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Ormond Beach Observer Friday, Jan. 25, 2019 7 months ago

Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post wants county apology for breaching employment settlement agreement

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Post: 'I am standing up for everyone that has no voice.'
by: Jarleene Almenas News Editor

Heather Post, who claims the county has violated the settlement agreements reached after her career ended in 2010 as a deputy, is now demanding a county apology as a council member.  

A letter by Post's attorney, Kelly Chanfrau, of Chanfrau and Chanfrau, was submitted to County Attorney Dan Eckert on Wednesday, Jan. 23, stating that the county has failed to correct her employment records and breached the agreement due to county officials making comments about why Post left the Volusia County Sheriff's Office. 

"If the County acts in such a manner 'because they can get away with it' and they will do this to one of seven highest government officials in the County, then how many other settlement agreements are they not abiding by and in fact blatantly disregarding?" Post said in a statement. 

In it, Chanfrau writes that an investigation of Post's employment with the county "reveals that she was retaliated against for filing a harassment and discrimination complaint with the county" as well an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge after Volusia pursued two "ridiculous" internal investigations against her. 

The first investigation, the letter states, claimed she failed to follow an order (she didn't call a captain after a training day; Post's sergeant made the call). The second was for allegedly saying she didn't know anything about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 despite having watched a 15-slide PowerPoint presentation seven years earlier during a training. The county claimed this was perjury. This was during the time Ben Johnson was sheriff; he now serves alongside Post on the County Council.

"In our practice, it is certainly rare that a stellar and decorated officer would be investigated and later fired for these items," Chanfrau wrote in the letter. 

Post began her law enforcement career in 1992. She started her career with VCSO in 2008 following her employment with the Edgewater Police Department. A letter to Post dated Oct. 18, 2007, from VCSO's administrative services director, reads that "[Post's] experience and credentials in the law enforcement field are truly impressive."

Post's employee performance evaluation for the second quarter of 2010 — signed two months before her termination and seven days after she was served with her first internal affairs investigation notice — rates her performance as "exceeds standards." Comments by a supervisor state that Post "was an integral part of the communications center and did a great job while she was assigned here." Post had been temporarily assigned to the communications center on light duty after she was reprimanded for not turning in a report on time. 

In a timeline of events provided to the Ormond Beach Observer, Post states that in the first internal investigation, her captain "alleged that I refused to give him a return to duty paperwork from my doctor citing HIPAA." Post had been dealing with a medical issue at the time. Post maintained that she had been providing medical information to him and others concerned. 

After the second investigation, the one for perjury over allegations that she lied about knowing HIPAA law, Post said she discovered that her road patrol location was being monitored on duty and that a fellow shift deputy was advised by a lieutenant to "stay away from [Post] because [she] was going to be fired." 

Post went to the county and spoke with human resources about the matter and was asked questions about her captain, she said in the timeline. Post states that she was told to write her account down and submit it to human resources and to the Sheriff's Office chain of command. 

Post did so, sending a memo titled "Discrimination/Hostile Work Environment" on Aug. 27, 2010, detailing her captain's past behaviors, such as staring at women through his office window, commenting how "hot" they were, and bringing Post out of road patrol into his office to question her on her SWAT training. The memo also cites an instance when Post requested two hours a week for five weeks for medical treatments, to which her captain allegedly responds, "So what you're telling me, Ms. Post, is that you're not fit to be a deputy?"

According to the timeline document, Post received an "Intent to Terminate" letter on Sept. 22, 2010, the same day she filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. It became official in Sept. 28, 2010, and Post appealed it. 

She also applied for unemployment compensation and was denied. A hearing was held on Dec. 9, 2010, and a transcript shows county HR Director Tom Motes said near the end that Post "has a pattern of not following instructions."

The denial of unemployment compensation was reversed following the hearing, as the decision of appeals referee found Post's testimony more credible. The document also states that "no evidence has been provided to show the claimant violated an established policy."

On May 5, a settlement between Post and the County Council became official. The conditions of the settlement included $44,000 compensation for Post and changing Post's termination to a resignation in county records. The county also agreed to not make any comments regarding Post's employment leaving conditions or her eligibility for rehire.

The letter to County Attorney Dan Eckert, who declined to comment, states that the county has breached that agreement and that Post "has now been damaged in the public and cast in a negative light." It cites the Daytona Beach News-Journal, which contained this quote by former county manager Jim Dinneen: "I think you all forget her circumstances of why she does not work here anymore."

The letter also states that Chanfrau conducted a public records request for Post's file and found the county never changed her termination to a resignation. 

In addition, the letter demands that the county uphold the agreement and align Post's records to accept her resignation from 2010. It reads that if the county "will not agree to abide by its contracted promises, in addition to other relief, we will request that a Court remove the discriminatory and retaliatory records from her file."

"We can ask a court to enforce the original agreement, and file a breach of contract action and other tort actions relating to any damages suffered by my client as a result," Chanfrau said in an email to the Observer. "In addition, we can ask a court for declaratory relief."

The letter closes by asking the county to not engage in "any further malicious comments about" Post, and gives the county a 15-day deadline to respond. 

"In a perfect world, there should not be any legal repercussions resulting from my client’s attempt to stand up for herself and ensure the County abides by its contracted agreement," Chanfrau said. "Further, even had there been no contract, the statements made about my client would still not be legally justified in my opinion.

This story was updated at 2:46 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 29, to add County Council Chair Ed Kelley's comments on the issue. 

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