BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Settlements totaling more than $1 million for two discriminations lawsuits against the City of Daytona Beach causing backlash.
Meanwhile, scrutiny for the City Manager Jim Chisholm is at a high, with one local group calling for his ouster.
During Wednesday’s night regular Daytona Beach City Commission meeting, commissioners voted 7-0 to approve a settlement on a lawsuit with its former facilities construction and maintenance manager, Thomas Huger, for more than $600,000.
Huger, 67, sued the city for age and race discrimination after he was passed over for promotion for public works director.
He worked with the city from 2006 to 2017 and sued his employer back in 2016. In 2015, he filed a claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. His old job paid him $105,000 annually.
The job went to David Waller, a then 44-year old White male.
During Wednesday night’s meeting, some residents took advantage of the allotted public comment time to address their concerns.
“These lawsuits for discriminations show that there is a lot going on in the city. They wouldn’t be here if employees didn’t feel that they are being treated unfairly. I was subpoenaed for court in the Huger case,” commented resident Marjorie Johnson.
Ken Strickland added, “This is the second such settlement within a year. Women and minorities still feel the effects of this. The city manager is responsible and should be held accountable.”
Want ‘Chisholm gone’
Strickland is also chairman of Sons of the Beach and Friends. The group is an advocacy group dedicated to keeping access to beach driving open for everyone in Volusia County.
A small group held a protest in the rain outside of City Hall before the commission meeting demanding that Chisolm be let go.
“We want Chisholm gone. He is wasting money. We are losing our tax dollars. Just look at these two lawsuit settlements. We’re not going to stop protesting until he is gone,” Strickland stated.
Strickland says people must come together in order to bring change.
“We must have unity and put aside our differences no matter what neighborhood you are in. Whether it’s Midtown, beachside, Main Street or Beach Street, until we put in grassroots candidates and stop supporting those candidates that are bought and paid for, we will never get anything done or needed.”
Huger’s settlement comes months after former city employee Sonja Wiles, a White woman, awarded a settlement of more than $450,000 for her suit against the city.
Wiles worked as an administrative coordinator in the public works division for many years. She was fired by the city in 2015. Wiles sued the city for gender discrimination and harassment, along with gender-based hostile environment and retaliation. In her case, it stated that she spoke up for Huger.
Reed: I’m embarrassed
Both Huger and Wiles were represented by Attorney Kelly Chanfrau of Chanfrau & Chanfrau law firm. The Daytona Times was not able to reach Huger or his attorney by the newspaper’s Wednesday night deadline.
City commissioners weighed in on the Huger settlement during Wednesday’s meeting.
Commissioner Paula Reed stated, “I’m embarrassed that in 2019 we find ourselves in a settlement for a discrimination case. Thomas Huger is the son of a civil rights icon James Huger Sr. Something is wrong. We can’t bury our heads in the sand. This is a lot of money for nothing to have been done.’’
Who pays settlement
With the city’s insurance company suggesting settlement, the lawsuit settlement was pretty much a done deal. Most of it is paid through Lexington Insurance company/AIG, the city’s insurance company.
The settlement calls for the city to pay $350,000 and AIG to pay 775,000.
Zone 2 City Commissioner Carlos Delgado noted, “It’s basically where the insurance company says they’re going to settle even if the city doesn’t.’’
The commission also discussed more diversity, sensitivity and sexual harassment training and workshops during the meeting.
The city says it currently has those measures in place.
Chisholm said, “We do have training for employees but each case is individual.”
What Huger gets
The city has already paid $525,000 in legal costs. Orlando labor attorney Ben Wood is representing the city.
The settlement calls for Huger to get $350,000 in compensatory damages, $50,000 in lost wages and $200,000 in attorney’s fees. The city will also pay more than $3,800 in tax contributions for lost wages.
Within 90 days, $400,000 is due while the other $200,000 is due by Jan. 10.