Move cautiously on compensation for wronged citizen

SPEAKING HER PIECE — Brandy White speaks to the Deltona City Commission at a recent meeting.

 BEACON PHOTO/AL EVERSON

Editor’s note: During the tenure of Jane Shang as Deltona’s city manager, the Sheriff’s Office was called when Deltona resident Brandy White legally recorded an interaction with a city employee in a public area of Deltona City Hall. 

Although charges against White were never pursued by the State Attorney’s Office, the incident resulted in a record of the criminal accusation against White, and she notified the city of her intention to sue over it. 

Deltona has proposed an agreement to settle the matter, but White, so far, has not accepted it. Among her reasons, White said, is that she doesn’t want to rule out the possibility of monetary compensation from the city.

An open letter to the Deltona City Commission:

I am writing to weigh in on the issue of settling Brandy White’s claim. As many of you know, I spoke out and criticized the actions of the then-city manager and the city regarding Brandy White. 

It was my belief — and continues to be my belief — that Brandy White was retaliated against due to her criticism of the city. That said, I would like to weigh in on the issue of damages.

Generally, for one to prevail in a lawsuit they must first prove: 1. someone did them wrong (as in that someone violated the law); and 2. they sustained damages.

It is ultimately important that the city keep this in mind when analyzing this matter. As such, when you receive advice on this matter, I suggest you make sure that those two issues are clearly analyzed and explained.

I am not in the position to fully analyze this issue completely; however, I do want to point out the following as it applies to damages:

A. While this matter came up when Brandy White was adopting a child, it did not prevent the adoption;

B. I have not heard that she suffered a financial loss;

C. While what happened to Brandy White is very concerning, I don’t know that it has had a significant impact on her reputation, in that most of us thought the actions of the then-city manager were bogus; and,

D. I really wonder if she has any monetary damages.

Certainly, before you agree to pay any amount of money, you should consider first if any law was broken, and what damages she has sustained. 

You should certainly not pay any monetary damages unless there is evidence of such damages. It was recently reported that Ms. White offered to settle her claim for $100,000. She needs to prove such damages if, indeed, the city finds that a law was broken.

I do believe the city owes Ms. White an apology. Apologizing to Ms. White is necessary because she was wronged. No citizen should be retaliated against for simply being a pain to those in charge. 

Leaders need to understand it is a part of the job. People are going to criticize those in charge.

That said, I do think the city should take some very quick action to protect Brandy White, other citizens and even our employees from future retaliation. 

They should be provided a way to file a grievance, and for that grievance to be heard in the public by a citizens review committee that can provide recommendations to the City Commission for action or no action. 

Such a process should allow for individuals to be represented either by counsel or by another citizen so as to not cause the person claiming the grievance undue expense of having to hire an attorney to have someone speak up for them.

Jamison Jessup

Deltona