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    County to pay at least $70,000 to settle case

    The fired parks director said she was treated more harshly than male managers.

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published December 11, 2001

    Pinellas County has agreed to pay between $70,000 and $100,000 to former parks director Diana Kyle to settle a sex discrimination complaint.

    The settlement isn't final, but Kyle will receive from $70,000 to $80,000 in back pay, some insurance costs and attorney's fees, and a reference letter from the county, county officials said Monday. The total amount, which commissioners approved last week, is under $100,000.

    Despite the settlement, county officials say they didn't discriminate against Kyle, who was fired for insubordination last September by Gay Lancaster, former interim county administrator.

    "If you continue to fight these things, you spend so much time and money and energy," said commission chairman Calvin Harris. "When we decided it was time for her to move on, this is the price we had to pay to have that happen."

    Commissioner Ken Welch called the settlement the "best thing for the county."

    Kyle hasn't yet signed off on the settlement, said William Falkner, a senior assistant county attorney. Full details of the settlement and the complaint are confidential until the deal is final.

    Kyle filed a sex discrimination complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations three months ago. She couldn't be reached Monday, and her lawyer didn't return phone calls.

    But Falkner said her allegations are similar to those contained in a letter Kyle wrote to the county last year in which she said she felt county officials disciplined her more harshly than they had disciplined male managers in the past. Kyle and her lawyer never named specific managers, Falkner said.

    Kyle was fired after drawing up a plan with the parks advisory board to give the county administrator less authority over the department -- a plan she didn't share with her supervisors.

    Kyle has said the board was trying to simplify county codes, not take power from the administrator.

    "I was disappointed things happened the way they did because I like the energy she brought to her job," Harris said. "But this is one of the decisions you pay your administrator to make."

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