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In government its easier to take the money and run

From what Historic City News has been able to learn, Wednesday was the last work day for a sixteen-year department head with the City of St Augustine; a parting that was unexpected albeit understandable in light of recent events.

Director of Planning and Building, Mark Knight, a fixture at the city since April 17, 1998, is officially on “paid administrative leave” status, and David Birchim is “Acting Director of Planning and Building”. Birchim previously served as Deputy Director, according to Human Resource Manager, Nancy Rawson.

Historic City News editor Michael Gold spoke to Knight on the telephone today, not surprisingly there are a number of details that he was unable to discuss. Specifically, we asked Knight, who arguably holds one of the most nerve-wracking and stressful jobs at the city, if he had submitted a letter of resignation. He said that he couldn’t answer, but that we “could make a public records request to the city”.

We contacted Assistant City Attorney Isabelle Lopez and City Attorney Ron Brown to determine if there was either a “letter of resignation” or a “change of status” on file. We were told that, at this point, there is neither — however, they were able to confirm that, as of yesterday, Knight is on paid administrative leave.

We do know that, as a department head, Knight was earning a $98,875.42 annual salary, plus benefits; Birchim was earning $65,430.22 annually, even though Birchim has actually been on the job four months longer — Birchim started work on December 29, 1997.

As of Thursday, we were unable to confirm if Knight resigned or was terminated, if that termination was voluntary or involuntary, and, if it was a disciplinary action, the nature of the complaint and what remedial efforts preceded the termination of employment.

Lately, Knight has been at the center of attention on several high-profile zoning and permitting issues, including the 7-Eleven on San Marco Avenue, the Aquarium and Children’s Musuem at Riberia Point, and lingering issues, such as the Wendler lawsuit against the city regarding the proposed demolition of buildings on her King Street property.Just 24-hours after breaking news of the termination of City of St Augustine Director of Building and Zoning, Mark Knight, the Human Resources department released to Historic City News the agreement offered that directs the separation of the parties.

As of Friday, we’ve learned that the document we requested yesterday, is actually two agreements — it is Knight’s Retirement Agreement, spelling out the salary, expenses, and benefits he is to receive from the effective date of the agreement until its termination. It is also a General Release from Knight to the City, canceling any obligations between the parties, releasing all prior and current employees, all prior and current city commission members, as well as all prior and current administrators.

Knight is being allowed to retire effective August 19, 2014.

Consideration paid to Knight in exchange for this release and early retirement is a bit pricey, including;

  • Three month’s salary
  • All benefits afforded other full time employees
  • Lump sum accrued, but unused sick and vacation time
  • Job reference indicating meritorious job service

The agreement requires that Knight unconditionally, fully, and finally, release and discharge the City from:

any and all duties, claims, rights, complaints, charges, damages, costs, expenses, attorney’s fees, debts, demands, actions, obligations, liabilities, and causes of action of any and every kind, nature, and character whatsoever, whether known or unknown; whether foreseen or unforeseen; whether arising out of contract, tort, statute, constitutional provision, settlement, equity or otherwise; whether past, present, or future; whether fixed, liquidated, or contingent; which he has, had, or may have in the future against the City based on any act or omission concerning any matter, cause, or thing arising prior to the date of this Agreement and up through the time of this Agreement’s execution.

As if that doesn’t cover everything, it is interesting that the following matters are addressed specifically:

claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et. seq.

the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, as amended, § 760.01, et. seq., Florida Statutes

the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et. seq.

the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et. seq.

the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et. seq.

the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990

the United States Constitution

the Florida Constitution

any other federal, state, or local law, ordinance, regulation, custom, rule, or policy

any cause of action based in common law

actions in contract or tort, negligent or intentional

any claim based on or related to any instrument, agreement, or document entered into by or between the Parties.

Michael Gold

As the Florida editor for Watchdog Wire, my goal is to work with other citizen journalists, like you, to help compensate for the lack of mainstream news reporting to expose waste, fraud and abuse that exists in government. My colleagues at Franklin Center, and peers in the Citizen Watchdog movement, share a belief that government transparency and accountability is not a conservative or liberal idea - it is an American idea. A free flow of information is essential to maintaining our free republic, and that starts with a free press -- and that starts with you.

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