Clearwater (FL) PL sued over firing of HIV+ librarian

mdoneil writes "The Tampa Tribune has an article today about a lawsuit filed by a former Clearwater PL librarian that alleges he was discriminated against because of his sexual orientation and health status.



This is my city public library. I have don't have any information on the case, although I personally have doubts that he was fired for the reasons he alleges. I have met with the library director, John Szabo and he seems to be a good administrator and is very helpful. He was also the president of FLA last year. I can't fathom that his administation would dismiss someone for reasons such as those."
Update: 06/08 08:49 EST by B:What once was broken (link), is now fixed.

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Not surprising

I'm not sure why the poster thinks it's so inconceivable. Discrimination based on sexual orientation and HIV status happens every day, in all walks of life. Just because a library director appears to be "helpful" and a "good administrator" doesn't mean that he would prevent someone from being fired for the reasons alleged.

Another case of stupid management

Hope the citizens there are ready for a whopping lawsuit to be drained from their tax coffers! Too bad the money can't be spent buying books/librarians/health insurance.

Another Case of PC Nonsense

[Asked what reason the city gave for his firing, Ritz said, ``They basically said I was rude to customers and employees, yet I had no complaints.'']

It could be he got fired because he was a lousy employee. People are not entitled to the jobs they have. Either management is lying or he's lying. If management is telling the truth then they did the right thing whether he's HIV and gay or not. If their lying then they'll pay the penalty.

Re:Another Case of PC Nonsense

Greg has clearly never managed people. If you are going to fire people in these days of litigation, you better give them opportunities to straighten their act out which means telling them when they are doing a poor job. You also need to be able to document being a lousy employee through complaints, etc. If you can't do that, expect to pay through the nose in a lawsuit.BTW, why is this "Another Case of PC Nonsense"?

Re:Another Case of PC Nonsense

He did have warnings about his behavior he simply wants to it twist around to call it harassment. Its possible his actions have been well documented considering he lost his appeal. The EEOC simply decided not to decide.

Its another case of PC Nonsense in the same way that its another case of bad management, none of us really know what it is we're just voicing our own opinions based on one short article and infusing our own personal experience and education. You and madcow assume its management's fault, I'm assuming its another gov't employee trying to get a free paycheck by hiding behind what's considered politically correct.

Re:Another Case of PC Nonsense

He did have warnings about his behavior he simply wants to it twist around to call it harassment.I love how this poster originally hedges his bets and states that it's potentially the case that either management or the employee were wrong, then reveals his true feelings with this statement.If it's a case of PC nonsense, then clearly the freeloading former employee has no leg to stand on, and he should be taken out to the nearest vacant lot and drawn and quartered. QED.

Drawn and Quartered Re:Another Case of PC Nonsense

Absolutely, although hanging is better for a family friendly audience (less blood).

If he's lying he should be punished ($$$), if the library is lying they should be punished ($$$). Right now I'm siding with the library but I'm aware that future facts could change that view. What's wrong with that?

Re:Another Case of PC Nonsense

Careful documentation of a poor employee's performance will not necessarily prevent law suits. As a supervisor you can provide years' worth of poor performance records, with recommendations for improvements which are then ignored. The employee can still fight the termination, tying up your time and resources. That's why there are so many poor employees in any civil service, faculty tenure, or unionized system. If you didn't have the foresight to let him/her go during probationary period, you may be stuck.

Re:Drawn and Quartered

You've got a point. I'm more inclined to take the employee's side, but you're accurate to say that there isn't enough evidence to know one way or the other what really happened.

Re:Another case of stupid management

How nice of you to jump to conclusions. Perhaps if we simply send short memos to you about pending court cases you can jump to conclusions about those and we can forgo the trials. That would free up the money we need for books/librarians/health insurance. Who needs a court system when we have someone willing to make these determinations for free. (Where do people appeal? Slashdot?)


Oh, Florida law limits city's liability to 100K unless a special claims bill is passed by the legislature. Clearwater wastes more than that on failed road construction projects quarterly.

Re:Drawn and Quartered

Wow, an anonymous poster from the Light Side of the Force, nice to meet ya.

I would add that mdoneil mentions actually meeting the director in person and gives him positive marks, which tends to bias me even more towards management. Not because I always agree with mdoneil but because as first-hand experience goes that, to me, weighs more than a reporter's article whom we know nothing about.

Re:Another Case of PC Nonsense

I was going to comment on this mainly in the vein of "what do we do about it?" Especially since even a lazy person knows enough to put best foot forward while on probation. mdoneil's post about the $100K limit though sounds like a reasonable solution. You still can get stuck with lawyer's fees but at least the situation isn't as intimidating as facing a multi-million dollar deal.

Re:Not surprising

I don't think John Szabo was even the Clearwater Library Director when this guy was fired (1999), it's too bad he has to take the heat for a previous admin's decision. He probably has no comment b/c the legal advisors told the library to keep quiet on it until its resolved. IANAL but it makes legal sense.

Re:Not surprising

I think it is inconceivable because I use the CPL frequently and they clearly have a diverse staff.

I think it is inconceivable because I have met the director and don't believe that he would be a party to such intolerable behavior.

I think it is inconceivable because I personally know HIV+ people who work for the library. (I am an RN as well, librarianship doesn't pay very well as I am sure we all know. I keep my nursing license and work PRN at various hospitals.) I know HIV+ people who work for other city departments as well.

I think this is inconceivable because Clearwater is not a large city bureaucracy like NY, Chicago, or Detroit and I feel that it actually cares about its employees.

I think it is unconceivable because I live here and you don't as far as I can tell as you are hiding behind a veil of anonymity.

I hope that satisfies your curiosity as to why I think it is inconceivable.


Not everything is a conspiracy. Just because a gay HIV+ man is fired does not mean it was because of who he has sex with or what medical condition he has.


To say there is discrimination in all walks of life is specious. I don't discriminate for or against anyone because of their sexual orientation, disease state, color, hat size, or any other reason. I have learned that people are different and frequently disagree with me but I simply don't concern myself with their differences. I have too much to do every day to worry about someone else’s choice of sex partners, skin color or political beliefs. If they want to tell me fine, but I won't hold it against them as long as they don't hold mine against me.


I am an RN and a librarian, of course I work with gay liberals, BFD, and they don't seem to hold it against me that I'm not exactly like them. Why should I hold what they do against them? We may not agree, but we work together.

Again, everything is not a conspiracy. Spend less time wondering how people are 'out to get you' and more time doing your job well and you'll have no problems.


N.B. I did submit this to my friend who works at CPL before I posted it so don’t get all bent out of shape for me outing someone. It has no names nor even genders so don’t worry that they will be ‘found out’ and fired.

Re:Not surprising

I know John Szabo has not been there since 1999. I think Arlita Hallam was director then. The city screwed around with Dr. Hallam eventually taking her position at the library away and making her the "Quality of Life Administrator" whatever the heck that was supposed to be. It was I guess really a way to get her out of the director's position.

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