JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A former manager of an apartment complex says she was fired for trying to help the residents with bed bugs, roaches, mold and other problems in their units. Now, she's using a Florida law to try to get her job back.
The woman filed a lawsuit against WRH Realty Service, owner of St. Johns Point Apartments, seeking restitution under the Florida Whistleblower Act.
She told Channel 4's Jim Piggott she managed the complex for seven months before she was fired. Her lawsuit says that was unlawful retaliation under Florida law. Whistleblower Protection Act . The suit also seeks damages she says she suffered when she was fired for reporting
She said the management company was told about the problems, but did nothing.
"There logo is 'You matter,' I don't think it's the residents that matter. I think its the bottom line profit that matters," she said. "We have a resident now that has been going on with the bed bug issue for over a year."
Her attorney is paying for Erica Bello's family to stay at a hotel room while their apartment is being fumigated.
"We thought it was first mosquitoes," she said with her daughter's translation. "We went to the office and told them and they said, 'They are bed bugs. Just throw everything away and you can buy new stuff."
They threw out their beds bedding and furniture, they the bed bug problem has continued for a year.
"We just kept on living there," said the daughter, Kellie Salone. "My dad wanted to move, but we could not break the contract or anything, so we just stayed there."
The apartment manager wanted to help, but her bosses said fixing the problem was too expensive.
"They also wanted to charge the residents, and I refused to that," she said. "They said the residents brought the bed bugs in, and I don't think that is the case."
The woman, who has been a property manager for 23 years, says other residents complained of bed bugs, as well as mold and roaches.
"It was really strange because on March the 3rd I got the best evaluation I've ever gotten," she said. "Two weeks later I was let go. And I think they let me go because I kept pursuing these issues. I was very concerned about the health and safety of my residents."
WRH Realty Service's attorney told Channel 4 the woman was not because she reported problems, it was because occupancy rates were too low, so they bought in new management.
The case has gone to mediation once and the parties are now awaiting a trial date on the lawsuit.