Sylvester dismissed for sending e-mails

After he sent e-mails to the USF community via two different listservs, Greg Sylvester, director of Parking and Transportation Services, was fired May 24.

The termination of employment prompted Sylvester to file a grievance against USF Friday afternoon and lodge a complaint with the USF Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity after receiving his dismissal letter.

Sylvester, who sent the e-mails on May 18 to give his perspective on the article that appeared in the May 17 issue of The Oracle, was given a letter on May 24 that dismissed him from employment with the university, effective at the close of business on June 14. The dismissal overrides his letter of non-reappointment, which gave him six-month notice of his departure on Sept. 19.

The dismissal letter, issued by Trudie Frecker, associate vice president of administrative services, stated that sending e-mails to the USF community violated “private and confidential information concerning a USF employee.” It goes on to state that “this is not the first instance of misconduct on your part. On March 12, Mr. (Jeff) Mack (director of Auxiliary Services) advised you that your handling of this very same employee situation had placed the university at risk and had eroded his confidence in your ability to do your job.”

The employee noted in the letter refers to “Ann,” whose name has been changed for the purposes of confidentiality. Ann, 52, used to be male, but started going through the process of transforming into a woman late last year. Sylvester had relieved Ann from her bus route in late February and moved her into the customer service department.

According to the e-mail that Sylvester sent university-wide, he wanted to offer his perspective on the Ann situation. For example, Sylvester states, “Several comments Ann attributed to me, I never said. Never at any time did I stand judgment of her transsexuality. … At the same time, since Ann was a transportation driver I had to be very concerned about the safety of the people she was transporting.” Sylvester’s e-mail also states that he is disappointed that the university decided not to renew his contract.

Sylvester could not be reached for comment, but a letter dated March 15 that Sylvester wrote to Mack concerning his actions with Ann is noted in the dismissal letter. Sylvester states that he recognized his mishandling of the employment situation involving Ann had “put the university in a difficult position.” Sylvester’s March 15 letter goes on to say, “I plan on being much more careful in how I handle personnel issues in the future. I guess I will have to think more from a ‘damage control perspective’ than reacting with my heart. I have dealt with many personnel situations in both the private and public sector, but this one is unique. I will chalk this up to a lesson learned the hard way.”

On March 19, Sylvester received from Mack a letter of non-renewal of his contract, which is up in August. The letter of non-renewal stated that Sylvester would not be re-appointed to his current position as Associate Director of Business and Financial/Auxiliary Services and his employment in that position would end at the close of business on Sept. 19. On March 22, after receiving the non-renewal letter, Sylvester was removed from the Department of Parking and Transportation Services and continued to assist Mack and receive the same salary of $85,450, for the remaining six months of his employment. However, Sylvester’s six-month employment was cut short after he sent the e-mails, and he is no longer receiving pay from USF.

By sending the e-mails, Frecker notes in the dismissal letter, Sylvester “went on to aggravate this matter by informing the entire USF community of private information about an employee without informing his supervisors, much less obtaining their approval or comment, and without obtaining the consent of the employee. Moreover, you styled your e-mails as a ‘Parking and Transportation Brief,’ making it an official communication.”

Frecker also states that Sylvester’s actions did not reflect thinking from a “damage control perspective,” or recognition that his actions could place the university in “difficult situations.” In addition, the e-mails are a breach of Ann’s privacy as well as “a departure from the university’s documented position that management does not publicly discuss personnel matters.” Frecker ends the dismissal letter stating “this dismissal action is justified and in the best interest of the university.”

Michelle Carlyon, university spokeswoman, said the university would not comment on Sylvester’s dismissal, citing that it will not discuss personnel matters, but did say that as of Friday afternoon, Sylvester filed a grievance against the university for his dismissal. Sylvester also filed a complaint with the USF Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity. Carlyon said both the grievance and the DEO complaint are part of an ongoing investigation and could not be discussed.

According to USF’s grievance procedure Web site, a grievance “is the allegation by an employee that 1. A term(s) and/or condition (s) of his/her employment is unjust or inappropriate; 2. A university rule, policy or procedure has been wrongfully applied to him/her; or applied to him/her in a manner that violates the rule, policy or procedure; and/or 3. A disciplinary action is inappropriate.”

Carlyon added that she did not know when a national search might take place for Sylvester’s replacement.