The Coastal Star

Delray Beach: City employees’ ethics infractions addressed

By Jane Smith

    Two city employees received “letters of instruction” recently from the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics. Another Delray Beach employee’s case was too unclear for the commission to make a ruling.
    City firefighter Joseph Lang had a side business that supplied automated external defibrillators to the city’s Fire-Rescue Department.
    He told investigators that one of the fire chiefs asked whether his company could supply the devices to the city. He said he completed a form and that the Finance Department and fire command approved it.
    Even so, the city forbids its employees from entering into contracts with it. Because of the statute of limitations, investigators were able to go back only two years from the receipt of the complaint. For the period that began Jan. 1, 2013, and ended Dec. 31, 2015, the city paid Lang’s company $10,834.51.
    At the Nov. 3 Ethics Commission meeting, Lang received a letter of instruction explaining the city’s and county’s ethics policies.
    Also at that meeting, officials reviewed Rashod Smith’s case. A supervisor at Pompey Park, he gave the city’s human resources director the keys to the pavilion and the security code to host her family’s Thanksgiving Day dinner there in 2015. He did not receive payment for the use of the pavilion, or for the overtime required by a parks employee to clean up after the dinner.
    Smith received a letter of instruction outlining the city’s and county’s ethics policies.
    City Manager Don Cooper in April reprimanded Human Resources Director Tennille Decoste, who lost a day’s pay over the incident.
    Cooper forwarded information on the incident to the Ethics Commission.
    In August, the commission’s attorney advised that the facts were not legally sufficient to prove Decoste had violated the code of ethics.
    In September, Decoste asked that the reprimand letter be removed from her personnel file and that she receive the day’s pay.
    Cooper agreed but wrote, “As a cautionary note, you need to be aware of the impacts of using city facilities due to your position and need to consider those impacts when making any request.”

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