By Jane Smith
Suspended Delray Beach City Manager George Gretsas is seeking an emergency court order to postpone his Nov. 20 termination hearing for at least 30 days.
His lawsuit, filed Nov. 10 in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, alleges the city has failed to provide all the documents Gretsas needs to defend himself.
Delray Beach has "only produced approximately 3,100 pages of approximately 10,000 public records that they have admitted exist," the lawsuit says.
Judge John Kastrenakes will hold a virtual hearing on the request at 10 a.m. Nov. 17.
The lawsuit also asks that Mayor Shelly Petrolia be banned from participating in the termination hearing because of her "clear bias against" Gretsas.
City commissioners discussed the allegations at their Nov. 10 meeting.
Commissioner Julie Casale said she was worried about the cost to the city and damage to its reputation if the Gretsas issue lingers. Gretsas was suspended with pay on June 24, and an interim manager is running the city.
Casale recommended paying the terms outlined in his employment contract for firing him without cause.
City Attorney Lynn Gelin said that would be about $180,000 to $190,000.
"Once the courts gain control (the commission) will lose all ability to handle the matter," Gelin said. "The staff wants closure too. It's like watching mom and dad fight."
She recommended waiting to see what the judge does and not postponing the termination hearing.
The city learned the suit had been filed when a TV reporter called about noon asking for comment.
The judge does not have the right to make Delray Beach reinstate Gretsas' salary and benefits, Gelin said. Gretsas gave up his pay package when he and the city agreed to postpone an Oct. 23 termination hearing.
Gretsas lawyers Thomas Ali and Stuart Kaplan had agreed to an Oct. 26 deadline for the city to turn over all remaining records and then gave the city two more days. But Delray Beach did not provide them, Ali said on Nov. 11.
"The city has the manpower to produce the records," he said . "Whether it is two weeks or 12 weeks, my client needs the records to defend himself. ... The process must be transparent."
Ali said Petrolia has been asked to recuse herself for being friendly with former Assistant City Manager Suzanne Fisher.
In late May the mayor invited Fisher to her home to discuss Gretsas, according to the lawsuit. Fisher then filed a bullying complaint against Gretsas, which was investigated by an outside firm and led to his suspension.
"The mayor's relationship with Fisher makes it impossible for her to participate impartially in (Gretsas') termination hearing," the suit says.
In addition, Petrolia and Fisher were exchanging text messages on their personal cellphones, the suit alleges. Petrolia has admitted to erasing the text message string with Fisher, it says.
Petrolia also "demonstrated clear bias" against Gretsas when he notified commissioners of problems with the city's drinking water in August. He claimed one tank had not been cleaned in 38 years because there were no documents to verify a cleaning.
"If there is truth to what Gretsas states, the Health Department needs to be notified and Mr. Gretsas should be terminated immediately," Petrolia was quoted in the lawsuit.