by the assignment.
Additionally, Russell said he and other inmate supervisors are required to scan job sites for contraband materials or “suspicious items” before beginning work in a given area, which he said is done as an attempt to stave off the flow of contraband like artificial marijuana into Walton Correctional Institution. Russell, a city employee since 2010, said he refused to supervise the five-man inmate crew because he feared being held legally responsible should one of the inmates smuggle prohibited items into the prison. Russell and other members of the Streets Department are certified by Walton Correction Institution work with inmate laborers.
Russell told the Council he came to the meeting to “fight for his job.”
“I simply want to work,” he said. “I can shovel all day. I can give you the best town you’ve ever seen….”
Read the full story in the Sept. 13, 2012 edition of the Herald Breeze.