Published On: Tue, Jun 16th, 2020

Delray Beach: A City in Chaos

By: C. Ron Allen

Editor’s Note: Attached below are both letters. One from Gretas to Fisher, and also Fisher’s Response.

Delray Beach City Manager George Gretsas has been trying to fire of one of his assistants who he says has a history of unethical conduct, conflicts of interest, lying, and bullying.

But after two scheduled meetings where he had planned to oust Suzanne Davis Fisher, her fate may hinge on a technicality: she is out on medical leave and firing her could trigger a lawsuit.

“It has come to my attention that you have engaged in unethical conduct, conflicts of interest and have misused your official position while working for the City of Delray Beach and as a consequence, I will be seeking termination of your employment…,” Gretsas wrote in a meticulously drafted four-page missive on June 5.

The initial meeting was scheduled for June 10. However, she requested it be rescheduled to June 15. On Monday morning, city officials said the meeting was off.

Fisher, who was appointed as one of two assistant city managers in March 2019 in a shakeup in City Hall, fired back with an eight-page letter accusing Gretsas of being antagonistic and causing her mental, physical and emotional trauma.

“I feel that I have been the victim of bullying, gender discrimination and harassment, a hostile work environment, and now retaliation by City Manager George Gretsas, commencing in March 2020 and continuing to the present time,” she wrote in the June 10 letter to Human Resources Director Duane D’Andrea and Lynn Gelin, the city attorney.

Gelin has since hired an outside attorney to investigate her allegations. City Commissioners are expected to decide at tonight’s commission meeting whether Gretsas will remain at work during the inquiry.

Fisher began medical leave May 15, a day after employees heard an exchange of heated words with Gretsas. She did not respond to a text seeking comment.

Gretsas’ decision comes after reviewing Fisher’s personnel record and interviews with several city employees. 

He discovered that:

  • Fisher, although not mention in a 2014 email from the City’s chief financial officer to the entire senior management team, took umbrage claiming that it was insulting, hostile, inappropriate and demeaning, when it clearly was not, wrote Gretsas, who took over as the city’s CEO in January.

The email raised concerns about department heads receiving the proper signatures before submitting requests for approval of items between $10,000 and $25,000. 

  • In 2016, Fisher filed a bullying complaint against then Community Improvement Director Michael Coleman. An independent investigator concluded that Fisher lied during her testimony as well as filed a false claim with the City, Gretsas wrote. According to the investigator, “it appears Ms. Fisher has fomented fear and discontent among her staff by telling outright lies to try to strengthen her position,” Gretsas wrote.

The investigator also wrote that “I believe the evidence discovered during the investigation of Ms. Fisher’s allegations overwhelmingly demonstrates a case of “false claim” and a total “breach of trust” on her part,” Gretsas continued. 

“Making false claims against your colleagues not only is disruptive to the organization but also erodes the trust of the people that you are expected to lead and, as a consequence, you have squandered the opportunity to be an effective leader here,” he wrote.

Although Fisher had run-ins with other city employees, including former department heads, it was issues with the hiring of her boyfriend that were at the root of her dismissal.

Gretsas was surprised to learn that Parks and Recreation Director Sam Metot hired Fisher’s boyfriend, Andy Reeder, in March to manage the clubhouse at the city’s golf club. Neither Fisher nor Metot informed Gretsas of the hiring. Gretsas questioned Fisher’s involvement and Reeder’s qualification since his only experience was managing a restaurant for 11 months and as a Maitre’D at a seafood restaurant.

“At no time since March 28, 2020 did you inform me that your boyfriend … was an employee of BCJE, Inc. or that your boyfriend was responsible for overseeing the day to day operations of this City facility,” Gretsas wrote. “Both you and your direct subordinate, [Metot], are responsible for judging your boyfriend’s work product and therefore you had an obligation to notify me of your conflict of interest and to recuse yourself from all matters related to the Delray Beach Golf Course.”

Gretsas raised several other concerns including Fisher’s approval of an emergency purchase for the golf course and then emailing Reeder a copy of her authorization and seeking finance department employees help to get Reeder reimbursed for a $125 expense after the accounting staff at the golf course said he was not entitled to one.

Fisher also emailed the acting public works director to push a $14,000 painting project at the Golf Club after the acting public works director expressed concerns that doing so would require jumping ahead of other projects including the Old School Square Garage, Gretsas wrote. 

“This is not the first time that matters related to a boyfriend of yours have inappropriately intersected with your duties as a City official,” Gretsas wrote.

Shortly after she began with the city, Fisher hired her then boyfriend, Will Carter, to run a program in her department, records show.

In October 2014 while Carter took a group of children to the Miami Seaquarium, a special needs child was missing and was found unsupervised at the killer whale stands 20 minutes later, Gretsas wrote. When briefed on the incident, Fisher directed staff to ban the child from participating in other offsite field trips, Gretsas wrote. 

“At this point, my trust in you has been shattered,” Gretsas wrote. “In addition to your blatant and repeated highly unethical conduct, I have also learned of other evidence that suggests that you have a propensity for lying, creating internal acrimony, and making false charges.”

Given the egregious claims by Gretsas, Fisher’s credibility is forever damaged. No city employee will ever be able to respect her again. It is an untenable situation. 

But this raises serious concerns about accountability in the city’s leadership.

Gretsas’ next order of business should be to conduct an independent investigation of all the parties who were involved. 

Legitimacy is a powerful tool in any leader’s toolbox, and when you lose it, you have nothing.

C. Ron Allen can be reached at [email protected] or 561-665-0151.

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