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Former recreation director Tom Beck suing city

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 Former Augusta Recreation, Parks and Facilities Director Tom Beck is suing the city under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, claiming that commissioners fired him last spring for protecting an employee’s right to compensation while calling it “time card fraud.”

In a called meeting April 23 eight commissioners, acting upon the recommendation of City Administrator Fred Russell, voted to terminate Beck with cause for mislabeling an employee’s four days of compensatory time as time worked.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Richmond County Superior Court by attorney J. Michael Brown, claims the commission and Russell were retaliating against Beck for protecting former operations manager Melinda Pearson’s right to use accrued leave she had earned before going on extended family medical leave.

Beck acknowledged to commissioners that he had recorded the compensatory days off as days worked in accordance with “standard process for our department for years and years and years.” He said the practice likely developed because of the long workdays sometimes required of recreation managers.

Pearson was later demoted to an hourly position.

The only commissioner to vote against firing Beck, Grady Smith, said the circumstances did not warrant termination of such a longtime employee.

Beck is seeking reinstatement, lost wages and benefits as well as interest, attorney’s fees and damages, including punitive damages, of an unspecified amount. He had been employed with recreation since 1977 and last year received a 15 percent raise in conjunction with a reorganization of city departments that brought his salary to $100,000.

City officials said Monday that they were unaware of the suit’s filing.

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F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 11/19/12 - 02:35 pm
14
1
This will be settled...
Unpublished

Out of court...as is every lawsuit filed against the City. Shouldn't have fired him in the first place. The one that should be fired is Russell!!

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 11/19/12 - 02:51 pm
15
1
Here we go again

I hope it isn't settled out of court actually. Something needs to be done about how things are handled by some of the people down there.

If Beck was wrongfully fired, he needs to go after them for everything he can get.

Someone truly needs to look into how things have been handled down there.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 11/19/12 - 03:23 pm
13
3
Good for Mr. Beck. Though
Unpublished

Good for Mr. Beck. Though it's a shame that the taxpayers have to pay for incompetency once again...if that's really what explains this situation. Sure smells of some sort of retaliation to me.

soapy_725
43949
Points
soapy_725 11/19/12 - 03:40 pm
0
0
Good for Beck (-:
Unpublished

Bad for the ARC taxpayers who will foot the bill )-: Politicians could care less. But sheeple do those things. Some thing about cutting of noses to spite faces, etc. BAH BAH BAH

Sweet son
11083
Points
Sweet son 11/19/12 - 03:42 pm
11
2
Nothing but a Commission Cluster as per usual!

I am not the type that would sue but Tom Beck was wronged and I hope he has "his" day in court even if we have to pay for it! As F4therTime said Russell should be fired and the Commission should be put on notice that we are tired of their mishandling of "our" business!

justthefacts
24009
Points
justthefacts 11/19/12 - 03:53 pm
13
1
Tom Beck

Good man. I hope he wins.

itsanotherday1
46881
Points
itsanotherday1 11/19/12 - 04:53 pm
12
0
I hope he cleans their patch

I hope he cleans their patch good. Sorry for the residents who have to foot the bill though.

moderate321
336
Points
moderate321 11/19/12 - 06:16 pm
13
0
Good for him

I wish him the best. This was wrong on so many levels.

corgimom
36696
Points
corgimom 11/19/12 - 06:31 pm
12
1
Just another in a long line

Just another in a long line of lawsuits against the City of Augusta. When will they ever learn?

showboat
365
Points
showboat 11/19/12 - 07:51 pm
0
0
I hope Mr. Beck win this one
Unpublished

I hope Mr. Beck win this one and Russell need to be fired, they had no reason to fire Mr. Beck. This was going on in all departments.

my.voice
5085
Points
my.voice 11/19/12 - 08:36 pm
11
0
Get 'em Tom!

"City officials said Monday that they were unaware"..... This should be on every welcome sign to Augusta!

Get 'em Tom!

Retired Army
17512
Points
Retired Army 11/19/12 - 09:25 pm
11
2
This may be a first on the

This may be a first on the Chronicle boards. Not a single thumbs down so far.

Had some dealings with Mr. Beck way back when and I found him to be both personable and competent. It will be interestig to see who had an axe to grind and why.

pointstoponder
458
Points
pointstoponder 11/19/12 - 10:37 pm
2
2
No longer 100% in favor

From what I understand, the Department is working much better without Mr. Beck and Ms. Pearson. There is nowhere near as much favoritism, management through intimidation and berating staff for not contributing to United Way.

I will never understand the gleeful chorus encouraging people to sue to take your own tax dollars.

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 11/20/12 - 05:42 am
7
1
Retired Army said:

This may be a first on the Chronicle boards. Not a single thumbs down so far.

Well, you put the whammy on it by saying that..there are thumbs down now. ;o) Guess they couldn't stand it when they read that...

pointstoponder said:


From what I understand, the Department is working much better without Mr. Beck and Ms. Pearson. There is nowhere near as much favoritism, management through intimidation and berating staff for not contributing to United Way.

I will never understand the gleeful chorus encouraging people to sue to take your own tax dollars.

Regarding favoritism and management through intimidation, there are avenues for employees to report cases such as those. If an employee truly feels abused, they need to utilize them. An employee cannot be berated for not contributing to anything..they can also report that as well.

Standing around complaining to each other and to folks that can't do anything does not help. People need to contact the people put in place that handle those kinds of problems.

