Defamation case and wrongful retention of ex-police chief of the town. Plaintiff alleged, in part, that as a result of him uncovering a conspiracy to hide the Chief of Police’s criminal background and fraudulent practices, the Town retaliated against him and publicly humiliated him.
Here is the complaint:
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE EIGHTEENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT IN AND FOR BREVARD COUNTY
v. Case No.: 05-2008-CA-34309
THE TOWN OF MELBOURNE BEACH,
THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT AND DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
Plaintiff, DEAN DARLING, by and through his undersigned counsel, sues Defendant, THE TOWN OF MELBOURNE BEACH.
1. This is an action for damages that exceed $15,000.00, exclusive of costs, interest, and attorney’s fees.
2. The unlawful employment practices alleged below were committed within Brevard County, Florida.
3. Plaintiff resides in Brevard County, Florida, and has at all times material herein resided in Brevard County, Florida.
4. Defendant, is an incorporated government entity residing in Brevard County.
5. Pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 768.28, Plaintiff served a notice letter to Defendant. More than 180 days have elapsed since the service of said letter.
6. On or about January of 2005 through the present, Plaintiff attempted to secure a job with the Defendant, Town of Melbourne Beach as a police officer.
7. On or about June 2005, Plaintiff was hired as a handyman for the Town of Melbourne Beach.
8. On or about January 2005, Plaintiff completed all prerequisites to work as a police officer, but was never hired as a police officer by the Town of Melbourne Beach.
9. On or about August 2005, Defendant, through Mr. Higgenbothem terminated Plaintiff’s employment as a handyman for the Town of Melbourne Beach.
10. On or about August 2005 through present, Defendant, David Syrkus willfully and consciously impeded the hiring of Plaintiff as a police officer.
11. At all times relevant, Mr. Syrkus was the police chief of the Town of Melbourne Beach.
12. Plaintiff, sua sponte, did a background check on Mr. Syrkus that uncovered many fraudulent acts concerning Mr. Syrkus’ employment and employment application, including the falsification of educational degrees.
13. Additionally, Plaintiff uncovered a felony which Mr. Syrkus had committed. Plaintiff reported the felony to the police and an investigation ensued which ultimately led to Mr. Syrkus’ conviction of a felony.
14. In 2005, Plaintiff informed the town of Melbourne Beach of Mr. Syrkus’ improprieties. Plaintiff informed Mr. Higginbothem who was the town manager, Mr. Price who was a Town Commissioner, and Mr. Gugliatta who was another town commissioner.
15. Rather than address Plaintiff’s uncovering(s), Defendant, negligently retained and supervised Chief Syrkus.
16. The town manager and ultimately, the town commissioners had authority to hire and fire Mr. Syrkus.
17. This case is related to a previously filed case in this jurisdiction, case number: 05-2008-CA-12724. Said case is filed by Plaintiff against Mr. Syrkus, Mr. Price, Mr. Gugliatta, and Mr. Higgenbothem.
NEGLIGENT RETENTION / SUPERVISION
18. Plaintiff reiterates re-alleges and incorporates herein by reference each and every allegation in paragraphs 1 through 16.
19. On or about February 2004, Defendant hired Mr. Syrkus knowing some of Mr. Syrkus’ fraudulent history. Indeed, the Town of Melbourne Beach, as required, asked Chief Brian Lock (Police Chief of West Melbourne) to do a background check on Mr. Syrkus before hiring Mr. Syrkus.
20. Mr. Lock discovered Mr. Syrkus’ fraudulent past and informed Mr. Higgenbothem (the town manager) of such fact.
21. Defendant knew or should have known that Mr. Syrkus lied about his employment history and previous education.
22. The Town of Melbourne hired Mr. Syrkus as Chief of Police.
23. During the years 2005, 2006 and part of 2007, Mr. Darling notified Defendant on numerous occasions of Mr. Syrkus’ illegal, unethical and fraudulent activities including the investigation of a felony charge which ultimately led to Mr. Syrkus’ conviction. Said illegal, unethical and fraudulent acts reported and communicated by Mr. Darling to the Defendant in the years 2005, 2006 and 2007 included, inter alia:
a. Mr. Syrkus’ fraudulent activities concerning property transactions;
b. Mr. Syrkus’ fraudulent use of a notary public employed by Defendant;
c. Mr. Syrkus threatening Mr. Darling with a gun (this act was witnessed by the town, town manager and the commissioners);
d. Mr. Syrkus filing a false police report regarding Mr. Darling;
e. Mr. Syrkus retaliated against Mr. Darling through defamation and not giving him the opportunity to be employed as a police officer due to Mr. Darling reporting Mr. Syrkus to an appropriate government agency, FDLE, for criminal acts which ultimately led to Mr. Syrkus’ conviction;
f. Mr. Syrkus violated the policies and procedures of Defendant.
g. Mr. Syrkus blackballed Mr. Darling and impeded Mr. Darling from attaining gainful employment with Defendant.
h. Mr. Syrkus filed false reports against other residents of Brevard County.
i. Mr. Syrkus had fraudulent educational degrees.
j. Mr. Syrkus lied to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding the claim filed by Mr. Darling.
k. Mr. Syrkus had retaliated against other police officers in the past.
l. Mr. Syrkus had retaliated against the major of the City of Melbourne village.
