On July 19th of 2013, my husband Troy Granata was wrongfully terminated from his position at Highlands County Emergency Medical Services as a Paramedic Supervisor after dedicating 17 years of his career to the public of Highlands County. The Human Resources Manager for the County made false alligations prior to an investigation that has drastically impacted Troys career and the livelihood of our family. After receiving a phone call from the EMS Director the morning of the 19th requesting that Troy meet him at the Government Center as he was being terminated. Troy told his director that the HR manager is wrong and he can get the documentation to prove that they were wrong. His director reported to "Troy that it was too late, they have already made up their minds". We were in shock to say the least.... We had just returned home from a cruise for our anniversary the day before. Not to mention that my husband is an exemplary employee of Highlands County and is highly admired and respected. Troy was awarded Florida's Paramedic of the Year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 2011 for his efforts as the incident commander of the tragic bus accident with mass casualties. Terry Buckalew, an employee of Highlands County EMS, reported in the Highlands Today that Troy leads by example. "He is a great Training Officer...He treats everyone equally and fairly...and he cares about people". Another co-worker and Training Officer of Highlands County EMS, Lynda Schock reported to the new paper that Granata goes above and beyond. "He is so passionate about his work," Schock said. During the bus crash, Schock remembers, Granata was coordinated and organized. "He feels he didn't do anything out of the ordinary...He was just doing his job. That may be so, but he did it so well," Schock added. Troy's evaluations over the past 17 years have always been outstanding from all levels. Matter of fact Troy has an exemplary personnel file as well and is a state certified Paramedic, Haz Mat Technician, Urban Search and Rescue Strike Team Task Force Leader, Fire Fighter I, Advanced Cardiac Life Support Instructor, Pediatric Advanced Life Support Instructor, as well as many other obtained certifications throughout his career.
Despite Troy's efforts to explain and make both the Human Resources Manager and the EMS Director understand that their accusations were terribly wrong and that they were making a mistake, the HR Manager and the EMS Director persisted to stand firm that Troy was terminated from his position. At that time Troy asked them both to be put on Administrative Leave Without Pay as he could provide the documentation proving that they were in fact wrong...The HR Manager declined this request. Troy then requested that he be allowed to resign in fear of loosing his State Retirement, this to was declined by the HR Manager who stated at that time if she was to let Troy resign he would be able to collect unemployment. After pleading with them that they were not even giving him an opportunity to prove to them they were wrong and he was able to provide the information that proved that their accusations were mistaken, the HR Manager persisted to terminate my husband. She then asked him to please sign the termination papers. Frustrated that they were not listening to him, he picked up the pen to sign the termination form...upon reviewing this form Troy noticed that it had actually been timed and dated July 18, 2013 @ 10:00 am. That was one hour before we were even back in Highlands county after being out of the country for a week. The HR Manager then told Troy that if he wanted to file a grievance that it was very time sensitive and needed to be done in 72 hours.
Troy came home from this devastating meeting on Friday July 19, 13 that was just the beginning of the Highlands County HR Manager's unlawful actions when he realized that the 72 hours would be up on Monday morning. If he was going to file a grievance we were going to have to turn it in before the close of business Friday afternoon (which we did). We preceded to make an appointment to obtain the documentation needed to clear Troy's name and prove that HR Manager's allegations were terribly wrong.
The following business day, Monday July 22, 2013, Troy attended the appointment he had scheduled the previous Friday, the secretary faxed all of the necessary documentation from the office fax machine with confirmation that it was received, several conversations with a Highlands County representative that further documentation with clarification would be needed, the additional clarifying documentation was also obtained then again faxed by the secretary from the office with confirmation that it also had been received. After three days of waiting for a call from Highlands County to notify us that they received the documentation and apologize for making false accusations, we had still heard nothing. Thursday afternoon July 25, 2013 Troy contacted the Highlands County representative to confirm that he had received the requested faxes on July 22, 2013. The Highlands County representative denied receiving these faxes, in fact he denied ever even talking to Troy on July 22, 2013. Shocked of what he was hearing, Troy confirmed the content of the requested documentation as well as the fax number, and called the office explaining the situation and requested that the secretary fax all of the documentation again. She went a step further than that and called herself to confirm exactly what they were requesting and the fax number to ensure this would be received. Again she received confirmation that the fax had been received. Shortly after Troy received a call from the County representative who confirmed that all necessary documentation had been received and agreed that Troy should not have been terminated as the allegations were indeed false and would be forwarded to the HR Manager to address and correct immediately. The HR Manager did not address these findings until July 31, 2013 via certified letter that was not mailed until August 1, 2013 and was not received until August 2, 2013. This was 12 days after the HR Manager received confirmation that she had made a mistake that needed to be corrected immediately. Unfortunately, due to the delay in the Counties response, knowing that Troy had done nothing wrong and not knowing what to do. We had already hired an attorney and had an appointment the following business day.
