HALLANDALE BEACH

Hallandale sues fired city manager’s son-in-law for failing to repay loan

 

A former employee left his job owing thousands of dollars which the city had loaned him for his education. However, he received a lucrative pension upon his leaving.

BrowardBulldog.org

Hallandale Beach is suing the son-in-law of ex-City Manager Mike Good for failing to repay the city thousands of dollars in tuition reimbursements he received during Good’s tenure.

Douglas Grant Baber, 37, is accused of not repaying the money he owed the city even though records show he nearly doubled his salary to $65,000 a year during his five years as a city employee and walked away with a $20,000 gross pension payout when he quit nearly two years ago. He’d been employed by the city for five years.

Baber’s immediate boss at Hallandale Beach, Human Resources Director George Amiraian, was upset with his former colleague, whom he once trusted.

“He reneged on us,” Amiraian said. “He was my own employee; he did it to me. It’s unfortunate but we need to get the money back.”

But Hallandale Beach may have waited too long.

The city attorney’s office sued Baber in Broward County Court on Jan. 9. One week before, however, Baber filed a voluntary petition for bankruptcy in federal court in Fort Lauderdale seeking a discharge of debts his lawyer estimated total between $500,000 and $1 million.

That includes the $6,453.68 in tuition reimbursements that Hallandale Beach is now suing to get back. The bankruptcy petition calls it an “unsecured, nonpriority claim.”

The bankruptcy action has put a legal hold on the city’s claim.

“I think the way this is going…[the city] is not getting anything,” said Boca Raton attorney Stephen Orchard, Baber’s attorney.

Baber’s financial problems, Orchard said, stem from personal guarantees he put up during his financial involvement with Wowies, a sports restaurant in Boca Raton.

City Manager Renee Miller said she has no idea why the city did not pursue the outstanding debt two years ago when Baber resigned his $65,000-a-year city job as a personnel analyst. But she said the city has an obligation to seek reimbursement in court even though it might never collect.

“He entered into an agreement and …has not paid his debt,” said Miller, who became city manager in June.

Baber, of Deerfield Beach, is today a personnel analyst for Boca Raton. He declined to comment.

Hallandale Beach Human Resources Director Amiraian was upset with his former colleague. “He promised us he would pay us back as soon as he got his pension money,” he said. “We trusted that.”

But after Baber left and the city contacted him about the payback, Amiraian said Baber told city officials he had used the pension payout money for “business.”

The city has given other employees who owed it money time to repay after leaving city employment and all have paid back, Amiraian said.

The city’s complaint charges that Baber, who began working for the city on Jan. 23, 2006, violated the city’s tuition reimbursement policy.

The policy states: “If an employee voluntarily terminates employment with the city within two years following completion of any educational course for which he received a refund, then the amount of the tuition refund paid by the city shall be repaid by such employee to the city immediately.”

Baber applied for tuition reimbursements six times between May 2009 and March 2010 for courses he took online toward a master’s degree in business administration from Columbia Southern University. He was awarded a degree in June 2010, according to city documents.

Baber resigned from the city on Feb. 22, 2011 – less than two years after receiving tuition reimbursements of $8,400, according to the city’s lawsuit.

The city said Baber was contacted about paying up, and that he agreed to do so. About $300 was withheld from his final paycheck.

The following May, Baber collected $19,647.49 from his city Professional Management Retirement Plan account. City officials said that the law blocked them from tapping into that pension payout for repayment.

Baber repaid about $2,000 but eventually stopped making payments.

The city is seeking to recover the balance, interest and its attorney’s fees and costs. The case is before Judge Peter Skolnik.

Baber rose steadily during his father-in-law’s tenure as city manager.

In January 2006, he began working as a $38,000-a-year administrative analyst in the city’s Development Services Department.

In February 2007, he was promoted to personnel analyst in Human Resources with a salary of $47,715.

City records show that during the same month Baber was placed in the lucrative Professional Management Retirement Plan, even though the city had closed the controversial plan to new employees as of Jan. 1, 2007.

In January 2008, Baber’s salary increased again to $58,406 –a 53 percent increase in two years. Amiraian said that part of the increase for Baber resulted from city manager Good deciding to expand the duties of existing HR personnel rather than adding more employees.

Baber joined Good’s family when he married city manager’s daughter, Lisa Anne, on March 31, 2007.

Good worked for the city in various positions for 25 years. He served as city manager from 2002 until his dismissal by city commissioners in June 2010 for excessive absences and signing off on questionable contracts that cost the city millions.

Upon his firing, Good received a hefty severance package as called for in his contract. Many on the commission were reluctant to pay, but felt it could cost more to take the matter to court.

Broward Bulldog is a not-for-profit online only newspaper created to provide local reporting in the public interest. www.browardbulldog.org 954-603-1351.

Read more Broward stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category