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Friday, July 8, 2011

County worker blows whistle on unfair hiring practices

Tonight, more fallout from a Four in your Corner investigation into Lee County's troubled transportation department. For weeks, former Lee County Department of Transportation workers have told Fox 4 they were fired because they wouldn't do special favors for supervisors or they were fired because a supervisor wanted to hire one of their friends instead.  Now one former employee is finally blowing the whistle. Daryll Plym worked for Lee County's D.O.T. for more than 9 years. Driving dump trucks and using heavy equipment.  But Plym says supervisors also used heavy handed tactics such as firing employees they simply don’t like.
Plym says supervisors would often threaten, “And if you want to stay here you do it that way, if you throw a monkey wrench in any of our plans we will write you up we will find a way to get rid of you."
And D.O.T. did get rid of Plym. Today he's unemployed and mows lawns to make ends meet. His county job gave him a decent salary and good benefits but now they're all gone. Plym says, "It makes me very angry,”

One day last August Plym received a letter from D.O.T's former Deputy Director Paul Wingard stating: “Your position as Equipment Operator Senior within D.O.T. Operations is being eliminated due to a reduction in workforce." The county has been cutting jobs to make up for a budget deficit but many workers say D.O.T supervisors have been using this as a tactic to get rid of people they don't like so they can hire the ones they do. According to Plym this represents, "Too many favors going on behind closed doors."
This past January, less than 5 months after Plym's old position was eliminated by D.O.T that same position suddenly re-appeared again. The county placed an ad for Senior Equipment Operator and hired someone else just 4 days later. The position was posted on January 11th and closed on January 14th .
The position was not posted long enough according to county policy. Plym feels he wasn't fired because the county wanted to save money but because supervisors simply didn't like him, especially when he refused to do them special favors.
Plym recalls, "A supervisor wanted me to fix his lawn mower all up for him for free on my own time. If I needed to get the parts on county time I was to get the parts.” Plym says he refused to do that and that created animosity between him and his supervisors.
When Plym noticed his old job was posted again he says he re-applied but never heard back from county officials. Unfair hiring practices is one of the issues Lee County Manager Karen Hawes says she will address in her audit of D.O.T.

If you have any problems with the county and would like to speak with Four in your Corner’s Mike Mason you can call him on his personal cell phone. The number is 239-222-8274 and you will remain anonymous.

To view the Fox 4 report click here:

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