Here is why I couldn’t be silent

Tampa Bay Times - - Opinion -

A Times ed­i­to­rial ac­cuses me of “abus­ing” my po­si­tion by re­spond­ing to my wife’s un­just ter­mi­na­tion. I dis­agree. I dis­played re­straint through­out this trav­esty, speak­ing only af­ter it be­came ap­par­ent that the process was tainted and un­just to my wife, Donna, and that the board of the Ju­ve­nile Wel­fare Board was the only body that could en­sure a just res­o­lu­tion.

I spoke to the JWB board about Donna’s ter­mi­na­tion in a pub­lic meet­ing, on the record. I also spoke to mem­bers in per­son and/or on the phone. For the 11 years that my wife has been in­volved with this pro­gram, I’ve said noth­ing to the JWB board or staff about the pro­gram. When my wife was fired, with no doc­u­men­ta­tion or ev­i­dence, I still said noth­ing, be­liev­ing that the process would work, and that she would be re­in­stated to the job she held for more than a decade.

The process did not work. The San­der­lin Neigh­bor­hood Fam­ily Cen­ter board met in se­cret and en­gaged in a “re­view” bereft of due process. To this day that board hasn’t ex­plained or jus­ti­fied Donna’s ter­mi­na­tion — even af­ter be­ing asked by the JWB board. In fact, the San­der­lin board’s own trustee re­port, (ob­tained by pub­lic records re­quest) ex­on­er­ated Donna, yet the board still voted to ter­mi­nate her by “se­cret bal­lot” in a pri­vate meet­ing — forc­ing con­cerned pas­tors to lit­er­ally stand out­side in the rain. The board vi­o­lated its own per­son­nel poli­cies for writ­ten no­tice, ap­peal, griev­ance and fact find­ing. The “process” was a farce. That is why I spoke out.

The Times ed­i­to­rial board be­lieves that no mis­treat­ment, even un­jus­ti­fied ter­mi­na­tion, war­ranted my speak­ing on Donna’s be­half to the JWB board. To the con­trary, I be­lieve that when a process is so bla­tantly hos­tile, se­cre­tive and un­fair, jus­tice de­mands a re­sponse. That’s why I spoke out.

Ken­neth T. Welch, St. Peters­burg The writer is chair­man of the Pinel­las County Com­mis­sion

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