Home News Deltona’s HR Director Claims in Lawsuit He Was Fired; City Says He’s Still on Payroll

Deltona’s HR Director Claims in Lawsuit He Was Fired; City Says He’s Still on Payroll

Deltona’s HR Director Claims in Lawsuit He Was Fired; City Says He’s Still on Payroll

Deltona’s human resources director claims in a lawsuit that acting city manager John Peters III fired him after he told Peters he was opening an investigation into complaints about Peters making discriminatory and inappropriate comments.

But Peters said Wednesday that Richard Adams hasn’t been terminated. Lee Lopez, spokesperson for Deltona, confirmed via email that Adams hasn’t been fired “and is still receiving his salary.”

As of Thursday, Adams was still listed on the city’s website as the HR director.

Peters declined further comment on the lawsuit filed Monday afternoon on Adams’ behalf by the law firm Morgan & Morgan.

The lawsuit states Adams, who is seeking more than $30,000 in damages, was fired at the end of June, about two weeks after he’d told Peters about the pending investigation.

The lawsuit also states Adams’ termination was attributed to him “not properly responding to unemployment charges filed against the city” and “registering for and then failing to attend a conference in Chicago, Illinois.”

But according to the lawsuit, Adams “promptly filed proper responses immediately after receiving the (unemployment) claims” and “the conference was postponed and rescheduled to September.”

On July 1, Adams sent an email to Peters and commissioners addressing the reasons for what he called a “separation,” according to a copy of the email provided Wednesday afternoon to The News-Journal.

“I will not be signing what amounts to a ‘gag order,'” Adams said in the email, an apparent reference to the terms of the proposed agreement.

He also said he finds it “interesting” that former employees, including Jane Shang, the former city manager, and Adam Bengelsdorf, a former firefighter, received deals akin to a “golden parachute,” yet Adams said he was “not even offered a severance to ‘go away quietly.'”

“I want my reputation cleared and the only logical resolution to this matter is to have me reinstated immediately as HR Director and terminate John Peters,” Adams wrote at the conclusion of his email. “If you are not willing to do that, you are going to have to substantially up the ante before I am forced to take legal action.”

Adams, who was hired as the city’s human resources director in 2016, received a complaint about the work environment under Peters around the same time he informed the acting manager he would be investigated, according to the lawsuit.

The portion of that complaint included in Adams’ lawsuit states, in part, that “women in a position of power or management have either been let go, forced to resign or voluntarily left.” The name of the person who made that comment is not included in the lawsuit.

Adams, on March 8, wrote a formal complaint “of sexual harassment and discrimination against Peters” and sent it to Mayor Heidi Herzberg and the other members of the City Commission, according to the lawsuit.

Herzberg said Tuesday afternoon by phone that she had no comment.

The lawsuit states the city hired an investigator to look into Adams’ complaint, but the investigation was never completed nor were his retaliation complaints investigated.

Peters made an Adams’ subordinate the “HR liaison” between the acting city manager and human resources on March 9, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also claims Peters “made sexually harassing comments toward another employee … specifically … suggesting that he is a product of incest” in February.

Last December, “Peters also made discriminatory comments about minorities” during a meeting of directors, “suggesting that minorities do not have a lot to look forward to in life and do not take care of their homes which is why there is so much crime around rental buildings,” according to the lawsuit.

Adams also claims in the lawsuit that in July 2020 he received a complaint that on two separate occasions, Peters, who was then the director of public works for the city, “used offensive, sexually harassing language. Peters admitted to using ‘questionable’ language and indicated he would discontinue such behavior moving forward.”

The News-Journal has requested documents related to the lawsuit. Only the last email Adams sent to Peters and city commissioners was provided.

During his most recent performance review on March 1, Adams “met or exceeded expectations in all areas,” according to the lawsuit. Marc-Antonie Cooper was serving as the deputy city manager, and wrote the performance review.

Cooper’s last day with Deltona was March 3 and he currently serves as the city manager of Forest Park, Georgia. In May, the city received a letter from Cooper’s attorney saying that Cooper had been discriminated against on the basis of “race, color and age” when the commission demoted him in November 2020. Mediation with Cooper is tentatively set for late September, according to Skip Fowler, city attorney.

Since taking the city’s helm in December 2020 following Cooper’s demotion, Peters has received two largely positive reviews from the City Commission and two bumps in pay for receiving satisfactory reviews, as guaranteed by his contract.

Residents have also spoken in favor of Peters and the job he’s been doing so far.

Eskalera, a Startup Led by Goldman Sachs’ Former HR Head Has Launched a Diversity and Inclusion Index

Eskalera, a technology startup led by Goldman Sachs former human resources head Dane Holmes, has launched an index to measure corporate diversity and inclusiveness,...

HSBC to Remove 35,000 Jobs Amidst Covid-19 Crises

HSBC Holdings Plc has restarted cutting as many as 35,000 jobs, three months after the coronavirus outbreak forced it to pause a long-awaited overhaul...

Genpact Offers Its Internal Skill Training Program Globally for Everyone

Genpact has announced Adapt and Rise, a role-based online learning platform that leverages Genpact's expertise honed from delivering real-world change for hundreds of clients....

San-Francisco Based Learning Platform Degreed Has Raised $32 Million in New Funding

The upskilling platform, Degreed, has announced $32 million in new funding in direct response to overwhelming demand for better skill insights, talent mobility, and...

Research Shows the Implications of Workplace Layouts on Employee Productivity and Overall Performance

As some workplaces prepare for the gradual return of employees and overhaul office layouts and seating plans, research has shown this could also have...

Employee Concierge ‘Back Technologies’ Integrates Automation Into Internal HR and Other Support Tasks

Companies are under increasing pressure to automate workflows and digitally service their employees, particularly in light of trends toward remote work. It takes an...

HR Strategies to Help Your Business Navigate the New ‘Normal’

No business is immune to the massive changes resulting from the health crisis. Organizations have proven themselves to be agile, and employees have demonstrated...

The Importance Of Diversity And Inclusion In HR, Hiring, Talent Management: Thoughts From A Top Expert

Michael C. Hyter is one of today’s best-known experts on inclusion and diversity and the author of The Power of Choice: Embracing Efficacy to Drive Your Career and The...

HR Expert Highlights Actionable Steps to ‘Make Real Change’ Against Racism in Your Workplace

Kyra Leigh Sutton, Ph.D., is a faculty member at the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations, where she teaches human resources courses...

Adidas Employees Want Company to Investigate HR Chief for Response to Racial Issues

A group of Adidas employees from around the globe is asking the company to investigate its chief human resources officer, as part of a...