By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Terminated Delray Beach City Manager Mark Lauzier is taking the city to court, alleging his firing was in retaliation for not approving the city’s payment of a flight to Tallahassee for Mayor Shelly Petrolia’s son during the legislative session.
He is suing for benefits he says he is entitled to and that the city isn’t paying out.
Lauzier filed suit under the Florida Public Sector Whistleblower Act on April 29 in Palm Beach County Circuit Court and requested a jury trial. The case was assigned to Judge Lisa Small.
The suit comes just a few weeks after he sent the city and his former bosses, the city commission, a demand letter requesting $500,000 for his “unlawful termination.”
Now, he is suing for five months of pay and benefits, seven months of paid leave and 12 months of health insurance benefits as well as his attorney’s fees.
Lauzier was fired on March 1 during a special meeting. Commissioners unanimously moved to terminate him from his role after allegations arose that he hired several new city employees who were not qualified for their jobs; gave them higher salaries and raises than permitted; added an employee during a hiring freeze he imposed; and violated the city’s charter.
Lauzier has suffered damages including loss of pay and benefits, harm to his reputation, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of potential for future career advancement, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges his termination was retaliatory after he denied Mayor Shelly Petrolia’s request for the city to foot the bill for her son to travel to Tallahassee as part of Palm Beach County Days.
Mayor Petrolia said that isn’t what happened at all. She said she was the one reimbursing the city for her son’s flight and it happened before the plane ride even took place. An exhibit attached to the complaint shows a check from Petrolia’s husband to the city reimbursing the cost of the flight.
The check was dated Feb. 26. Lauzier was terminated on March 1.
The lawsuit states Lauzier’s termination is “without cause, in violation of his contract of employment and in retaliation for objecting in writing to the Mayor’s unlawful charge for travel at City expense.”
The alleged argument between Lauzier and Petrolia over travel payment was not mentioned during the special meeting where Lauzier was fired.
It was Commissioner Ryan Boylston who requested that the mayor call the special meeting to discuss Lauzier’s performance.
When Mayor Shelly Petrolia read the initial demand letter she told the Delray Newspaper the allegations were “half-truths.”
The lawsuit also states Lauzier had the right to hire and fire employees and did not violate the city’s charter.
The demand letter called the meeting where he was fired a “sham” hearing based on a “fraudulent audit.” The suit questions whether Commissioner Adam Frankel’s participation in the meeting via Skype was permissible.
During a recent commission meeting, city attorney Lynn Gelin said the city will file a motion to dismiss Lauzier’s case. She said the lawsuit is unfounded. She said Petrolia’s actions followed city rules because she reimbursed the city for the expense in a timely manner.
As of press time, a motion to dismiss was not entered into the Palm Beach County court system records.
“I stand here with clean hands,” Petrolia said during the meeting.