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Image of West Palm Beach Florida
West Palm Beach Florida; image courtesy of Don Ramey Logan via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org

Earlier this month, a jury in Palm Beach County ruled in favor of a former Palm Beach International Maintenance supervisor and awarded him $2,200 in a “whistleblower lawsuit he filed back in 2015 against the county.” The suit was filed by Richard Rosales, now 52, in response to allegations against him that he “was receiving kickbacks from Glue Products of Florida.” However, the Palm Beach County Inspector General determined there was no wrongdoing, according to court documents. Soon after, Rosales filed a public records request to see “who made the claims and was told it would cost him $12,540 to access the documents.” In the end, he learned that “two or more of his subordinates” made the claims against him in 2012.

Image of the Palm Beach County Courthouse
Palm Beach County Courthouse; image courtesy of Msullivan1 via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org

While trying to find out the truth, though, Rosales claimed the airport tried to interfere with his request to access public records, prompting him to “file an initial lawsuit against the county in 2012.” Later on, the county attorney agreed that the $12,540 fee to access the records was “excessive and provided Rosales the documents for less than $1,000 and reimbursed him more than $14,000 in legal fees and costs.” That particular suit was disposed of in 2014.

However, one year later, Rosales filed a whistleblower suit in response to an incident in which “Rosales reported that a worker threw a piece of concrete and a piece of blacktop at him.” He also alleged in the suit that “airport director Bruce Pelly suspended Rosales without pay for two weeks” and claimed that Pelly told him, “you cost me $14,000.”

After working for the county since 1994, Rosales no longer works as a maintenance supervisor. Instead, he now works as a construction plans examiner with the county zoning department. According to the lawsuit, Rosales was “forced to transfer to the new position and take a 3 percent pay cut in retaliation for his actions.”

When commenting on his client and the jury’s decision, Isidro Garcia noted that while the amount is low, it was “the most the jury could award.” According to him, the “$2,200, plus attorneys fees, reflects the total amount of money Rosales of Lake Worth lost when he was suspended for 10 days without pay.” He added, “I think they [the county] wanted to fully compensate Mr. Rosales for what happened to him…I told the jury in the opening statement, this may be a case that’s not big about money but it’s big about principle.”

Officials for the county have yet to comment on the jury’s verdict.

Sources:

Former airport maintenance supervisor wins whistleblower lawsuit 

Ex-PBIA supervisor files whistle-blower suit against Palm Beach County

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