Former Pinellas Commissioner Norm Roche has asked a judge to reconsider her decision that the county did not violate the state public records law.
Roche contended Pinellas officials had failed to give him documents and other records concerning his termination from county employment before his first day of work. Earlier this month, Circuit Judge Cynthia Newton disagreed, saying Roche had “failed to meet the burden of establishing evidence that there were un-produced responsive documents within [the county’s] control.”
In his motion, Roche says that some records — telephone text messages — were supplied only after he had filed the lawsuit. Roche adds he knows other documents should exist but have not been turned over. Those documents include written approvals of his hiring that are a required part of the county’s employment process.
“For instance, the plaintiff, Norm Roche, testified without contradiction that his initial hiring required supervisor approvals in writing. No documents with the supervisor approvals of his hiring were produced. None of [the county’s] witnesses rebutted or contradicted this testimony,” the appeal says.
It adds, “It was un-rebutted that plaintiff is a former county commissioner and county employee. As such, [Roche] has personal knowledge of the procedures and requirements of the Pinellas County hiring process. None of the witnesses contradicted or rebutted plaintiff on this specific point. The ‘documents’ were not produced in full.”
The motion asks that Newton overturn her decision and “recognize the un-rebutted, un-contradicted evidence that all of the public records response to Norm Roche’s request were not produced timely … and for an order for Pinellas County to produce the communications and documents requested.”
Newton’s order only applied to one part of Roche’s lawsuit. The rest of the lawsuit is still being litigated.
The suit claims that county officials refused to hire him, then hired him only to withdraw the offer before his first day of work. Roche says he was “un-hired.”
Roche worked for the county for about a decade before his 2010 election to the county commission. His one term was noted for controversy, and he was known for expressing views unpopular with many of his fellow commissioners. He lost a re-election bid in the 2014 Republican Primary to Ed Hooper. Democrat Pat Gerard subsequently defeated Hooper.
After Roche’s loss, he unsuccessfully applied for 26 county jobs. He got the 27th job – as a $14-$15-an-hour customer service specialist. He passed the background check and all other checks county employees undergo. He was issued a “welcome aboard” letter and given a start date.
But before he could start work, Assistant County Administrator Paul Sacco called and withdrew the offer. Sacco has since testified County Administrator Mark Woodard made the decision.
But the county was not forthcoming when Roche began asking why the job offer was rescinded. He says officials refused to meet with him and also refused him public records.