Local News

AP lawsuit trial continued

AVON PARK - A jury trial set for former city worker Betty Estredge's lawsuit against the City of Avon Park has been postponed due to an attorney's scheduling conflict.

Filed more than two years ago, on Nov. 3, 2011, Estredge's lawsuit may remain active for five or more months with the continuance of the jury trial that was scheduled for the week of April 7 in the 10th Judicial Circuit Court in Highlands County.

On Nov. 21, Avon Park labor attorney Brian Koji filed an unopposed motion to continue the trial until May 2014 or thereafter. Koji's motion stated that Estredge's attorney, Robert Grizzard, II, did not oppose the trial's postponement.

Estredge's lawsuit alleges "age discrimination" and "intentional infliction of mental distress," citing that City Manager Julian Deleon added "field work" to her job as a sign technician and secretary, which meant she had to perform "light cleaning and facilities maintenance."

The lawsuit stated that as part of her new duties, Estredge and another city worker older than 40 had to clean out and paint the wastewater treatment plant, "which had not been cleaned or painted for nearly a quarter of a century."

Two other lawsuits against the City of Avon Park, with Grizzard representing the plaintiffs, remain "active," but have not seen any activity since July.

Then police chief Mike Rowan filed a suit against the city on June 16, 2011, after Deleon suspended him with pay on April 19, then stripped him of his pay in June after it came to light that Rowan had investigated Mayor Sharon Schuler, Deputy Mayor Brenda Gray, City Project Manager Maria Sutherland and her husband, Councilman Parke Sutherland, for allegedly illegal activities.

Deleon fired Rowan on Oct. 19.

According to Grizzard's third amended complaint, which was filed Jan. 3, Rowan's suspension and termination were motivated by his referral of several allegations against city council members to the office of the State's Attorney for the 10th Judicial Circuit.

Former finance director Renee Green's lawsuit, which was filed in February 2012, claimed there was no "just cause" for Deleon to terminate her after she served as finance director for more than 10 years.

The latest activity on the lawsuit was a July 10 notice that Green was scheduled for a July 15 deposition.

Citing the reason for the Estredge trial conflict, Koji noted he will co-chair a committee at an American Bar Association conference, which is being held April 9-11 in Scottsdale, Ariz.