Panama City employee fired after filing whistleblower complaint

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB)–Panama City administrators fired an employee on Thursday, two days after he filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the City.

Senior Logistics Manager, John Paul Jones, filed the lawsuit Monday claiming he is the victim of mistreatment and retaliation. When Panama City hired John Paul Jones in 2019, he claims his contract promised him a $5,000 raise if he received his Bachelor’s Degree by December 2020. The lawsuit claims he never received that raise.

The lawsuit also claims City officials took a series of actions to buy new Christmas decorations while failing to follow their own guidelines and procedures. During the City’s annual budget review in June, Jones says City officials said they would not be spending additional money on Christmas decorations.

He says in September, some of the same officials authorized the Quality of Life Department, rather than the Logistics Department, to buy the decorations. Jones says he discovered the transaction in early November when a truck delivered the decorations at City Hall.

He reviewed an audit of purchasing and found the $55,000+ expenditure. He says city policy requires all purchases over $15,000 to go out to bid. But there was no bid for Christmas decorations.

Jones also says the City used CRA funds to make the buy, which he says is outside of the CRA’s spending mission. He claims he took his concerns to City Manager, Mark McQueen, and Quality of Life Department Director Sean DePalma.

He says he received vague answers and was told not to worry about the purchase. But Jones continued to investigate the matter, and that’s when he claims City officials retaliated against him and threatened him with an investigation.

The lawsuit states City officials told Jones his questions were intimidating Arts and Culture Manager Dr. Kesia Milner. At some point, Jones decided on a whistleblower lawsuit, which he filed Monday.

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