By: Marisa Herman
Former Delray Beach City Manager Mark Lauzier has lawyered up and alleges he was wrongfully terminated by his bosses, the city commissioners, in a “demand letter” sent to Mayor Shelly Petrolia on April 5.
In a four-page letter, Lauzier’s attorney Isidro Garcia requests a mediation session before April 19 to settle all claims Lauzier has against the city for $500,000.
“These are half-truths,” Mayor Shelly Petrolia said of the claims in the letter.
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.
According to the letter, Lauzier was terminated during a “sham” hearing that was based on a “fraudulent audit” and alleges Lauzier’s rights were violated.
Garcia’s letter alleges that Lauzier’s termination violated the city’s charter. It states that the charter requires a 72-hour notice prior to a vote to terminate and that time frame was not followed.
The meeting was called for on a Tuesday and took place on a Friday. The commission even postponed starting the meeting to the minute from the time it was noticed on Tuesday to comply with the 72-hour notice.
The letter also states the city’s internal auditor violated the charter. The allegations that led to Lauzier’s termination were a result of a report and findings made by the city’s internal auditor.
It claims the auditor has no authorization to perform management audits, the report was not an audit, but was portrayed as one, and states the audit was not consistent with the city’s approved audit plan.
The letter states Lauzier is entitled to damages under his employment contract including 20 weeks of severance pay, COBRA payments so he can maintain insurance for one year during his unemployment, earned leave, sick and vacation days. Garcia’s letter estimates the minimum total of that amount is $279,200.
Garcia writes that Lauzier’s 14th Amendment rights were violated when the “City Attorney asked leading questions of the Auditor, which have done irreparable damage to my client’s standing and reputation, based on false premises and outright lies and deceptions.”
The letter states Lauzier was denied an opportunity to clear his name and his “rights to his good name and reputation were denied.”
The letter also alleges that a disagreement between Lauzier and Mayor Petrolia is what led to his termination.
According to the letter, Garcia states Mayor Petrolia opposed Lauzier’s decision not to reimburse her for travel for her son to Palm Beach County Days in Tallahassee.
The letter states seeking reimbursement for relatives is unethical and a violation of state law and Lauzier’s decision not to provide reimbursement happened just days before he was terminated.
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, which was way before Lauzier’s termination.
It is unclear whether the city will schedule a date to meet before the April 19 deadline the attorney proposed.
City Attorney Lynn Gelin said she is still reaching out to commissioners for direction and then they city will come up with a game plan.