Francisco's Firing In Largo After 33 Years Was Done With A Humiliating Touch
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO - Not only was Brenda Francisco, secretary to the city manager fired Monday, she was fired in a way that was deeply humiliating to her.
Called into City Manager Mac Craig's office at 8:30 a.m., at the opening of business Monday, Francisco was peremptorily told by Craig, "I've decided I need my own secretary and there is no where else for you in the city."
Francisco said she was overwhelmed in light of her 33 years with the city. "This was my career," she said Tuesday, still devastated and downcast by Monday's events.
What put the frosting on the humiliation cake is that she was told by Craig, "Henry has a box you can put some things in and we will pack up the rest of your stuff and send it to you."
"Henry" is Henry Schubert, assistant city manager, who then walked Francisco out of the building, much as perpetrators are frog marched into custody by police authorities.
"What have I done wrong?" Francisco plaintively asked.
No answer to that was forthcoming.
It is not uncommon for a top executive secretary or administrative assistant as Francisco was to go with a boss when the boss moves on or be moved laterally somehow if that is not possible.
In Francisco's case, it was not possible to move on with her former boss, Steve Stanton, for whom she worked for 14 years.
Craig was chosen by the City Commission to replace Stanton and it is not unusual that he would want his own executive secretary.
But most observers are appalled at the way Francisco has been treated after 33 years of solid performance with the City of Largo - no offer of an alternative job, frog marched out of City Hall like a criminal and offered a paltry $12,000 and some change in recognition of a career spanning a third of a century.
"That ought to give all the employees a lot of incentive in this wonderful city," one observer said. Another wondered, "Who's next?" Reports are that top employees in the city are holding their collective breath.
One informed source pointed out that Francisco was Stanton's representative on internal city focus groups, which were formed to judge employee opinions or wants. Resentment against here might have arisen there, some speculate.
In a city that is plagued by cronyism, nepotism, conflicts of interest and a total flouting of the rule of law, many wonder what unspoken and unrevealed reasons may be behind the Francisco firing.
"Certainly," one high ranking executive not part of city government said, "you would think they would offer the woman another job of some sort - after all, 33 years with the city and she is just thrown away like trash. It is shameful."
The ludicrous payoff sum offered to Francisco - three months pay - "is an insult," one observer said.
Reports are that Francisco is consulting with lawyers with a possible age discrimination suit in the offing. Her age, 60, coupled with 33 years of top performance and a peremptory firing can add up to an obvious conclusion in a jury's mind.
It may be well worth her while to forgo the paltry sum she would get from a troubled city as severance to pursue legal action.
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