I do not think people are gleefully encouraging Beck to sue for our own tax dollars. It is more of an opportunity to maybe right a wrong type thing. And maybe prevent future wrongs from happening.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 11/20/12 - 07:26 am
4
1
Why does Fred Russells name

frequently seem to be the cause of so many City-County (C-C) Lawsuits?

"acting upon the recommendation of City Administrator Fred Russell,"

Little Lamb
47950
Points
Little Lamb 11/20/12 - 07:43 am
3
1
Comp Time

If the city is going to allow department heads to let employees take comp time for working "long hours," then they need to get a policy in writing and they need to make a code for comp time to put on the time sheets. It is wrong to show time as "worked" on Tuesday for long hours last Thursday.

Let the time sheets show the truth.

Beck was wrong to sign off on an untruthful time sheet.

rebellious
21417
Points
rebellious 11/20/12 - 08:07 am
3
1
Grady Smith

was the only commissioner with the cojones to vote against Beck's dismissal. Keep in mind Beck's mistake was a recording issue, not resulting in any unearned distribution of wages. A technicality between usual and customary practice and the new 700 page Policy and Procedure manual. And for that, the other commissioners saw fit to dump a man's 30 plus years of service to the city. Talk about sending a message to future employees!

pointstoponder
458
Points
pointstoponder 11/20/12 - 08:10 am
1
4
I am curious

All of the defenders of Mr Beck, what is the basis of your determining his competence? Is it because he is a nice guy? That doesn't insure competence. Is it because Sylvia Cooper vouched for him? Sylvia, to my knowledge, doesn't really know the daily operations of any department.

As for reporting favoritism, who do you suggest? The great paperwork void that is the HR Department? Paperwork goes to HR and is never heard of again. EEO, unless there is an action defined as an EEO violation, they have no jurisdiction. The Administrator? In spite of the prevailing wisdom in the comments section, Russell has, on balance, done more positive for Augusta than negative, but personnel is his biggest weakness. He has always pawned that off on someone else.

The policy Beck violated was the Augusta policy. No department head, other than elected officials, can set a departmental policy that is more lenient than the city policy. Ms. Pearson was exempt from overtime and thus not eligible to earn comp time. Period.

Filling a suit does not mean that the city was not correct in the action. It simply means Beck and an attorney want to see if they can make a buck off the taxpayer.

pointstoponder
458
Points
pointstoponder 11/20/12 - 08:12 am
1
4
Rebellious

One would expect Beck, a Department Head, and Pearson, a well paid, salaried manager, to have a better grasp of policies they are charged with enforcing.

Little Lamb
47950
Points
Little Lamb 11/20/12 - 08:55 am
3
0
Interesting

You made interesting comments, pointstoponder. Still, I am left to believe that the city actually has no written policy on comp time. If they had a written policy, ace reporter Susan McCord would have published it by now here in the paper.

justthefacts
24009
Points
justthefacts 11/20/12 - 09:00 am
2
0
points

In all aspects of my interaction with Mr. Beck I found him very competent and he actually cared about doing his job right. He worked his way up the ladder without connections, which is unusual these days. As an added bonus, he was a good guy to work with. He wasn't fired because he wasn't competent. He was fired over an offense that should have resulted in a slap on the wrist.

pointstoponder
458
Points
pointstoponder 11/20/12 - 09:25 am
1
2
just the facts

There are many that would not agree with your assesment of his competence. In some areas, yes. Overall, not so much.

justthefacts
24009
Points
justthefacts 11/20/12 - 09:39 am
2
1
Maybe

But, I think you asked the question of his defenders. No? Let's hear from his detractors. Perhaps You? Was he fired because he wasn't competent?

Dixieman
16580
Points
Dixieman 11/20/12 - 09:43 am
2
1
Dixieman has 1 billion points

If there were such a thing as common sense in this day and age there would be no story here as Mr. Beck did the right, just and sensible thing. Alas, common sense has disappeared in 2012 America.

HenryWalker3rd
2393
Points
HenryWalker3rd 11/20/12 - 09:45 am
2
1
Double Standard
Unpublished

Is Pearson had decided to sue, the comments would read TOtALLY DIFFERENT.

I thought many were again a "sue happy" society...whats' the OBVIOUS difference in this case?

rebellious
21417
Points
rebellious 11/20/12 - 10:15 am
1
2
Hank

I would support the Pearson suit as well, with the caveat that I hate to see taxpayers money wasted. She was obviously unfairly demoted. I wouldn't rule out such a future developement. She may be watching the Beck suit for tips and pointers. The defense (if there is any) will give her lawyers a huge peek at the case.

pointstoponder
458
Points
pointstoponder 11/20/12 - 10:30 am
0
1
If you are basing your

If you are basing your opinion on information from this publication (or Austin Rhoades for that matter), you just might not have all the facts. Just a thought.

justthefacts
24009
Points
justthefacts 11/20/12 - 10:37 am
1
0
points

If that was for me, I already told you what I was basing my opinion on. What are you basing your opinion on?

pointstoponder
458
Points
pointstoponder 11/20/12 - 10:46 am
0
1
Facts

I base my opinion on personal interaction with the people and department involved, just as you do.

triscuit
3223
Points
triscuit 11/20/12 - 11:08 am
1
2
He was fired because he is

He was fired because he is white. Yep, call me racist, that's the pat answer anytime color's brought up. But too many other black administrators and dept. heads there have kept (and are keeping jobs) with much more "rule breaking" than this. I hope he sues and wins. Grady Smith should be commended for seeing this for what it is.

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