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Inconsistencies plague Reggie Gaffney’s response to whistleblower lawsuit

On Tuesday, Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney addressed a whistleblower lawsuit regarding his non-profit.

The whistleblower alleged that Gaffney’s Community Rehabilitation Center failed to properly train her when she was re-assigned to deal with HIV-positive people.

Then, when she sought recourse, she alleged to have been rebuffed — including by Gaffney, the executive director of the non-profit.

Allegedly, she was told that Gaffney would tell anyone anything just to get them out of his face before her employment was terminated.

Gaffney addressed the claim Tuesday, saying that he was too busy conducting city business to monitor the non-profit closely.

“The last two years, I spent my time being a City Councilman,” Gaffney related, “and that’s why you hire staff to run the day to day.”

However, a review of CRC’s tax returns reveals that Gaffney — at least according to the documentation — held down a more than full-time job with the non-profit, which suggests he had time for oversight befitting his title of Executive Director.

As Executive Director from the period ranging from July 2015 through June 2016, Gaffney pulled down a $90,000 a year salary from the non-profit for working 50 hours a week, according to a tax filing he signed in Nov. 2016.

The tax filing also asserted that part of the mission of CRC was to provide “HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programs,” curious given that the whistleblower lawsuit asserted that CRC had insufficient training to deal with that population, especially given the combination of HIV positivity and mental health challenges among the population served.

When we asked Gaffney about these seeming discrepancies on Tuesday afternoon, specifically how it was that he was able to spend his “time being a City Councilman,” while pulling down $90,000 a year for a 50 hour work week, Gaffney offered a “no comment” before asserting that he works “80 hours a week, 7 days a week.”

Responsibility for training, he said, rested with his HR person and his staff.

“I do know this: last 24 years, I probably hired 500 or 600 [staffers], and we’ve trained them all the same,” Gaffney said earlier on Tuesday.

Is Gaffney accountable for the training or not? That’s the salient question.

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The alleged failure to train and the alleged insufficiency of training are at the heart of the whistleblower action from former CRC employee Darlene Peoples.

The trainer, alleges Peoples, no-showed the meeting. When Peoples told Human Resources, she allegedly was served up a cryptic response: “Emergencies happen.”

The training was scuttled – including training in AIDS education, via the state-mandated Ryan White program. The employee Peoples was assigned to shadow for two weeks in lieu of training also hadn’t been trained in this pivotal program. Allegedly.

The most Peoples learned from this employee? Billing procedures, asserts the filing. And even regarding how to bill, Peoples alleges that a key component – DCF’s “Functional Assessment Ratings Scales” – was not provided. So, allegedly, CRC got that wrong too.

“Given the mental health conditions of her [HIV-positive] patients,” the filing alleges, the “lack of risk management training from the Defendant was especially concerning and posed an acute threat to patients and herself.”

Despite her alleged objections to this, Peoples alleges that other efforts toward training were unfulfilled and frustrated, culminating in an alleged Aug. 2016 assertion by another CRC employee that “we don’t have a training manual for Ryan White mental health counselors.”

As slipshod as Peoples alleges the training was, the grievance process went no better, as she alleges she was thwarted when seeking the grievance policy.

And a conversation with Gaffney was unproductive, allegedly.

Peoples said she felt unsafe. Gaffney said he would look into it. Nothing happened from there, save another CRC employee telling her that “People need to follow the chain of command. Mr. Gaffney will tell you anything to get you out of his face.”

Soon thereafter, Peoples was terminated.

Peoples asserts that OSHA guarantees her a safe workplace – and that standard was not met, willfully, by the Councilman’s non-profit.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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