Claiming she’s subjected to a hostile work environment and prevented at times from performing her duties as public records custodian, DeFuniak Springs City Clerk Loretta Laird has requested a job transfer.
Along with her request to be moved out of City Hall and allowed to fill the position of executive administrative assistant at the DeFuniak Springs Police Department, Laird filed a 20-point complaint.
One item listed accuses newly elected City Councilman Todd Bierbaum of a law violation that the First Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office has confirmed it is investigating.
“I’m aware of this and we are reviewing it. It is a misdemeanor offense and could be referred to the Elections Commission,” said Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille. “I will be making a decision on what we will do shortly.”
Bierbaum did not return a request for comment.
Laird also alleges impropriety on the part of DeFuniak Springs City Attorney Clayton Adkinson and Mayor Bob Campbell. She said the two improperly “exert too much control over the (city) Planning Department.”
“Businesses are opened within the city that do not comply with the municipal code and comprehensive plan,” Laird said. “The mayor and city attorney selectively enforce the code depending on who is involved.”
Laird cites as one example of Planning Department impropriety a “Veterans Lodge” project “that is not compatible with our comprehensive plan.”
“I informed the Planning Director of this and she indicated the city attorney and mayor want to make the project happen,” Laird’s complaint states.
Asked to comment on the allegations, including those lodged against him, and whether he as city attorney would undertake an investigation into the substance of any of Laird’s complaints, Adkinson’s only reply was to deny any statements made pertaining to him.
“I categorically deny all of the allegations relating to the city attorney, and the complainant knows those statements to be false,” he said in an email.
Laird declined to comment on her complaint or request for transfer. Efforts to contact her attorney, Stephen Webster, were not successful.
City Manager Mell Smigielski said he was not aware of an opening for an executive administrative assistant within the Police Department. City Marshal James Hurley did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Seven more of the listed complaints allege people inside or with ties to city government have actively tried to hinder or halt the dissemination of public information. Specifically mentioned as attempting to quash the release of information are former City Marshal Mark Weeks and the wife of Mayor Campbell.
Laird states Weeks went to the city manager to complain after she made public records available to Hurley, his opponent in the city marshal’s race, on a Saturday that she was working.
The Laird complaint said Weeks continued to grumble about the release of the records even after City Manager Mell Smigielski defended her, and Kevin Crystal, a newly elected city council member. confronted her again about the issue 20 days after Weeks was ousted from office.
“The law required me to provide reasonable access and I complied with the law,” the complaint said.
The complaint also alleges the level of hostility against her has grown since Crystal, Bierbaum and another City Council member were elected April 9.
Laird’s complaint states Campbell’s wife ordered her to dispose of documents that disqualified the mayor from sitting on a city elections’ canvassing board. Campbell became ineligible to sit on the board, to which he had been appointed, after it was determined he had contributed to a candidate running for City Council.
“I told her the form was public record,” the complaint states.
Other complaints dealing with public records state Laird was prevented from accessing a city email system and that she has been “routinely ignored by fellow co-workers when inquiring about city business.”
Nine of the complaints document Laird’s belief she is being harassed and exposed to hostility by superiors and fellow employees.
One example of hostility and harassment states, “I was locked in an office with a prior supervisor and he refused to let me leave. I complained to his supervisor, but no corrective action occurred. The work environment became noticeably more hostile after I complained.”
Laird also claims she is not fairly compensated for her work, does not receive “comp time” that other employees get and is ignored when calls go out for city staff to volunteer for events. It even states she is denied reasonable access to City Hall restrooms.
“Unfortunately, the full scope of the hostility is impacting my ability to work,” the complaint said.