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Besieged HR director plans exit

Ron Baker, who faces misconduct charges, could retire at year's end.

By BARBARA BEHRENDT
Published May 1, 2007


BROOKSVILLE - City human resources director Ron Baker, who faces numerous misconduct accusations, would be allowed to retire at the end of the year under an agreement he has reached with interim City Manager Steve Baumgartner.

Under a deal the City Council will consider next week, Baker would remain on unpaid leave until his retirement takes effect. He has been on leave since March and cleaned out his office weeks ago.

He would receive a payment of $14, 913 minus the standard paycheck deductions and also be paid for accrued vacation time. No other employee benefits would continue through that leave except for his life insurance.

Although a letter of voluntary retirement would be placed in his personnel file, the investigation, notes and e-mail prepared by investigator James Farley would not. Instead, that material would be maintained in a separate file at City Hall, according to the agreement.

Farley's investigation found that Baker had harassed and verbally abused employees, creating a hostile work environment. It also went on to detail that during work hours, Baker used his computer to access various Web sites for personal use, including gambling, gaming, shopping, streaming media, sports and entertainment sites.

There also were nine hits on adult and sexually explicit Web sites, Farley's report concluded.

Baker could not be reached for comment Monday.

Other provisions of the proposed agreement include Baker's agreeing to not apply to the city again and to cooperate with the city in any litigation, due process hearings, grievances or any actions in which his cooperation is needed.

Baker also cannot make any critical or derogatory comments to anyone concerning the city or its agents.

Through the agreement, the city discharges any further obligations, charges and complaints against Baker.

In return, Baker also agrees to not hold the city or any of its officials, employees, agents or attorneys liable for anything related to his case.

City officials reached a similar agreement with police Chief Ed Tincher, who also was investigated by Farley for misconduct and who also was offered the chance to remain on leave and to retire at the end of the year.

The city attorney, David La Croix, declared the agreement with Tincher void when he discovered that Tincher's attorney had made a change, a change La Croix had not noticed before he signed the document. That change would allow Tincher to pursue legal action against city council members, employees and the attorney.

Tincher has since filed a lawsuit over the agreement claiming it was valid.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or 352 754-6117.