Seminole city manager faces new accuser

After one employee's complaint, a former administrative assistant says she was sexually harassed, too.

Published September 4, 2006

SEMINOLE - A second employee has accused City Manager Frank Edmunds of sexual harassment that included inappropriate touching and comments.

The harassment, which Patrycja Ilnicka complained of last month, allegedly happened between Aug. 13, 2001, and Sept. 27, 2004, while she was serving as Edmunds' administrative assistant. She said she was subjected to "continuous touching by him" and that he told her she had a "cute, sexy body," according to city records.

Ilnicka was transferred to another administrator in 2004 because of spelling and grammar errors, according to the city.

This is the first record the city has of any complaints from Ilnicka, who declined to comment Friday because she said she felt it was inappropriate to do so until the investigation is complete.

Edmunds issued a written statement Friday that said in part:

"I categorically and absolutely deny the claims made by Ms. Ilnicka. Frankly, I am amazed they are being made. Although all these events are alleged to have occurred years ago, Ms. Ilnicka never made such a claim to the city's human resource officer or any other agency."

Ilnicka's allegations arose when Seminole's labor attorneys interviewed her while investigating a claim that Edmunds and other management officials had sexually harassed and discriminated against former employee Evelyn Dale Pagano, who filed a complaint in July with the Florida Commission on Human Relations and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Pagano worked for the city for about six months. She filed the claim two days after her last day on the job, July 26. She now lives in Alabama.

Pagano's complaint provided few details to support her sexual harassment allegations. Ilnicka's claims are more detailed.

Ilnicka approached Pat Mickunas, head of Seminole's human resources department, on Aug. 11 after her interview with city attorneys. Mickunas wrote a memo concerning the conversation:

"She said that she wanted to tell me something before it appeared in the EEOC response to Dale Pagano's charge of sexual harassment," Mickunas wrote. "Trish stated that while she worked for Mr. Edmunds, she was subjected to continuous touching by him. She said he would start at the bra line on her back and move his hands down to her buttocks. She said when she went out to lunch with him, he offered to purchase a glass of wine for her."

Mickunas added a handwritten note at the bottom of the four-paragraph memo: "She also stated that he made comments about her having a cute, sexy body and about her clothes."

Mickunas said Ilnicka asked if she could wait to report the conversation until Mickunas returned from vacation last Monday. Mickunas agreed and gave the memo to city officials when she returned.

"She did not want to lose her job, so she had not reported this problem before speaking to the attorney; however, she had told several people in the office about it," Mickunas wrote.

Edmunds sent Ilnicka a memo last Tuesday that was copied to her supervisor:

"I write to make absolutely clear that you will suffer no retaliation of any kind on account of your statements. ... Such retaliation would violate law, would be against city policy and would not and will not be tolerated."

On Friday, Edmunds said he was "confident the truth will prevail."

His office provided the St. Petersburg Times with copies of six greeting cards Ilnicka sent Edmunds while she worked for him as proof of their good working relationship. Two were birthday cards, one a Christmas card and three wished him a happy Boss' Day.

One of the Boss' Day cards says on the front: "I'd like to tell the whole world what a terrific person you are to work for." Inside, Ilnicka wrote: "Thank you for the opportunity to work for you and with you!"

Another said, "I'm one of those bad things that happen to good people." Ilnicka added in her own handwriting: "Thanks for putting up with me, Boss!"

In his written statement, Edmunds said he thought Ilnicka became unhappy with him after her reassignment in 2004.

Ilnicka, a native of Poland, has worked for Seminole since 2001, when she was hired part time. In August 2001, she was made full time and became Edmunds' administrative assistant. She makes $39,003 a year. She has received generally positive evaluations, although she has been criticized for excessive absenteeism and spelling and grammar problems.

Edmunds documented errors in grammar or spelling that appeared in council meeting agendas and other documents, which led to her transfer from his office. Council members and others had commented on them, he wrote in city documents.

Shortly before she was transferred, Edmunds added a memo to her file that said Ilnicka had questioned the need for her to be available during Hurricane Charlie. Her questions were raised during a staff meeting, which Edmunds said was a "most inappropriate time and place to raise such questions."

Edmunds "warned" her that her responsibilities required her to be "willing and prepared" to help out during emergencies and should be prepared for "no less than 72 hours of continuous work supporting the activities of the city manager's office. Failure to be prepared for future emergency conditions will result in immediate employment termination."

Ilnicka responded with a memo saying, "I am not prepared to terminate my employment with the city of Seminole and will do my best to respond to future emergency situations to the best of my ability."

Ilnicka did, however, ask to be excused "during a storm event should I be pregnant or nursing."