Former No. 2 at St. Pete Water Department sues over ‘retaliatory firing’

Dwight Wilson - St. Petersburg Water Resources Department

The former assistant director at St. Petersburg’s Water Resources Department is suing the City of St. Petersburg in Pinellas County Circuit Court for what he claims was a retaliatory firing.

Dwight Derwin Wilson, who is black, was the second-in-command at the Water Resources Department for a decade and whenever the director job opened up, he was routinely asked to serve as the interim head of the department. His efforts to make that his official title were fruitless, with white men always landing the job rather than him.

In 2015, Wilson claims he asked a city human resources representative if he would be considered for the director position the next time it opened up and was told there was no chance.

But getting passed over for the top job is only one facet of the lawsuit.

Wilson, 51, also claims he regularly dealt with “certain white subordinates” who were “openly dismissive of his efforts to manage them.” When he reported the behavior of those employees to his boss, then-director Steve Leavitt, neither Leavitt nor the human resources department did anything address the issue.

After several days of inaction, Wilson told Leavitt that he planned to file Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charges for racial discrimination and a hostile work environment. His EEOC complaint was the eighth filed against the department this decade.

Four days later, Leavitt told Wilson that he was “eliminating his position” as well as the technical support manager and business services manager positions, both of which were held by white employees. While Wilson’s job was indeed eliminated, both other managers are still employed at the department with the same titles.

The suit alleges that the “restructuring” story was bunk and that Wilson’s forced exit was a retaliatory firing.

As reported by the Tampa Bay Times last year, Wilson’s departure “angered many workers in water resources who believed he was one of the few officials trying to improve conditions in a sector of city government that has long been divided by race and plagued by dysfunction.” Many current and former employees also acknowledged racial tensions within the department.

Wilson, represented by attorney Gary L. Printy Jr., wants his old job back as well as compensatory damages and “back pay, front pay, prejudgment interest, and damages for all employment benefits he would have received but for the discriminatory acts and practices of the City of St. Petersburg.”

The court filing is below.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


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