Former HB building inspector files discrimination claim

Three weeks after former Holmes Beach building inspector Bob Shaffer leveled a charge against the city claiming he was fired due to his age, it has been dismissed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

    Shaffer was fired Sept. 18 following disciplinary action in April for mismanagement and leniency to contractors.

    “Based on its investigation, the EEOC is unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes,” according to the EEOC’s Nov. 21 dismissal and notice of rights.

    Shaffer, 72, filed the discrimination charge Nov. 7 with the EEOC and Florida Commission on Human Relations.

    Shaffer alleged the city forced him out of his job due to “unfounded complaints” and replaced him with a person in his late 30s in violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

    The EEOC closed its investigation with the Nov. 21 notice from the Tampa field office and advised Shaffer of his right to sue within 90 days in federal or state court.

    Shaffer’s charge stems from his termination by recently retired public works superintendent Joe Duennes and then-Mayor Rich Bohnenberger.

    Last week Shaffer, now a self-employed building consultant in Bradenton Beach, said he would be talking to an attorney.

    “I want to keep all options open,” he said.

    Mayor Carmel Monti said he didn’t know the details of the matter and had no comment.

    According to Shaffer, in January the city began receiving what he called an unusual amount of citizen complaints — about two or three per month — about the land development code not being enforced.

    “These complaints were investigated and most of them were found to be unfounded and a few were ambiguous,” he said.

    Shaffer was put on probation in April following a two-day suspension and written reprimand from Duennes, according to Shaffer’s personnel file at city hall.

    An April 20 memorandum from Duennes in Shaffer’s file, also signed by Bohnenberger, indicates to Shaffer he was disciplined for “exaggerated leniency to marginal and over-the-line practices by some contractors.”

    Duennes’ memo also documents “contractor mismanagement issues,” including ongoing forgiveness of late or improperly ordered inspections, failure to require proper construction site permit cards and failure to issue stop work orders for improper construction at two residences.

    The memo stated Shaffer would be given a written opinion each month on his job performance and warned, depending on his progress, the process could lead to termination.

    No subsequent written opinions were in Shaffer’s personnel file before his termination.

    A Sept. 19 letter from Duennes and Bohnenberger states Shaffer was terminated in accordance with the city’s policy designed to correct improper behavior, improve services and maximize productivity.

    In October, the city hired an electrical engineer, David Greene, to perform building inspections.

    Since Duennes’ last day in November, Greene has been working under the department’s consultant, former Longboat Key building official John Fernandez, who previously held Duennes’ position in Holmes Beach. Fernandez is providing limited services to the city — only about 20 hours a week — according to a contractual agreement. He is licensed and can approve building permits.

        Greene is expected to receive his state plans examiner/inspector license this week.

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