By Jane Smith
When Neal de Jesus abruptly left the Delray Beach fire chief position earlier this year, he received $136,300.56. His contract called for 180 days’ pay, or $131,198.40. “The 180 was not severance,” City Attorney Lynn Gelin wrote in an April 15 email to the city manager. “Instead of keeping him on paid leave during the 180 (which would have included payment for his benefits, his housing allowance, his use of the city vehicle, and his phone allowance), this was how the matter was settled.”
If it had been severance, de Jesus would have received only 20 weeks of pay, or $72,888, the maximum allowed under state law. City staff, including Gelin, declined to discuss the de Jesus payout, saying they do not discuss personnel matters.
He left during an investigation of sexual harassment claims involving a woman employee. De Jesus had hired the woman while he was serving his second stint as interim city manager.
On Feb. 27, Gelin hired the labor law firm of Allen Norton & Blue to investigate the claim, based on allegations of suggestive texts that de Jesus had reportedly sent last fall. Suhaill Morales, of the firm’s Coral Gables office, issued a report on March 26 stating she had interviewed several female city workers, including department heads, along with the woman employee. She tried to interview de Jesus, but the ex-fire chief declined unless his lawyer was present.
Morales found “insufficient evidence to conclude that (the woman employee) was subjected to unlawful harassment.”
She recommended that all employees be issued copies of the city’s harassment and reporting policy and acknowledge receiving them with signed receipts. Also, Morales advised the city to provide its managers with training on its harassment and complaint procedures.
Gelin declined to say whether she followed the suggestions, again saying the city does not comment on personnel matters.