Boynton Beach agency hires lawyer to handle human resources issues

3:17 p.m Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 Local
File photo of Christine Hanley

When the former director of the city’s redevelopment agency three years ago accused a commissioner of inappropriately touching her, it took the board members, who are also the city’s commissioners, two weeks to decide to hire an outside attorney to begin an investigation.

A move the Community Redevelopment Agency made this month should make that process happen nearly immediately.

At the request of staff and the agency’s legal team, the board voted to hire Christine Hanley on retainer in preparation for those or similar human resources situations. She wasthe attorney hired to investigate that 2014 allegation.

“This idea came about as a best practice quite a long time ago,” CRA attorney Tara Duhy said at the February CRA meeting.

Without Hanley on retainer, an employee with a complaint or grievance would speak with executive staff such as Duhy or Mike Simon, the agency’s director. With Hanley on call, the complaint would still go through the same route but would then be forwarded to Hanley.

Hanley is a partner at West Palm Beach-based Ford & Harrison LLP, which practices exclusively in labor and employment law, according to a letter to the CRA. Hanley would not be paid upfront. If her services are needed, the CRA would pay $285 per hour.

“It’s something that should have been in place a long time ago,” Commissioner Joe Casello, a board member who was also in office when the 2014 complaint happened, said Monday.

In that situation, former CRA director Vivian Brooks accused then commissioner and board member David Merker of grabbing her posterior on Dec. 23. The claim came in a Dec. 30 email from Brooks to Merker and the CRA attorneys. Merker denied the allegation.

After the agency hired Hanley at $275 an hour, she presented her findings to the board and said Merker did inappropriately touch Brooks and had engaged in inappropriate behavior with other CRA staff members. The board censured Merker.