Former code enforcement manager settles discrimination suit; department director retiring

Diane Flagg

Diane Flagg

A former Collier County Code Enforcement manager has settled his federal discrimination lawsuit alleging his boss discriminated against him because he was a man, moved him to a small cubicle, decreased his duties and eliminated his position.

Collier County Commissioners approved paying David Scribner $61,250 to settle the suit and have it dismissed with prejudice.

"I'm not happy. No one is ever happy when they have to sue their employer," Scribner, 61, said. "I am disappointed the county didn't do anything to solve the problem. It's troubling. And I am aware of new and continuing issues."

The settlement brings to an end litigation that had been going on since Scribner was discharged in July 2009.

It also came days after Code Enforcement Director Diane Flagg — Scribner's former boss — announced her retirement from the department. County staff insists her retirement was unrelated to the settlement.

In addition to his lawsuit, Scribner was one of three code enforcement employees who filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission between 2008 and 2011. Each cited Flagg as part of the problem.

Scribner filed his complaint in late 2008, alleging that he was discriminated against because of his gender. His eventual lawsuit, filed in 2010, charged that Flagg encouraged others to submit reports directly to her, removed Scribner from the chain of command, stripped him of his responsibilities and authority in management decisions and isolated him from subordinates.

After telling county employees about the EEOC complaint, Flagg emailed Scribner, ordering him to clean out his office and turn in his keys, according to the lawsuit. He reported the email as an example of retaliation.

A few weeks later, Scribner was told he could return to his regular duties and Flagg gave him a performance improvement plan. But, the lawsuit alleges, he wasn't allowed to lead department meetings and wasn't in charge when Flagg was out, among other issues.

The county, in its response to the complaint, said Scribner was not discriminated against and was not demoted. County officials said he was temporarily reassigned, but did not lose his job title or compensation.

Further, the county said that, of the employees who were disciplined during Flagg's time as director, nine were women and six were men.

After Scribner filed his complaint, two of his female colleagues also filed EEOC complaints — one in 2009 and one in 2011. One alleged discrimination and retaliation from Flagg; the other alleged retaliation by management because she is Cuban and said her work was more closely scrutinized by Flagg.

In each of the cases, EEOC officials were "unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of (federal) statutes." The EEOC, however, did not conclude that the county was in compliance with the statutes.

On Nov. 9, Flagg sent a letter to County Growth Management Administrator Nick Casalnaguida saying she is retiring in June after 32 years of service.

"I would like to pursue new challenges," she wrote. "The Code Enforcement Department team is an outstanding group of professionals and they will continue to serve you and the community members well."

Four days after that letter was sent, commissioners settled the lawsuit with Scribner.

Both Scribner and the county went to court-ordered mediation beginning in January 2011 and reached an impasse. They tried again this year, which led to the agreement in October, according to county records.

County Attorney Jeff Klatzkow recommended settlement because the county would have had to contract with outside legal counsel to try the case in federal court. If the county was not successful, Klatzkow said, it could be responsible for Scribner's legal fees and any damages awarded by the jury.

Based on the settlement agreement, neither the county nor Scribner will admit liability or fault. The money comes out of the county's property and casualty insurance fund.

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