Outbursts Lead to Controller's Dismissal Fernandina Beach: Dickerson Fired despite a Good Evaluation

Article excerpt

Byline: Derek L. Kinner, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

A few days before she was fired earlier this month, former Fernandina Beach city controller Cindy L. Dickerson was given an evaluation that said her work performance "exceeds requirements."

But in the end, it was the way she dealt with other city officials that led to the dismissal, according to city documents. Dickerson did not return several telephone calls to her home.

City Manager Andy Barton said he could not comment on Dickerson's firing, but in city public records, Barton said he gave Dickerson, who was making a little over $50,000 annually, the March 30 evaluation and said he was recommending her for a 2 1/2 percent raise. He said he told Dickerson that he had been impressed that she was trying hard to get along with other city employees in the past few months, despite problems in the past.

But then Dickerson "exploded in anger," according to notes Barton filed after the evaluation.

Dickerson told Barton she deserved a 5 percent raise, even though the highest raise employees could receive without City Commission approval was 4 percent, and that she should have been appointed to the deputy city manager's position when it was filled in 2000. She said that because she was not appointed, it cost her $10,000 in salary, according to documents.

Barton said in the documents that he was stunned by her reaction and agreed to reconsider whether any adjustments should be made to the evaluation.

Other city employees said in written statements that they were standing outside Barton's office and could hear Dickerson as she talked in a loud voice, saying she did not respect Barton and that she should have gotten a larger raise.

Barton did make an adjustment to the evaluation. During a follow-up meeting on April 5, he fired Dickerson. He documented the meeting in notes that were filed as public documents.

"I indicated to Cindy that she had a long history of interpersonal conflicts within this organization," Barton said. "I then said that she had been counseled about this on a number of occasions. . . . I indicated that in 27 years of working in the public sector that I had never been treated as discourteously, disrespectfully, and unprofessionally."

Barton said that even during her own evaluation meeting, she was complaining about another employee.

"In addition, the fact that she appeared at her own performance evaluation with a document demanding that I take action against another city employee who does not report to me, was symbolic of the interpersonal conflicts that have marked her employment with the City," Barton said. …