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The Only Thing Worse Than A Dumpster Fire: One With A Lawyer

, , , , , | Working | CREDIT: fiya79 | May 2, 2023

I was a public employee for many years. I had a middle management role for about twenty years. I reported to a department head, who reported to the mayor. I had a small staff of typically five to ten people who were mostly part-time. They rotated every few years, and I tried my best to make their time with me valuable. I helped them pad out their resumes, paid for training, and more.

[Employee] was initially a decent employee but quickly decided he was the greatest employee of all time. His overconfidence often led to mistakes or being overextended until he needed to be bailed out. He was good at basic tasks but had a hard time with math, grammar, and interacting with adults.

Part of my job was seeking federal grants for small infrastructure projects — think adding ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) benches to nature trails and curb cuts on old sidewalks or bridges on walking paths across ditches. I would write the grants and specs. The small staff would help administer the grant. Sometimes they would do the work. Sometimes they would oversee contractors.

The grants were extremely clear and included a matching component. Sometimes we would add cash or equipment time or staff time. Sometimes we would have volunteer organizations match with labor.

We were doing a bridge grant, and I put [Employee] in charge. We were in phase three of three, and we had a lot of experience. There were twenty-one bridges we were replacing in batches of seven. [Employee] just had to keep the process going with volunteer match labor hours. The process was practically automatic. All he had to do was show up with materials and stay out of the way.

He did an adequate job — barely. I had to keep him on track to stay in spec. We were spending money to improve water quality. He wanted to improve recreation. We sent a lot of emails and texts about it. The department also used project codes to track grant spending. Each grant had a code, and it was very easy to code all the time and materials through the accounting department. The volunteers signed logs each day and the process was pretty tidy.

That fall, [Employee] continued to struggle with basic tasks and eventually demanded a promotion for his outstanding work. He did not meet the very clear requirements for a promotion (government requirements) through his own laziness despite being given opportunities to become qualified.

Eventually, he became intentionally negligent and put himself and others in danger. I called him into the office after an egregious incident and offered him the opportunity to resign or be fired. Resigning meant he would be eligible for rehire in a different department. Being fired meant he would be blacklisted from working for the city. He refused to resign, so I terminated him. He seemed shocked. I think he thought it was a bluff or scare tactic. He thought he was a critical cog in the machine, but he was a thorn in my side.

[Employee]’s dad is a well-known local attorney. I had pulled [Employee]’s state criminal record, and on close inspection, it was clear that Daddy was bailing him out throughout life. Assault charges were dropped, a DUI was pled down to a traffic violation, and a possession charge was pled to an infraction.

[Employee] decided to come after me. His first move was to call the federal division that oversaw my grants and report fraud. They launched an investigation. My records were 1,000% immaculate. They called him into a meeting. His proof of fraud was that he felt that the bridges should have been a lower priority and the money would be better spent elsewhere, so the fraud was a misuse of funds. But the grant specs were followed precisely — by him. He had tried to divert funds and I had stopped him. I had written evidence.

The project he had accused was the literal poster child for success and was included in a slideshow to the legislature on the success of the grant program.

The feds and city powers were livid with [Employee] for wasting time. I had reams of perfect documentation. He was yelled out of the building.

Then, he filed a wrongful termination suit. He told his dad about the apparent mistreatment and his dad filed. I contacted the city attorney and dumped hundreds of pages of documentation, with a summary, in his email.

I was in city hall when Daddy Attorney came slinking out of the legal department apologizing for his idiot son.

I heard from a mutual friend that Daddy gave [Employee] a thorough reaming and withdrew the financial support that had allowed him to live on part-time work.

He is doing better today, but right around that time, his wife discovered his ongoing affair, the mistress got pregnant, and things got rough.

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