CREATED Jul. 16, 2013
Fort Myers, Fla. - Supporters of former Harborside Event Center General Manager Rose Rundle packed Fort Myers City Hall Monday night protesting her firing. The meeting went over five hours as people who worked with her and knew her spoke out against her dismissal.
Rundle was fired without any warning, no prior discipline, no prior discussions, no ability to tell her side of the story, and no severance pay.
Her supporters want to know why she wasn't afforded an opportunity to have those matters addressed. Several dozen people stood up and spoke up wearing their 'roses' to protest the firing of “Rosie”, as they affectionately called her.
"Within our industry Rosie is widely regarded as one of the top performing women at any level," said Robert Murray, the General Manager of the Miami Convention Center who hired her years ago.
Barbara Perez was one of many who pointed out the accomplishments Rundle contributed to Harborside in the 12 years she ran it. "She brought the President of the United States to our city in 48 hours. That’s never been done before."
Council members explained to the attendees that the city is governed by its Charter and it explicitly says that the city manager has the sole authority to hire and fire whomever he wants. Council said that manager, Billy Mitchell, did not discuss the matter with them before he fired her June 5. "He has the right to do that," said Councilman Michael Flanders, who filed a motion for the city to either establish a grievance committee to hear the matter or hold a workshop where Ms. Rundle could tell her side of the story. But Flanders pointed out, as did other council members, that in the end it didn’t matter because Mitchell still has the final say. "It's a sad situation, I don't like it," added Councilman Forrest Banks.
Mitchell had previously ordered an investigation into a number of allegations regarding Rundle's behavior which included allowing an employee to live with her, allegations of selling items at the event center for her own personal gain, among others.
Just three weeks after her firing, it came out publicly that the FBI is investigating accusations involving land deals including a hotel that's proposed to be built next to the event center, a hotel that several of these people told FOX4 that Rundle opposed.
"The hotel is forcing its way in here,” said Thomas Crumley, one of her supporters. “I don't know if it's politically corrupt, I'm not accusing anybody of that, but it's wrong. We are not doing the right thing"
In addition, her supporters say the negative publicity will ruin Ms. Rundle's career. "The publicity value is over $65,000”, supporter Melinda Isley said. “In other words, if Rose wanted to try to undo this negative publicity she'd need to spend at least that in ad buys to regain her reputation."
As far as the issue of a grievance hearing or a workshop is concerned, nothing was decided Monday.
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