24. Additionally, at every town meeting, Mr. Darling reported to the town, to
the town commissioners, and to the town manager that Mr. Syrkus was retaliating against Mr. Darling by impeding his hiring as a police officer, blackballing him in the community, and by preventing Mr. Darling from being hired anywhere in Brevard county as a police officer.
25. Additionally, the Defendant was made aware of Mr. Syrkus’ hatred of Mr. Darling. For instance, at town meetings, when Mr. Darling got up to speak, Defendant would see Mr. Syrkus aggressively place his hand in the holster of his gun and approach Mr. Darling in an aggressive manner. Moreover, Mr. Darling communicated directly with Steve Walters, one of the town commissioners, and informed him how Mr. Syrkus hated him, how Mr. Syrkus had filed a false police report against him, and how Mr. Syrkus was preventing him from securing a job as a police officer anywhere in Brevard County despite the fact that Mr. Darling had graduated top of his class at the police academy.
26. Because the Defendant knew or should have known that:
a. Mr. Syrkus hated Mr. Darling.
b. Mr. Syrkus made a false police report against plaintiff.
c. Mr. Syrkus threatened Plaintiff at Town Meetings
d. Mr. Darling had uncovered and presented at public meetings illegal activities that could cause Mr. Syrkus’ career demise and jail time.
e. Mr. Syrkus was likely to continue to retaliate against Mr. Darling by exercising his power as police Chief.
It was reasonably foreseeable to Defendant that Mr. Syrkus would exercise his power as police chief to cause harm or injury to Mr. Darling.
27. Indeed, after Mr. Darling reported the retaliatory acts being committed by Mr. Syrkus against him, and after he reported the wrongdoing perpetuated by Mr. Syrkus pursuant to the aforementioned, the town continued to retain and continued to negligently supervise Mr. Syrkus by allowing Mr. Syrkus to continue to commit the wrongful acts against Mr. Darling.
28. One of the town commissioners, Steve Walters, was directly aware that Mr. Syrkus was causing harm and was likely to continue to cause harm to Mr. Darling. Steve Walters warned the other commissioners and the town manager that Defendant would get sued if they did not control Mr. Syrkus better.
29. Despite clear and convincing evidence of Mr. Syrkus’ illegal acts and notorious background, as well as an on-going criminal investigation, and Plaintiff’s direct communication with Defendant as to all the wrongful acts being committed by Mr. Syrkus against Mr. Darling, Defendant continued to retain Mr. Syrkus as its police chief, and continued to permit Mr. Syrkus from harming plaintiff, and continued to permit Mr. Syrkus to impede Plaintiff to be hired as a police officer for Defendant.
30. Mr. Syrkus willfully and consciously threatened Plaintiff and told lies about Plaintiff to other employees of Defendant. Based on all the aforementioned, it is reasonably foreseeable that Defendant’s employee, Mr. Syrkus, would retaliate against Plaintiff by impeding Plaintiff’s right to pursue his livelihood and impede his employment with Defendant.
31. Defendant knew or reasonably should have known Mr. Syrkus’ propensity for lying as well as his illegal motivation to target Plaintiff and that such propensity, including prior retaliatory conduct by Mr. Syrkus, could reasonably cause harm to Mr. Darling.
32. At all material relevant times, Mr. Syrkus was conducting business in his normal course of employment for the purported benefit of Defendant.
33. Defendant had the opportunity not to hire Mr. Syrkus, had the opportunity to fire Mr. Syrkus, or otherwise, had the opportunity to correct Mr. Syrkus’ behavior, but it failed to do so.
34. Defendant’s hiring and subsequent retention of Mr. Syrkus is a form of direct negligence and carelessness.
35. Defendant owed a duty to Plaintiff. Mr. Syrkus was given the charge of making hiring decisions including the decision not to hire Plaintiff. Plaintiff had a right to apply for the police officer jobs offered by Defendant. The interaction between Plaintiff and Mr. Syrkus occurred as a result of Defendant asking for job applications from prospective employees, including Plaintiff. Defendant received a benefit from the interaction between Mr. Syrkus and Plaintiff.
36. As a result of Plaintiff initiating an investigation against Mr. Syrkus, and thereafter reporting the numerous improprieties outlined above, Plaintiff was within the zone of foreseeable risk to the harm caused upon Plaintiff by Mr. Syrkus.
37. It was unreasonable for Defendant not to take corrective action against Mr. Syrkus during the times which Mr. Syrkus was causing harm to Plaintiff.
38. As a direct and proximate result of the negligence and carelessness of the Defendant, Plaintiff, DEAN DARLING, sustained economic damages including loss of past and future wages, resulting pain and suffering, psychological trauma, mental anguish, inconvenience and loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, experienced in the past, and to be experienced in the future.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff prays for judgment against Defendant, for all damages to which he may be entitled, including, but not limited to:
A. Compensatory damages including, but not limited to, mental anguish, loss of dignity and other intangible injuries;
B. Back Pay
C. Front Pay
D. Any and all other equitable and legal relief to which Plaintiff may be entitled.