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Fired Harborside manager likely to file suit against Fort Myers

Jul. 15, 2013
Lucy Costa and Mike Cannington speak in support of Rose Rundle. / Sarah Coward/
Pam Cronin texts former Harborside Event Center General Manager Rose Rundle, keeping her abreast of the happenings at Monday's Fort Myers City Council meeting. / Sarah Coward/The News-Press


Former Harborside Event Center manager Rose Rundle likely will file a lawsuit against the City of Fort Myers, her spokesman said Monday after the City Council denied her request to respond at a council workshop on her firing.

“I’ll assume she’ll move forward to litigate, because there’s been a clear violation of her due process,” said former mayor Jim Humphrey, acting as her spokesman.

Humphrey is an attorney, but he said he was not been retained by Rundle. Rundle is represented by attorney William Powell.

Neither Powell nor

Rundle was present.

Councilman Michael Flanders had presented two related motions. With the first, Flanders requested Rundle be allowed to go before council to respond to the claims against her. That motion died for lack of a second.

The second motion called for the city to hire a special legal counsel that would meet with Rundle and her representatives. She’d be allowed to share her rebuttal, which would in turn be presented to council. That motioned failed 4-3, with council members Teresa Watkins Brown, Thomas Leonardo, Johnny Streets and Forest Banks voting against the motion.

Rundle’s firing was discussed for more than three hours Monday. More than a dozen professional and personal friends of Rundle shared their frustrations, while others cheered on the speakers from their seats. All were wearing pink roses in honor of Rundle.

The night was split between those who felt the council needed to step in to fix a wrong and those who attacked City Manager Billy Mitchell actions directly. Among those who spoke were Humphrey and former Lee County Manager Don Stilwell.

Flanders, who requested the topic of Rundle’s grievance hearing be added to Monday’s agenda last week, spoke highly of Rundle and said the issue of her firing should be based on fairness.

“She did a heck of a good job,” Flanders said. “I think we should allow her to speak up and have that opportunity. It’s just about being fair.”

Humphrey urged the council to allow Rundle respond to the allegations that led to her firing. He cautioned that fighting the case in court would likely cost the city thousands, even if the city wins in the end.

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“How much is this going to cost you?” Humphrey said to the council. “I think you clearly have the authority to not spend half a million dollars litigating this situation. I believe ... you will end up paying significantly more; even if you win, you’ll pay significantly more.”

Rundle hired an attorney after she was fired on June 5 for showing favoritism toward an employee, in addition to violating several city policies, according to a memo by Mitchell.

Humphrey advocated for allowing Rundle to clear her reputation, adding she was not given the chance to defend herself.

Melinda Isley, owner of M Creative PR and a friend of Rundle, also said the city will likely face a lawsuit now because Rundle was not allowed to dispute the claims.

While addressing the council, Isley noted that when Rundle’s name is searched, the top five results are headlines with negative publicity. She added that attempting to reverse the damage on the Internet would cost Rundle more than $60,000.

“I was personally trying to show how much damage had been done,” said Isley, adding Rundle wants to move on. “I think she can go and make great things ... I think she’ll be fine. Rose is a tough cookie.”

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