Fired Clerk of Courts employee rehired

Worker seeks same pay despite demotion

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Duval County Clerk of Courts employee fired for mishandling $1.3 million has been rehired, despite objections from her boss.

Cynthia Gardner said at a disciplinary hearing she had to be rehired, even though it was agreed upon that she was incompetent and careless with city money.

When Gardner first spoke publicly earlier this month, she said she was surprised about the investigation into her work and questioned why Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell believes she was responsible for mishandling the money.

"I say it's all speculation and I say those checks were all locked up in the safe," Gardner said then.

A Civil Service Board report obtained Wednesday by Channel 4 says Gardner (pictured) was negligent, inefficient, violated rules, failed to obey proper directives made by a superior, and was incompetent and careless with city money.

Despite all of that, the report says her termination has been overturned, meaning she's been rehired but will be demoted. Gardner is fighting to keep her same pay of nearly $50,000 a year. Fussell said her salary should be cut to $32,000.


"I think it's ironic that when you get a demotion you would expect to keep the same rate of pay," Fussell said. "If that were so, most everyone would want a demotion -- less work to do and get the same amount of money. We all know the rule of law is a demotion carries a reduction in pay."

The report uncovered something else: There was a relatively small amount of cash from what was described as a special account, secret account or petty cash fund found in Gardner's office.

"It was a concern, and as we went though this process, the sheriff's department integrity unit asked us if we came across anything suspicious, to give that to them," Fussell said. "So I have given that back to them and I can't really talk about it."

Gardner and her attorney were unavailable for comment Wednesday.

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