After meeting with our attorney Monday August 5, 2013, he wrote a letter to the HR Manager on August 5, 2013 to address the HR Managers letter of July 31, 2013 (received August 2nd) that stated that Troy did want to be reinstated and that a detailed letter would follow to facilitate Troy's return to work. August 7th at 5:39pm the County's attorney emailed our attorney demanding that Troy return to work on August 9th with back pay at his regular hourly rate and that the County would not agree to cover any of the attorney fees, nor would they apologize or guarantee not to retaliate against Troy.
The detailed letter by our attorney dated August 8, 2013 addressed to the County's attorney stating that Mr. Granata is prepared to return to his position provided (1)he receives back pay and benefits from the date of his improper termination through the date in which he returns to work that would equal what he would have earned had he been at work; (2) the Count issues Mr. Granata a formal letter of apology for failing to follow Florida Law and its own policies when it improperly terminated him; (3)the County confirms in writing that Mr. Granata's personnel file will be purged of the false allegations and not relied upon or used in any manner as a basis for any future employment decision; (4)the County confirms in writing that Mr. Granata will not in any way be retaliated against by the County upon his return to work; (5)the County compensates Mr. Granata for the harm to his reputation as a result of the County's unlawful actions in an amount to be agreed upon by the parties; and (6)the County reimburses Mr. Granata for attorneys' fees he has incurred.
Around 6pm August 8th, after again waiting all day for the County's response to the above mentioned letter and a phone call from the County informing him to pick up his uniforms, office keys, and radio. There was no response or phone call received and it was determined that Troy would not be going back on the 9th without coming to an amicable agreement or even a uniform to work in. So he called the Supervisor on duty to ask if anyone had left his uniforms, radio, or keys....He was told no and there weren't any uniforms laying around that would fit him. He then notified the Supervisor that he would not be there in the morning as there is no agreement in place and that they did not even provide him with the necessities to return to work. The next morning our attorney contacted the County's attorney advising that we still have not had a response to our letter of August 8th and that Troy was never contacted by the County to provide him with uniforms and such to enable him to return to work. The County's attorney's only response was he would pass the information along to the County and get back with us, which he never did.
Wednesday August 14, 2013 still having had no response from the county or their attorney. Our attorney made contact with them advising we still have not heard anything since our last contact on August 9, 2013. Later that evening my attorney receives a fax from a different attorney Michael Bowling of Bell and Roper advising that Troy was a no show on August 9, 2013 and he had also failed to show up for his shift on August 12, 2013 and although his next shift is August 15, 2013 the county expects him to be there on August 18, 2013 and states "The County will address the additional remedies demanded in your letter of August 8, 2013, as appropriate, and in due course." Again despite them demanding Troy to be there without any agreement or guarantee and saying he was a no show, not one person from the county ever contacted Troy about picking up anything he would have needed to preform his job, again!
Thursday August 15, 2013 Our attorney advises the county that Troy did not feel comfortable returning under the same administration without some find of agreement and that we were prepared to reach a mutual agreement so that all parties could move forward and Troy could return to work on august 18, 2013. Our attorney also advised the county that three of the five outstanding items did not even have a cost component attached and that rather than working towards a prompt and amicable resolution to this matter, the County continues to put forward arbitrary deadlines in an attempt to pressure Troy.
Friday August 16, 2013 received an e-mail from the county attorney advising the county expects me to be at work on August 18, 2013 and as to the remaining issues, the county states, "The county will not be rushed into making decisions on factual and legal questions that it has not had the time to fully explore. We will address these issues, in the event Mr.Granata returns to work, in a timely and appropriate fashion." My attorney again informs the county that I did not feel comfortable returning without any assurances of job protection and without assurances that he would not be retaliated against and we would need to reach an agreement before he would return.
Tuesday August 20, 2013 Our attorney reported that he spoke with the County's attorney 2 times Monday August 19, 2013 late in the day. The County's attorney wanted to make sure he understood our position as he was scheduled to have a conference call with the County today. He left my attorney with the impression he would follow-up after the call.
Thursday August 22, 2013 Collaboration with our attorney who reported there has been no response from the County's attorney yet.
Tuesday August 27, 2013 During a telephone conversation on this day the County's attorney admitted to my attorney that he had not even begun researching the issue or speaking with his client at length to discuss the matter as he indicated that he had other pressing matters on his plate. Troy sent an e-mail to all of the County Commissioners requesting to meet with them to discuss the way this has been handled. We never got a response from any of them.
Wednesday August 28, 2013 received a letter from the County Administrator advising that Troy still has an open grievance and inquired as to whether he wanted to continue with it. It gave a deadline of September 6, 2013.
Thursday August 29, 2013 Our attorney advised the Administrator that Troy did want to continue with the grievance and requested the information on the grievance. Whenever did receive the information from the County.
