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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.

Lake City News

The Rudolph Davis Affair
Employee at will

In the United States, employees without a written employment contract generally can be fired for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all. Florida is an "employment at will" state. This means an employee in Florida can be fired -- "because." In Florida it is established law that no reason has to be given. An employee can be fired because his employer just "feels like it."


19 1/2 year veteran Police Capt. Rudolph Davis addressed the City Counsel and waited for a reason for his termination. He is still waiting.

There are three general exceptions to at will employment: 1. A public policy exception. This would violate a public policy of the State, such as a "The Policeman's Bill of Rights." 2.  An implied contract exception, such as an employee handbook. 3. A covenant of good faith and fair dealing. This means that termination made in bad faith or motivated by malice are prohibited [Shane and Rosenthal, Employment Law Deskbook, § 16.03[8]].

Some or all of the three exceptions to at will employment are recognized by forty six states. Three of the Jim Crow states, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana, as well as the Rhode Island don't recognize any of the exemptions.


Straight talking City Manager Wendell Johnson listened to Capt. Davis and the public. He wasn't talking.

The Rudolph Davis affair has brought to the forefront the fact that almost any employee that works for Lake City, or Columbia County, can be fired at anytime for no reason. This does not include some contract employees, such as the county manager, city manager and city police chief.

Tuesday's January 19th City Council meeting may very well be the last public expression of the angst suffered on both sides of the Captain Davis Affair, as once again the supporters of Captain Davis and those of the City Council and Chief Gilmore came out to voice their opinions.


Mayor Witt invites speakers to the microphone as City Clerk, Audrey Sikes, keeps the minutes of the meeting.

Mayor Steve Witt is always polite and always willing to have the city council listen to the public, which is a far cry from the antics of Florida's homeless Columbia County Commission. He allowed anyone who wished to speak to come to the microphone and say their piece, without interruption and without the hostile rudeness for which the Columbia County Commission is known.

Capt. Davis addressed the City Council and told them that he had never questioned Chief Gilmore's credentials to be the Chief of Police and once again asked for an explanation for his dismissal.

Capt. Davis told the Council that it was well known that he had filed discrimination complaints against the City and that even though Florida was as an "at will" state, that didn't give the City the right to fire him in retaliation, after nineteen and a half years, without an explanation.

Capt. Davis told the Council, "I need to hear the reasons why I was terminated."

James Scofield was next to address the Council and presented them with a petition and a letter calling for the resignation of Chief Gilmore because as he said in the letter, "We believe she carried out an act of retaliation against Captain Rudolph Davis when she decided to terminate him immediately on November 16, 2009" without a reason.

 

Resident Julia May Page addressed the Council: "I'd like to know why Ms. Gilmore fired Mr. Davis, because Mr. Davis did a real good job.. You could always call Mr. Davis and he would be there on time for you and he would solve the problem... he does a good job ... and God bless you all."

 

The final speaker was former sixteen year veteran City Councilman and district director for Congress Woman Corrine Brown, Glenel Bowden. Mr. Bowden explained that the City Charter gave the City Manager and his Administrative Officer the right to hire and fire if he thought it was in the best interest of the city.

Mr. Bowden hit the nail on the head when he said, "If in fact there was a violation there are other avenues where this could take place. EEOC is one. The Courts is one. The Office of Civil Rights is one. I think that if any City Council goes down the slippery slope of getting involved in personnel matters, it's a dangerous slope. Once you start down, you never come back."

Since the Davis Affair began, there has been talk on the street about a conspiracy to fire Captain Davis.

Mr. Bowden addressed this directly. After a few brief comments about the career of Chief Gilmore, he said: "I find it very difficult to believe that a Christian woman would come to this town and through some conspiracy, somebody called her in Tallahassee [and somebody told her] your job when you get here, Ms., is to tell a black woman to fire a black man, and she's going to come and do it. I don't believe that."


Councilman Jake Hill asked the tough question.

Where it stands now.

Everyone has been given the opportunity to speak.

To the dismay of many, the City Council cannot speak about personnel matters and they have remained silent. This does not mean they cannot ask questions.

City Councilman Jake Hill, during the December 21st City Council meeting, asked Chief Gilmore the question which needed to be asked.

Councilman Hill to Chief Davis: "Could you tell me why you terminated Captain Davis."


Chief Gilmore ponders her answer.

The room fell silent and strained forward to hear the Chief. She explained that she had to make tough calls and make decisions that are in the best interest of the department and the city.

Her answer appeared to satisfy no one.

Over six hundred residents signed a petition calling for the resignation of Chief Gilmore. At the very bottom it asked for the reinstatement of Captain Davis.

In December, your reporter had a conversation with Captain Davis and others regarding this petition.

The Observer's conclusions from many conversations are these:  The resignation part is really representative of the frustration of the way in which the Davis Affair was handled. The community supports the Chief, thinks she was a good choice to lead the department and is looking forward to the Lake City Police Department moving forward under her command.

Neither Captain Davis, the NAACP, the PBA nor anyone has ever asked that a cloak of secrecy shroud the reasons for Captain Davis' termination. Indeed, in the open and at every opportunity, person after person including Captain Davis, has asked the reason(s).

The City could have and should have answered.

Captain Davis told the Observer that is he talking to an attorney out of Jacksonville and is exploring his options.

Correction: Caption changed in City Manager photo, removing the words, "The strain is evident."

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On March 19, 2010 "janie" from Texas wrote:

i do not understand why this is allowed. that is why so many terminated employees return to the workplace and go postal. i have been there many times getting fired for things that had nothing to do with my job performance. i live in houston and i was fired in July from a security that hold the exxon mobil contract. many employees even the female major that fired me major lisa blake use the exxon mobil hines buildings like they are motel 6. much wrongdoing there and the major do not care she fire people for retaliation nothing to do with their job performance. it is sad that black people can screw over other blacks and no problem but if a white person sneeze in our direction we can go to the eeoc and say that white man or woman spit on us and we can sue and will probably win even though it was lie would not matter.

 

 
 
 
 

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