An assistant department director in Riviera Beach, Fla., has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the city, saying she was abruptly demoted days after alerting city officials to the fact that the athletic director was a registered sex offender.
As reported by WPBF, an ABC affiliate serving the West Palm Beach area, Aladia Franks was Riviera Beach’s Parks and Recreation assistant director for 13 years until this summer, when officials at the Pop Warner football league asked for the yearly background checks of all employees. Franks couldn’t find one for the athletic director, Abe Elam, hired by city manager Jonathan Evans while Franks was in the hospital on medical leave the year before.
When she investigated, she discovered Elam, a former NFL player beloved by the city where he’d grown up and come back to run football camps, was a registered sex offender regarding a conviction 20 years ago. There had been no background check.
Franks wrote an email to various city officials asking how she should proceed.
"Two days later, she says she was “abruptly terminated from her position," locked out of her office, and rumors circulated it was her fault that Elam’s past had come to light — a hot topic at city council meetings," WPBF's Terry Parker wrote in her exclusive report.
Said one resident during a Sept. 6 public comment, "Aladia Franks is being accused of being the person who revealed his background. That is not true,"
Franks has now filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the city, claiming she was obligated to alert the city because “Plaintiff believed that his hire was in violation of Defendant’s policies, rules and regulations, and might also be in violation of state law.”
And it threw the city’s participation in the Pop Warner league into jeopardy. The league warning it would pull out if Elam remained involved.
But the city remained divided, some blaming city manager Evans for hiring Elam either without vetting him or knowing and ignoring his past.
"You did not do your job, and this started this debacle in this city," said Dosha Newbold, continuing her public comment.
Others, including Mayor Ronnie Felder disagreed. Felder stated in August that he’d rather have Elam than Pop Warner.
"I would fight for him to the end, and I just think it's disappointing that people would go to the lengths to just kill his name and kill his character," said Felder.
Evans' spokeswoman Brittany Collins says he is unable to comment or go on camera due to this being ongoing litigation.
She also says Elam is no longer under contract nor working for the city.
The lawsuit says Franks was “reassigned to a position that did not exist, Special Events Manager, to an office that had no desk, no phone, no computer and no work assignments. Moreover, Plaintiff has had her schedule changed and now must work weekends and holidays,” WPBF.