by JULIE B. MAGLIO
Christopher Soto was an employee of the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners in the Public Works Department. He had been a county employee since 1987. The county terminated his employment on Aug. 29, 2017 and Soto challenged the termination through arbitration.
The county terminated Soto for repairing a leak at the property of Gary Miller, Soto’s boss. The leak was the property owner’s responsibility to fix, but Soto and two other county employees proceeded in making the repair. A major factor in the arbitrator’s decision to award Soto was the county’s 117 day delay in issuing discipline after the county became aware of Soto’s involvement in fixing the leak.
The arbitrator ordered the reinstatement of Mr. Soto as well as an Arbitration Award “among other relief.” The county challenged the award by filing a motion to vacate with the Circuit Court and the Teamsters Union then filed a cross motion to confirm the award. The parties came to an agreement in which the county will be reinstating Soto with an effective date of Aug. 29, 2017, allowing for back pay as well as accrued paid time off owed from the effective date along with full benefits. The county will place Soto on paid administrative leave. Upon signing the agreement Soto will retire effective April 15, 2019. The county also will be giving Soto settlement proceeds in the amount of $167,235.00. Back wages amount to $57,765. All accrued unpaid PTO hours amount to $18,602.09.
The Board of County Commissioners approved the agreement among consent agenda items during the March 26, 2019 board meeting.