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Gretsas’ wrongful termination suit vs. Delray Beach approaches

Updated: Feb 21, 2022

A chorus of “no comments” is being heard from both sides as the date apparently approaches for a hearing on fired Delray Beach City Manager George Gretsas’ wrongful termination lawsuit filed against the city.

In fact, attorneys for Gretsas and the city of Delray Beach refused to even disclose the date of the legal proceeding.

In an email, the ex-city manager’s attorney, G. Ware Cornell Jr. of Weston, said it is a policy of his firm not to comment on pending litigation – and neither will his client. The same type of response came verbally in a telephone call with attorney Michael Gore of the Jones Foster law firm in West Palm Beach, an outside counsel hired to represent Delray Beach in the matter.

In his suit filed Dec. 30, 2021, Gretsas said he hopes to receive the 20 weeks of severance pay required in his work contract with the city if he were to be fired without cause. He is also asking for other benefits, such as a car allowance, cell phone allowance and health insurance premiums, a total of about $145,000, as well as payment of his attorney fees by the city.

Gretsas’ litigation claims he was “terminated, allegedly for cause, on Nov. 20, 2020.” He was suspended in June 2020 after the City Commission voted 3-2 to move ahead with hearings on allegations that he had bullied another city official -- allegations that were later withdrawn. Commissioners Boylston and Frankel voted against the motion, citing the need for a complete report on the matter before the step was taken. Mayor Petrolia and Commissioners Johnson and Casale voted yes.

The alleged victim of the bullying was identified by Gretsas as Assistant City Manager Suzanne Fisher. In his suit, he alleges that Fisher produced “phony complaints” against him, and described her as “a politically connected assistant city manager.”

“The truth is that I discovered the safety of the drinking water in Delray Beach has been compromised,” Gretsas stated in a 12-page memo on June 31, 2020, written after his suspension due to charges later dropped regarding Fisher.

In his dozen-page report, He further noted that Fisher “is the same person that is responsible for managing the water department and she was afraid that I was going to fire her and so she filed a complaint against me. Her complaint was that she was upset that my voice was too loud when I was expressing my outrage to her over her staff having polluted the public drinking water and for her inability to address gross incompetence in her department.”

The report goes on to say that “Mayor Petrolia had directed me [Gretsas] to lie to the public and tell them that she had no role in the reclaimed water catastrophe.”

Fisher resigned from her position as Assistant City Manager in September 2020.

New charges of alleged misconduct were filed in August, one of which was that Gretsas compromised city security by keeping emails regarding city business on a private server paid for by the city and installed by city employees. Whether Gretsas had tacit approval from City Attorney Gelin to do so is at question.

During a legal hearing requesting a delay of the termination proceedings, in part because the Gretsas legal team had yet to receive email or text communications between Fisher and Petrolia they had asked for, it was revealed that Mayor Petrolia had also stored emails regarding city business on her private home computer in 2017 - emails she said she couldn't provide since her computer's hard drive had been destroyed.

In the fall of 2020, The Palm Beach Post reported that "Petrolia told city officials in late September that the 'entire text stream' of messages between herself and former Assistant City Manager Suzanne Fisher 'disappeared'.”

In November, Gretsas was terminated, with only three charges of the nine in total receiving more than a 3-2 majority vote. Mayor Petrolia and Commissioners. Johnson and Casale voted yes on all nine counts.

In the suit, Gretsas flatly claims that “all charges [against me] are baseless and false.” He said he was not fired for cause and should receive the “20 weeks of severance and other benefits.”

When he finally put his allegations against the city into a lawsuit, Gretsas alleged that he “refused to give political cover to the mayor and commissioners over the water quality [issue].”

He also cited another so-called matter of alleged “corruption” within the city, pointed out an allegation that a $50 million contract was awarded “to a crony of a commissioner who was still on felony probation.” However, the complaint does not name the contract, the commissioner or the person he claimed was “a crony.”

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