Former airport maintenance supervisor wins whistleblower lawsuit


A Palm Beach County jury this month awarded a former Palm Beach International Airport maintenance supervisor $2,200 in a whistleblower lawsuit he filed in 2015 against the county.

Richard Rosales’ attorney Isidro Garcia acknowledges the amount is low, but he said that’s the most the jury could award. The $2,200 — plus attorney fees — reflects the total amount of money Rosales of Lake Worth lost when he was suspended for 10 days without pay. The lawsuit said the suspension stemmed from Rosales’ initiation of a public records request to learn who had accused him of taking kickbacks.

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“I think they wanted to fully compensate Mr. Rosales for what happened to him,” Garcia said of the Aug. 3 verdict. “I told the jury in the opening statement, this may be a case that’s not big about money but it’s big about principle.”

County officials didn’t immediately return a request for comment Monday.

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Rosales, 52, said that in 2012 two or more of his subordinates claimed to the Palm Beach County Inspector General that he was receiving kickbacks from Glue Products of Florida. The IG said it found no wrongdoing, according to documents.

Rosales initiated a public records request to see who made the claims and was told it would cost him $12,540 to access the documents.

Claiming the airport was trying to interfere with his request, Rosales filed an initial lawsuit against the county in 2012. The county attorney later agreed that the quoted cost for the records request was excessive and provided Rosales the documents for less than $1,000 and reimbursed him more than $14,000 in legal fees and costs, Garcia previously said. That lawsuit was disposed of in July 2014.

Rosales filed the whistleblower lawsuit one year later.

That suit followed an incident in which Rosales reported that a worker threw a piece of concrete and a piece of blacktop at him, and airport director Bruce Pelly suspended Rosales without pay for two weeks. Rosales claims in the 2015 lawsuit against the county that Pelly told him at the time, “You cost me $14,000.”

Rosales, who said he has worked for the county since 1994, is now a construction plans examiner with the planning and zoning department, Garcia said. Rosales said in the lawsuit he was forced to transfer to the new position and take a 3 percent pay cut in retaliation for his actions.

Staff writer Eliot Kleinberg contributed to this story.



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