THE KING OF CAPE
In less than three minutes, Cape Coral City Manager Rob Hernandez’s nearly three-year tenure in Cape Coral came to an end.
“In light of recent events, I believe it is in the best interest of this organization that I am making a motion to elect our contract option to terminate our City Manager, Rob Hernandez, without cause, effective immediately,” Councilman Kate Long said during the meeting.
In a letter to the city council titled “Hernandez v. City of Cape Coral,” the city manager accuses Cape Coral of retaliating against what Hernandez calls “discriminatory employment practices.”
Hernandez says pointing these things out to city council members and the mayor led to his firing. Now he is threatening to sue.
Hernandez gave four examples. The first involves economic and business development specialist T. Sharon Woodberry, whom Hernandez hired last year. Hernadez says that after some council members learned she was African-American, they began to question her choice and implied racial stereotypes.
Hernadez accuses board members William Steinke and Dan Sheppard of asking why the position was not offered to a lower-level white employee, Ms. Nita Whaley.
Hernandez also says he has seen discrimination against LGBTQ employees. He says he was trying to fix the inequity in pay for city employees.
Hernandez says he fixed the pay of two white employees, the fire chief and the utilities director. Both were approved unanimously. Hernandez then tried to adjust the pay of Assistant City Manager Connie Carron, who he says is a white lesbian and says Councilmember Sheppard and Mayor Gunter objected, pointing to her work.
In a third example, Hernandez says the mayor objected to a lesbian employee’s recent promotion. He accuses Mayor John Gunter that the city should not hire such people in public-facing positions.
A recent example is the Cape Coral Pride Parade. Hernandez says he authorized an in-kind donation to the Cape Coral Pride Parade last year to help pay for security and traffic details. He accuses Councilman Sheppard of telling him the city shouldn’t support “those people.”
Hernandez also accuses Sheppard of asking him to follow a code of decorum that would only be in effect during the parade. Hernandez says he pointed out that the request was discriminatory.
WINK News emailed each city council member and the mayor asking for a statement regarding the demand letter. They did not answer.
In the meantime, Hernandez has a few demands from the council. He says the damages could exceed $1 million, but will drop all claims in exchange for $550,000, a neutral job recommendation and a public apology for the discrimination.
The city has until February 24 to respond to the letter.
There was little discussion before the Cape Coral City Council voted 5-3 to fire Hernandez, except for Councilman Tom Hayden when he questioned Long.
“We need some explaining,” Hayden said.
A close reading of Hernandez’s contract gives Cape Coral the right to fire him as long as it pays him severance in the form of a “lump sum.” The earnings for two weeks are almost $100,000.
If Hernandez accepts the severance package, his contract says he “waives all rights” to “advance notice and a hearing.”
The city will hold a special meeting Friday to find a temporary location for Hernandez, which Mayor John Gunter said two weeks ago would give the city time.
“We may end up doing a national search, as we have done in the past, which is what most organizations do. We will interview these candidates,” Guenther said.
The goal, the mayor said, is to find the right person to permanently lead the city of Cape Coral.