By Francisco Alvarado, FloridaBulldog.org
Barely two months into Vernon Hargray’s tenure as Miramar interim city manager, a federal jury has concluded that he and other city officials discriminated against a former executive assistant because of her Cuban roots.
Now Miramar is on the hook for a $300,000 judgment awarded to Georgina Cid, the ex-employee who sued the city in 2016 alleging Hargray, an African-American, and Assistant City Manager J. Michael Moore, who is white, participated in a discrimination and workplace harassment campaign that began with her demotion and ended with her being fired a year into her job.
On June 29, following a four-day trial, jurors sided with Cid, finding that Hargray and Moore went after her because of her national origin, according to the verdict form. U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles affirmed that the city owes her $5,000 in lost wages for the demotion, $80,000 in lost wages for the termination and $215,000 for emotional pain and anguish. According to a Sept. 7 motion, Cid is seeking an additional $150,000 in attorney fees.
“Ms. Cid does feel vindicated by the jury’s verdict,” said her lawyer, Ansana Singh. “There is simply no room in our community for the type of unlawful discrimination and retaliation which my client suffered at the hands of the City of Miramar.”
Singh declined further comment. According to court documents in her two-year-old case, which has gone unreported until now, Cid alleged:
- She was unfairly demoted and had her annual $69,905 salary slashed by $4,905.
- She was the only employee in the executive office who had to ask permission to go to lunch.
- She was bullied and forced to do menial tasks, including cleaning the office.
- She was demeaned by her supervisors for following their directives.
- And she was wrongfully terminated on Sept. 30, 2015 after reporting Hargray and Moore to Miramar’s human resources director.
Hargray, Moore and the five members of the Miramar City Commission did not respond to phone messages and emails seeking comment. Shaun Gayle, the manager’s chief of staff and Miramar spokeswoman, said the litigation with Cid is ongoing, so the city would not be able to comment. She declined to say whether the city plans to appeal.
Rife with cronyism?
However, one Miramar critic told Florida Bulldog the outcome of Cid’s complaint proves the city manager’s office is rife with the cronyism and unethical hires. “I had a meeting with city officials about it last year and told them that’s not how things are supposed to run,” said Doreen Lovell, a local activist. “I also mentioned age, race, gender, etc. should not be a factor in hiring and firing decisions. Anyone involved in any type of discrimination should not be part of any city administration.”
Cid, who today works as an executive assistant in Weston, provided details on the inner workings of the Miramar city manager’s office in written responses to questions from the city’s defense team and in court testimony. The former Miramar executive assistant said she started as a temporary employee in September 2014, but was hired on a permanent basis two months later. She reported directly to then-City Manager Kathleen Woods-Richardson and was given a $68,200-a-year salary. On Dec. 4, 2014, the city commission approved a five percent increase to all employees and her salary was supposed to increase to $69,905 a year, Cid said.
“Approximately five months after I was hired as a permanent employee, I was unexplainably demoted to earn a salary of $65,000 a year,” Cid said in a Jan. 30 affidavit. “And I was asked to move to a new location where I was to serve Mr. Michael Moore and Mr. Vernon Hargray.”
Cid said even though Woods-Richardson promised her pay wouldn’t be slashed, her “salary was arbitrarily reduced despite my begging for this not to happen because of my personal situation of being a single mom of three children, head of house and the only caregiver my parents had.”
She claimed the demotion and salary reduction was without justification. It was due to her being born in Cuba and that her “pale white skin” was used against her, Cid asserted. At the time, Cid said, five employees in the city manager’s office were African-American, including Woods-Richardson and Hargray, who at the time was an assistant city manager. Moore, at the time the city’s chief operations officer, was one of four white employees in the executive office, along with Cid.
Cid claims one of the white employees was asked to retire early and that his job was given to a black Haitian-American. In addition, two black women who were friends of a female African-American assistant city manager were brought on board as executive assistants, Cid alleged. “When I was terminated, I was told it was because I did not return to work following a seminar,” Cid said. “None of the other employees who failed to return to work after the seminar were terminated.”
City appoints Hargray
The city commission appointed Hargray, who earns an annual $196,000 salary, interim city manager on May 2, 2018, about a month after Woods-Richardson resigned. Moore makes $193,355 a year.
Cid said Moore would repeatedly accuse her of making errors without any specifics. “He would close the door to my office and place both of his hands on my desk, creating a very hostile scene and shout at me while accusing me of errors I wasn’t even making,” she said. “He was negative, nitpicking and critical about issues such as when I would go to lunch and who I needed to advise prior to leaving my desk and failed to hold others to the same standard.”
Cid accused Hargray of demeaning and ridiculing her in front of other employees in the office. He would assign her menial tasks such as demanding she clean a conference room he was going to use only to cancel the meeting after she tidied the room up. “He said screaming in a very nasty way, ‘I don’t care who cleans it, but I need it cleaned,’” Cid alleged. “He said, ‘I don’t need this drama.’”
She also claims Hargray threatened her with losing her job one morning after the city commission’s September 2015 meeting to approve the budget. “He said, ‘I think you are soon going on a long vacation,’” Cid alleged.
Cid said she complained to Miramar Human Resources Director Sam Hines sometime in April 2015 about the “discriminatory and disparate treatment” she was receiving. Yet, Hines did nothing and Hargray’s abusive treatment toward her “continued and intensified.” Cid stated.
“All of the employees in the office stopped verbally communicating with me,” Cid said. “This conduct was punishment for me complaining to Sam Hines, and it was ongoing and continuous, and culminated in my employment being terminated.”