City employee faces more allegations
The Pinellas Park worker's job is in jeopardy after he appeared in controversial Web videos.
By ANNE LINDBERG
Published June 10, 2007
Tom Parmentier Jr., the public works technician who appears as Tom the Treeman in several crude videos on a shock jock's Web site, will likely find out this week if he still has a job.
It is not only Parmentier's video appearances that have Pinellas Park officials upset. They alleged two additional instances of wrongdoing at a pretermination hearing Thursday.
Officials say Parmentier received "bonuses" for his appearances, which constituted outside employment. The city's employment rules require workers to notify management of outside jobs and not accept work that conflicts with city employment. The city already allowed Parmentier to run his own tree service business.
Officials also said Parmentier misused city flex time. They said he asked for flex time to care for his ill mother but instead used some of the time to appear in the videos.
Parmentier said he would have asked in advance had he known he would get in trouble for appearing in the videos.
"I did not intentionally violate any rules of the city, " Parmentier said during Thursday's hearing.
He added, "I do not believe my activities as a character on the Bubba the Love Sponge radio show was immoral, unlawful, or improper, or indecent conduct which would affect my relationship to my job, to my co-workers, or affect my reputation or goodwill in the community. It was an expression of my First Amendment freedoms."
Parmentier's attorney, Timothy Fitzgerald of Tampa, objected to the last-minute introduction of the new charges related to misuse of city time and taking unauthorized employment, saying it gave no time to present contrary evidence.
Parmentier's future is in the hands of Pinellas Park City Manager Mike Gustafson, who said he is sensitive to the many issues raised by Parmentier's case.
"It's quite a dilemma, " Gustafson said Thursday. He said he expects to make a decision this week.
Parmentier's activities came to the city's attention in May as a result of the "employee grapevine, " said Keith Sabiel, the city's public utilities director.
Officials investigated and found that Parmentier was featured in several videos on Bubba the Love Sponge's Web site. Portions of the videos could be seen on the unpaid section of the site. Other parts of the videos could be seen only by paying $9.95. The Web site also had staff blogs and recaps of Parmentier's previous appearances on the Web site and on the radio show.
Sabiel listed five instances of conduct that, he said, merited Parmentier's firing. Among them:
-"Pictures of Mr. Parmentier mixing up a jar of fire ants to be placed on another man's (private parts).
-"Pictures and video footage of Mr. Parmentier receiving electrical shocks to his (private parts) while dressed in a net body-stocking and gas mask.
-"Pictures of Mr. Parmentier having a jar of fire ants placed over his genitalia by a female cohort."
"The Web site on which Mr. Parmentier appears is freely available to the families and children of the Pinellas Park residents which Mr. Parmentier serves, " Sabiel said.
"There are no adult-material warnings at the Web site and there is no subscription nor age verification processes required in order to view the segments in which Mr. Parmentier participated. Additionally, these protections are not required in order to read the Web site's profanity-laced weblogs and recaps along with their vulgar descriptions of show activities."
Four people supported Parmentier - city activist Marshall Cook, local business owner and former mayoral candidate Randy Heine, acting union head Russ Matthews, and a co-worker, Fred Anderson.
Fitzgerald, Parmentier's attorney, said his client "should be a poster child for the Pinellas Park employees."
Parmentier had a good work record, he said, and also volunteered with Mayor Bill Mischler's People Helping People program.
[Last modified June 9, 2007, 19:37:35]
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