The South Walton Mosquito Management District is settling the staff’ second lawsuit


Tom McLaughlin

| Northwest Florida Daily News

SANTA ROSA BEACH – The South Walton Mosquito Control District has negotiated a settlement in the second of three lawsuits filed against it by former employees.

An agreement reached through mediation would pay one-time entomologist Peter Brabant $ 80,000. Brabant, who now lives in California, announced the settlement amount.

More: The South Walton Mosquito Control District is on trial

Brabant alleged in a lawsuit filed in August 2019 that he had been dismissed due to a year-long disciplinary problem after going to the Mosquito Control District’s elected commissioners to report the then district director, Ben Brewer, who showed up for work “heavily intoxicated” .

“Not really,” said Brabant when asked if he was satisfied with the financial deal. “But the court date would have been in two years and the money is better now than later.”

More: The first of three lawsuits in the mosquito control district has been resolved

A mediation report filed with the Walton County Clerk said that at a conference held on September 24, representatives from Mosquito Control District and Brabant agreed to pay to settle the lawsuit.

The mediation report was released late Monday.

Brabant said the settlement was negotiated through the district’s insurance company and it believes it will be final.

Mosquito Control District Commissioner John Magee said Tuesday the deal would not be finalized until the three-person board he sits on votes to pass the resolution.

“I didn’t hear anything,” Magee said of an agreement. “I didn’t see it and we didn’t vote to agree to it.”

More: Raccoons drowned in cages mentioned in third lawsuit against South Walton Mosquito Control

According to the agreement, said Brabant, the mosquito control district does not admit wrongdoing and is obliged to refrain from criticizing Brabant.

“I think they get away with it super easy,” he said.

Brabant’s lawsuit alleged that he returned to work on March 1, 2019 from a conference and found that Brewer was showing “recognizable signs of alcohol intoxication.” It is said that he found cans of beer in the laboratory on the district property and full cans of the same type of beer in Brewers Truck.

Brabant was said to have tried to file an official complaint about drinking in the workplace with Shirley Steele, the human resources manager for the mosquito control district. However, he should approach the three elected district commissioners individually to resolve the issue.

Commissioners Kristine Faulk and Tim Norris “were receptive” and “listened to all concerns (Brabant),” according to his complaint.

Magee, who contacted Brabant long after Brabant had spoken to Norris and Faulk, called a meeting of all district staff after receiving the report from Brabant.

During the meeting, Magee stated that SWCMCD was a family and that family members should therefore show more loyalty to one another, the lawsuit said. He also implied that Director Brewer was actually responsible for the consumption of alcohol in the EU workplace. “

During the same meeting, Magee also announced “that another employee reported anonymously about Director Brewer’s drunken behavior,” the lawsuit said.

Records show that Brewer resigned shortly after the March 2019 meeting named in the lawsuit. His resignation letter stated, “I feel that my leadership has been undermined by false allegations and toxicity that prevent me from continuing to play this role.”

The lawsuit also alleged that Brewer resisted Brabant once when he defied orders to drown a raccoon captured by employees and a second time when he complained about what he believed to be sexual harassment of a female employee.

The employee Emilee Rister discussed in Brabant’s lawsuit received US $ 52,000 from the Mosquito Control District in June to settle her own lawsuit.

In her lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in late 2019, Rister alleged that she was sexually assaulted by a colleague and dismissed by her supervisor when she reported the incident.

A third lawsuit against the Mosquito Control District is pending.

In it, Denis Rietenbach, a longtime field technician, claims he was fired for fighting illegal chemicals being dumped in trenches in Choctawhatchee Bay and for defying orders to drown captured raccoons.

Rietenbach’s lawsuit was filed in the Walton County Civil Court in February.

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