Pinellas Circuit Judge Cynthia Newton yesterday denied two defense motions to dismiss the main counts in former county commissioner Norm Roche’s labor lawsuit against Pinellas County. The case involves Roche’s sudden “unhiring” by County Administrator Mark Woodard after he had been offered and accepted a job at $14.26 per hour. See the Guardian’s first story on this case to learn more details.
Newton’s orders denied motions by attorneys representing both the county, Woodard, and his deputy Paul Sacco.
“These two rulings allow us to move forward with securing all the public records that we requested and paid for”, said Roche (pictured right).
“These rulings will also allow us to depose the county administrator and others”, Roche continued. “We want to get to the bottom of what happened in this hiring, as well as the other 26 jobs I applied for, interviewed for in some cases, but never was offered”. Roche was referring to jobs he applied for after losing his bid for re-election as county commissioner in 2014.
When asked if his attorneys intends to depose the county commissioners, Roche said “absolutely.” The Guardian asked what Roche hopes to accomplish by deposing the county commissioners, and Roche responded “the truth, but my overall goal in this case is justice.”
Roche answered “we’re not there yet” when asked if he would consider settling the case before it gets to depositions.
Local government often open up a can of worms on themselves when a lawsuit reaches the discovery phase. The City of Cumming, GA had to pay $200,000 in 2014 after mayor H. Ford Gravitt refused to allow one citizen to simply video record their city council meeting. See video of that brief incident here.
However, this was not the end of the Gravitt’s troubles. Legal depositions revealed that Gravitt’s girlfriend along with city attorney Dana Miles, neither of whom are city employees, had been receiving free health insurance from the city for a decade. Both Gravitt and Miles are now under federal investigation for insurance fraud.
Roche was frequent thorn in the side of his fellow county commissioners, and the sole vote opposing the Greenlight Pinellas tax hike. The Roche case may answer questions about whether former elected officials who don’t “go along to get along” are blacklisted for employment after they are out of office.
As always, the Guardian reports and the readers decide.