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Weedon Island manager rehired


© St. Petersburg Times, published December 13, 2000

Keith Thompson, the Weedon Island Preserve supervisor who was forced to resign in October, is back at work in the 1,046-acre nature park.

Interim County Administrator Gay Lancaster told Thompson, a caretaker at the park since 1989, to resign or he would be fired after he appeared in uniform briefly in a campaign ad for Florida House District 50 candidate Kim Berfield. His appearance in the ad violated county policy, officials said.

Thompson said he was just giving Berfield a tour and that he had no idea she would use the footage in a political ad. The county policy requires immediate dismissal for any employee caught participating in political activities on work time.

Dozens of supporters called or sent letters and e-mails to county officials, saying Thompson had been treated harshly.

Lancaster and Assistant County Administrator Jake Stowers reviewed the case at the urging of county Commissioner Barbara Sheen Todd. On Nov. 27, Thompson quietly returned to work as the land manager at Weedon Island after the county rehired him. He also continues to live in a county-owned house on Weedon Island.

Thompson, 42, will earn $38,673 a year, 5 percent less than his previous salary because his duties have been slightly reduced. Now, he is responsible for managing the property, and another employee will handle education efforts at the preserve.

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