Friday August 30, 2013 Our attorney receives a letter from Michael Bowling from Bell and Roper advising the county now takes the stand that they did nothing wrong and will not meet any of the request in our letter from August 8, 2013 and as far as Troys employment goes, He has an open grievance that the county will handle. We sent another follow-up e-mail to all of the commissioners again requesting to meet with them to discuss the actions of their staff and attorney. He did receive an e-mail from one of the Commissioners and scheduled a meeting for September 4, 2013. Never got a response from any of the other commissioners.
Tuesday September 3, 2013 We received an e-mail from one of the Commissioner's advising the county attorney has advised him not to meet with Troy. This e-mail also included all the e-mails from county staff and shows, the HR Manager, who the allegations are against was allowed to contact their attorney and have this meeting blocked. We also received e-mails from 2 of the Commissioners advising their attorney advised them not to meet with Troy. Did not get a response from the other 2 Commissioners.
Monday September 16, 2013 Troys attorney has to contact the county and advise them that their deadline for the grievance September 6, 2013 has passed and they never did respond or provide us with the information.
Tuesday September 17, 2013 my attorney receives an e-mail from the Administrative Aide for the Administrator with available dates for a pregrievance hearing. Also on this day due to the county dragging this on and refusing to come to an agreement,Troy wanted to file for unemployment. He filed a complaint to June Fisher Highlands County Administrator about an unemployment hearing Troy was forced to take part in from 10-11-2012 where the Human Resource Manager was lying under oath to the Unemployment Hearing Referee. We never got a response from anyone from the county and as of 12/20/13 there has still not been an investigation done.
Thursday September 19, 2013 Troy e-mails all of the County Commissioners again requesting they sit and listen to him. He advised them, they did not have to talk and that he would not ask them any questions. He was only asking for them to listen. We got a read response from Commissioner Brooks , no response from 2 of Commissioners, and the other 2 Commissioners e-mails were deleted without being read. We found that interesting as it was exactly 30 seconds apart on the same day that they were deleted.
Since that time we have spent thousands of dollars in attorneys fees to set a pre-grievance and then the grievance hearing. There have been hundreds of e-mails back and forth dealing with their ridiculous deadlines and rules. They originally gave five minutes to question and cross exam every witness and if we were not finished it would be too bad. Also they have all of Troys witnesses listed first and then theirs, so, if they used the whole 5 minutes he would not be allowed to ask any questions to their witnesses. We had to spend a thousand dollars to get this changed to 15 minutes and have the right to cross exam their witnesses. Troy also questioned the Highlands County Engineer assigned by the County Administrator to be the Hearing Officer)during the pregrievance hearing if one of the County Commissioners could sit in on this grievance hearing as a witness. He was told this would not be allowed. He then asked Hearing Officer if the County would agree to have a mutual Mediator sit in to give a non-biased opinion if, Troy would pay for it. He was also told that, this would not be allowed and when Troy question the Hearing Officer as to why the County wouldn't agree when Troy offered to pay for it, he was told "Because I am the Hearing Officer and I said so." Troy then questioned Hearing Officer if the County Labor attorney would review the final report prior to it being released. The Hearing Officer did not want to answer this question but, with hesitation he proceeded to tell him that the attorney would review it but, this would not change his final report. Troy then questioned as to why the attorney would need to review the report prior to it being released if it wasn't going to change it. We were also informed through a letter that the County's Labor Attorney had nothing to do with the grievance process. It seems they make the rules as the go and have now pushed the grievance back until November 4, 2013. We could not afford to invest more money in attorney fees to go through with this grievance process when the county would not address any concerns or conflicts and already advised they would not cover our attorney's fee's. I feel the county staff should not be allowed to violate the law and their own policies and then treat an employee this way. I also feel their attorneys have been very unprofessional and unethical. They have made decisions for the County and demands on Troy that lead to us not reaching a mutual agreement and then admit after four weeks they have not had the time to review the facts or details but yet they are making these decisions that cost my husband his career. Troy has dedicated 22 years to the Public Service in Highlands County and have been nothing but, a honest hard working Paramedic for Highlands County and it's citizens.
As of today, December 30, 2013, numerous Highlands County Employee's, current and retired, as well as many other citizens that are aware of the Counties unlawful actions have spoken to the Commissioners pleading with them to do an investigation to uncover the unlawful actions of the HR Manager and the Administrator. However, even with the extensive documentation confirming and discrediting the HR Manager and the Administrator's wrongful accusations and unlawful actions, Troy is still not back to work were he belongs. Troy has taken every step in accordance with the law, not only to stand his ground but to protect the reputation of the County in which he grew up in and that we still reside in. But after 5 months of hardship and strain on our family it is time to let the public know what they have done to our family and that our tax dollars are being spent on selective administrative staff that feel they do not have to follow the law set in place by our Government by disregarding the Florida State Statutes, Highlands County Policy and Procedures, and Code of Ethics Laws.
There is still an abundance of supporting details that we would gladly provide to anyone that is interested, please contact us.
Thank you so much simply for taking the time and consideration of reading our story and anything that can be contributed to help us reach our goal to recover our losses of standing up for what is right and to continue the fight to protect our rights.