Huger files EEOC claim against city
Widely distributed email supports claim
BY PENNY DICKERSON
In a complaint dated Oct. 7, Thomas Huger – the 63-year old son of Daytona Beach’s first Black city commissioner, James Huger – charged the city with race and age discrimination after being passed over for a job as deputy public works director.
Huger’s claim against the city got unexpected support when a memo dated June 8, 2015 – allegedly bearing the signature of Public Works Director Steven T. Richart – surfaced, indicating that the city would save more than $164,000 by hiring Huger and eliminating an unnecessary position. The Daytona Times has learned that on Tuesday, a copy of the memo was e-mailed to every Daytona Beach city employee.
The Daytona Times obtained a copy of the EEOC Charge of Discrimination filed with the Florida Commission on Human Relations on Oct. 7. In it, Huger stated the following as the reason for his claim.
“I am a 63-year-old Black individual. I have been employed with the City of Daytona Beach since 2006 and most recently held the title of Facilities Construction & Maintenance Manager. During my tenure, I have never had any performance problems and received favorable evaluations.
‘The most qualified’
“In July 2015, I applied for the position of Deputy Public Works Director. I was the most qualified and received an interview. However, I was not selected for the position. On July 29, 2015, I was advised that a younger less qualified white individual (David Waller/White) was selected.
“After my non-selection, I filed an internal complaint of discrimination with the company but nothing was done. Although they state that they investigated the matter, it was clear from their findings, that this was not the case.
“No reasons were given for my non-selection. Other similarly situated employees outside of my classes have been selected for the Deputy Public Works Director,” he continued.
Huger stated that he believes he has been discriminated because of his age and race.
“I am Black, more educated, (MBA Management, more experienced (40 years of work experience), local resident, nine-year employee compared to a 39-year-old white man with a Bachelor of Science degree in Forest Resource Conservation and personal associate of Steven Richart, the person making the final decision on the hiring,” Huger explained.
He added that although he was highly qualified for the position, he was needed more to manage the Property Maintenance Division because Richart felt “he could never replace me with someone as experienced as I am in Facilities Management.’’
Huger alleges that City Manager James Chisholm gave the directive for Richart not to hire Huger as the Deputy Public Works Director. Huger added that he believes Richart would say that Chisholm “gave the instruction to the interview committee to not select me for the Deputy Public Works Director’’ if questioned by the EEOC about Huger’s claim.
Highly educated, experienced
Huger’s resume is weighted with both education and professional achievement including his work for the City of Daytona Beach. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in finance from then Bethune-Cookman College (now University) and a Master of Business Administration in management from Webster University.
In his resume’s professional summary, Huger describes himself as a “seasoned, results-oriented business professional with proven abilities in strategic planning, managing projects, improving efficiency of operations, team building and detailing project information to determine effective processes for operations.
Further, he is educated and experienced in the areas of management, construction, real estate, and procurement with a demonstrated ability to motivate staff to mainstream productivity and control costs through the most effective uses of manpower and available resources.
VP, contractor, entrepreneur
His multiple certifications include Facility Manager (CFM) from the International Facility Management Association. He has been licensed by the state of Florida as a Certified Building Contractor (CBC) and Certified Real Estate Sales and the International Code Council has named Huger a Certified Building Inspector and Certified Residential Combination Inspector.
Professional posts include 10 years, from 1988-1999 with Bethune-Cookman. Huger was employed in the following positions: associate vice president for fiscal affairs, assistant vice president for procurement, and director of construction/renovation.
As an entrepreneur, Huger managed his namesake business Thomas Huger, CBC from 2000-2006.
He was owner, consultant, contractor and developer and managed oversight for residential, multi-family and commercial real estate.
Most notable to substantiate Huger’s claim is his nine-year post with the City of Daytona Beach as Facilities Construction & Maintenance manager. He currently has fiscal oversight over a $205 million annual budget municipality with an array of success projects managed under his direction.
City opens investigation
A City of Daytona Beach memo was addressed to Huger on Oct. 2 with the subject: Investigation Regarding Race, Age, and Retaliation Complaint. It was sent directly to Huger from Betty Goodman, assistant city manager, and James A. Sexton, human resources director.
Goodman and Sexton referenced subsequent meetings with Huger on Aug. 25 and 27 informing him that a “formal investigation” was being conducted as a follow up to his allegations of discrimination.
As part of the process, the pair conducted interviews with “each member of the hiring panel, which included Richart: Gary Shimun, deputy city manager; Frank Van Pelt, technical services director; Sonja Wiles, Public Works administrative coordinator; and Mike Garrett, director of permits and licenses.
Hiring panel and process
According to Goodman, four candidates were interviewed for the position of Deputy Public Works Director: Chris Wall, David Waller, Frank Griffin and Huger. All candidates were provided the list of interview questions in advance of the interview, which lasted approximately one hour each with candidates being asked questions and panel members were free to ask follow-up questions.
After each candidate’s interview, the panel discussed its observations of the candidate. Upon completion of the interview process, the panel deliberated for a lengthy period of time and came to a general consensus and recommended Waller for the position.
“Nothing in our investigation even remotely suggests that the panel considered race and/or age during the hiring process. Four members of the hiring panel had Mr. Waller as their number one pick and had you (Huger) as their number two pick.” stated Goodman.
“One member stated that you and Mr. Waller were tied for their number one pick and further did not object to the panel’s consensus to offer the position to Mr. Waller. This hiring panel operated identically to the hiring panels that you sat on when filing other key positions within the department,” added Goodman.
Open, shut, and open case
By Oct. 5, Goodman had issued her final findings to Huger in a signed memo that counter-copied Sexton. Her conclusion regarding the independent investigation was brief:
“Thomas, Jim, and I conducted a thorough investigation into your complaint and we are in agreement on all aspects of our findings. Regarding your request for an independent investigator to re-investigate your complaint, the City considers this investigation closed.”
Huger responded the same day with a signed statement of disagreement addressed to Goodman requesting an outside independent investigator.
NAACP wants review
Last month, Cynthia Slater, president of the Volusia County-Daytona Beach branch of the NAACP, said she wants a full review of minority employees, including hiring practices, terminations and promotions ordered by the Daytona Beach commission.
Slater addressed the commission on Oct. 21 during a regular meeting with a request for employment equity and diversity for African-Americans and minorities within city government.
“Our organization has been bombarded with complaints from employees from the City of Daytona Beach throughout the years and our legal redress committee has held meetings with the city manager and his administrators with very unsettling outcomes. Therefore, it is with this great sense of responsibility that the organization speak out to what we believe are unfair practices in hiring and promotions within the city.”
In an email to the Daytona Times on Wednesday, Commissioner Paula Reed said she would ask the commission “to execute an external equity analysis’’ of Slater’s concerns.
“Our staff should reflect the community we serve,’’ she stated. “Employees and applicants should be treated with dignity & respect with opportunity for advancement.’’