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Rick Kriseman overturns suspension of employee who called him a ‘clown,’ will pay lost wages

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Kriseman administration has overturned an employee’s suspension and agreed to pay her for the work day she missed. Stormwater employee Robin Wynn was suspended Friday for five days based on a comment she posted on social media referring to Mayor Rick Kriseman as a clown.

According to union representative Brian “Cricket” Brehm, Wynn will return to work Wednesday. Another meeting Brehm said was scheduled with the city’s human resources staff Tuesday afternoon over a similar issue was canceled. That issue will instead be handled internally with the union.

According to HR director Chris Guella, the section used for originally suspending Wynn called for employee dismissal for “unlawful or improper conduct either on or off the job, which would tend to affect the employee’s relationship to the job, fellow workers, reputation, or goodwill in the community.”

The city used discretion in disciplinary action because Wynn did not have a derogatory history as an employee.

According to Kriseman’s communication director, Ben Kirby, the city rescinded the suspension to avoid negativity in the bargaining process currently underway.

“The mayor spoke with Ms. Wynn yesterday. Based on his review of the totality of the situation, in light of the current bargaining process, and in order to avoid negatively impacting the lives of our workers in the bargaining unit, the mayor has withdrawn Ms. Wynn’s suspension,” Kirby said. “He reiterated to her his expectation that we engage in respectful discourse and refrain from name-calling.”

And Guella said overturning the suspension was the best way to move forward with negotiations.

“The issue was overshadowing the whole team,” he said.

Wynn had spoken along with several city employees at a City Council meeting last week to urge City Council not to approve a budget containing a loss of city employees’ long-held step increases. The mayor’s budget included a three percent pay raise for employees, but would have cut the step increases that can go into double digits for some employees reaching employment milestones.

According to local union head Rick Smith, that move would affect about 50 city employees next year.

The city and union are still in the midst of negotiations. They plan to hit the bargaining table again early next week.

In the meantime, the union has filed a grievance against the city over an unrelated sewage incident that resulted in more than 15 million gallons of untreated sewage being dumped into Clam Bayou and another more than 15 million gallons of “reject water,” that’s water that hasn’t quite been treated enough to be considered reclaimed, near Eckerd College.

The union is holding that grievance over the city’s held. Brehm said they would not lift the grievance until they reached a “peaceful accord” with Kriseman that includes maintaining Step increases for employees for at least a year and a promise to eliminate future targeting of unionized employees.

Smith said he wants an agreement in writing from the city concerning workers’ rights to free speech. That would also include an update to the city’s code of conduct to include guidelines on social media activity.

It’s unclear what the other employee who faced possible suspension said to prompt an investigation by the city.

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Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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