The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Monday, January 13, 1997, at 10:00 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioner's Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: William "Bill" H. Good, Chairman; G. Richard Swartz, Vice Chairman; Catherine C. Hanson; Welton G. Cadwell; and Rhonda H. Gerber. Others present were: Sandy A. Minkoff, County Attorney; Sue B. Whittle, County Manager; Alvin Jackson, Assistant County Manager; Carol Kessinger, BCC Office Manager; and Marlene S. Foran, Deputy Clerk.
SUITS AFFECTING THE COUNTY/COUNTY ATTORNEY/COUNTY EMPLOYEES
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, presented the request for approval of a Settlement Agreement in the case of Gregory Flynn v. Lake County and explained that this was a case where Gregory Flynn, a Lieutenant with the Department of Corrections, was terminated by the County in 1993. He explained that Gregory Flynn received a Grievance Hearing, and the Grievance Committee upheld the recommendation to termination the employment of Mr. Flynn. He explained that Mr. Flynn filed suit against the County claiming that his termination was due to his union activities and that his first amendment rights were violated. He stated that an insurance policy with Coregis Insurance Company provides that the County pay the first $25,000.00 of the loss and Coregis Insurance Company would pay the balance. He noted that the County, at this moment, has no further liability in the case. He explained that the insurance policy further provides the insurance company the right to settle the case subject to Board approval and, if they have the opportunity to settle the case and the Board does not give approval, the County assumes all of the liability over and above the settlement amount. He stated that on the eve of the trial Coregis Insurance Company decided to settle the case and instructed Mr. Jeff Mandel, Lake County Labor Attorney, to make a settlement offer, in the amount of $100,000.00, which has been accepted by Mr. Flynn, contingent upon the Board's approval.
Mr. Wayne Hamilton, Risk Manager, appeared before the Board to address questions and explained that there should not be a significant increase in the Board's insurance premium if the Board approves the Settlement Agreement.
Mr. Jeff Mandel, Lake County Labor Attorney, appeared before the Board and explained that, based on his discussions with the Coregis Insurance Company, there would not be an impact on the insurance premium. He stated that the insurance company has taken the position that the case should be settled because Coregis Insurance Company takes the position that all cases should be settled regardless of the merit of the case. He stated that he indicated to Coregis Insurance Company on January 10, 1997 that potential damages would be $100,000.00 in back pay, and an undetermined amount in lost wages and punitive damages. He noted that the plaintiff was requesting $850,000.00, and an undisclosed amount to be determined by the jury for pain, suffering, loss of reputation, plus attorney fees in the case of a loss.
Mr. Minkoff clarified that Lake County's cost in this litigation was limited to $25,000.00 and that Coregis Insurance Company would reimburse the County for all costs over $25,000.00.
Mr. Mandel stated that Coregis Insurance Company has expressed concerned that there was an avenue for appeal of the court's determination by Mr. Flynn if the jury verdict was in favor of Lake County. He discussed the costs to the County should the jury find in favor of Gregory Flynn, noting that it could cost the County as much as $1,000,000,00. Mr. Mandel stated that the Settlement Agreement before the Board at this time contains a waiver of all future action.
Commr. Swartz stated that Gregory Flynn was terminated for good reason and not for the reasons alleged in the lawsuit; however, Coregis Insurance Company has put Lake County in a position whereby $1,000,000.00 of taxpayers' funds would be at risk in order to fight principle.
Mr. Mandel stated that the Settlement Agreement very clearly outlines that Mr. Flynn does not get his job back, and that a clause would be added that would prohibit Mr. Flynn from applying for a job with Lake County in the future.
It was noted that George E. Knupp, Lake County Sheriff; Mr. David Hall, Chief Deputy, Lake County Sheriff's Department; and Major Gary Borders, Operations Director, Department of Corrections, were present in the audience.
Mr. David Hall, Chief Deputy, Lake County Sheriff's Department appeared before the Board and stated that it has been the position of the Sheriff to fight suits against the Sheriff's Department and that they are very careful not to send the wrong message to employees. He briefly discussed the Sheriff's self-insurance policies.
Commr. Hanson made a motion, which was seconded by Commr. Gerber, to approve the recommended Settlement Agreement between Gregory Flynn and Lake County.
Sheriff George Knupp appeared before the Board and expressed concern that settlement agreements send the wrong message to County employees, and that he has found that employees use the system to retire early at the expense of the taxpayer.
At this time, Commr. Hanson amended her motion to include a recommendation that the County pursue investigation of other insurance companies that do not have as restrictive a clause that applies to settlements, with Commr. Gerber including the amendment in her second to the motion.
Commr. Cadwell suggested that wording be added to Lake County's current policy that requires Coregis Insurance Company to come before the Board for approval before making a settlement agreement offer.
Commr. Good stated that the Settlement Agreement would be worded in a way that sends very clearly the message that Lake County was not assuming any liability in the case of Gregory Flynn v. Lake County.
The Chairman called for a vote on the motion, which carried unanimously by a 5 - 0 vote.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting adjourned at 10:30 a.m.
WILLIAM "BILL" H. GOOD, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK