County votes to settle lawsuit with former HR director

Published: Friday, December 27, 2013 at 11:15 AM.

CHIPLEY — The Washington County Board of County Commissioners voted 4-1 on Monday to pay a $150,000 settlement in a lawsuit between the county and Heather Finch, the county’s former Human Resources director.

The board held a special meeting and executive session on to discuss the litigation, and met in closed session for about 40 minutes. In the executive session were the county commissioners, County Attorney Jeff Goodman, plaintiff’s attorney John Dickinson and a court reporter.

According to the terms of the settlement, the county will pay $150,000 to Broad and Cassel Trust Account on or before Dec. 27. The county will also pay all mediation costs and will accept a letter of resignation from Finch and her status in the county’s computer system will be changed from terminated to resigned.

The Washington County News obtained a copy of the settlement on Friday after submitting a request for public documents under the state Sunshine Law.

In February, Finch was fired from her position as county HR director for “grossly negligent” behavior, according to a letter written by then-county manager Steve Joyner. According to the letter, Finch publically discussed sensitive and privileged employment situations involving county staff and employees and abused her access to certain county information and files in providing that information for noncounty-related purposes.

Finch filed a charge of discrimination with the Florida Commission on Human Relations and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the settlement.

After the executive session, Goodman recommended the board accent the terms of the settlement. Commissioner Charles Brock voted against accepting the settlement, but the remaining board members voted in favor of the settlement.

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