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Former Fort DeSoto Park Supervisor sues Pinellas County for unpaid overtime

Jim Wilson lived on site and was on-call 24/7.

A longtime Pinellas County employee who oversaw operations at Fort DeSoto is suing the county for overtime compensation he says he was wrongfully denied.

James Wilson worked for the county for 35 years up until his retirement last year. For 20 years, he served as the park supervisor and was on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to his lawsuit.

The nature of that work meant Wilson often clocked more than 40-hours a week on the job. The Department of Labor mandates under its Fair Labor Standards Act that any employee who works in excess of 40-hours a week is entitled to overtime compensation at time and a half for the extra hours.

Wilson’s lawsuit does not say how much money he believes he’s owed, but is seeking damages in excess of $15,000 including compensation for lost wages and applicable attorneys fees.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act only employees who are considered executive, administrative, professional or outside sales employees are exempt from overtime compensation. Wilson claims his work to not qualify for an exemption.

His lawsuit also claims the county failed to consult an attorney or the Department of Labor to establish whether he was exempt.

Wilson also claims the county failed to keep adequate time records of his work.

As park supervisor, Wilson and his family lived in a house within the park, a perk few people in his position enjoy at other parks. He spent his days checking on sea turtle nests or monitoring bird nests. According to an article in the Tampa Bay Times honoring the park’s 50th anniversary, he measured his success by the number of days he could go without encountering a traffic light — an accomplishment he often made by using his boat to go to the grocery store in St. Pete Beach instead of driving.

But that job perk came at a cost of never really being off. If a problem popped up, he was there to solve it.

Now Wilson thinks he should be compensated.

Pinellas County did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Governments typically are unable to comment on pending litigation.

Wilson filed the lawsuit Dec. 16 in Pinellas County court.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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