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Harassed Vero Beach Power Plant worker at City Hall with ‘nothing to do’

VERO BEACH – The highlights of Keith Srinivasan’s day are the hourly emails he receives telling him that the Vero Beach Power Plant is not generating electricity.

Srinivasan lodged a complaint in October against his colleagues and managers at the big blue power plant that he was facing racial discrimination and harassment.

He also alleged and documented what he saw as fraud and theft of city property at the power plant, namely equipment that had disappeared out of inventory.

He was placed on paid administrative leave for the three-month duration of the investigation, supposedly for his own protection.

Since returning to work in late January – at a desk just outside the City Attorney’s suite upstairs at City Hall – the data analyst has been given virtually no data to analyze.

Though he’s been begging for work for weeks and documenting the pleas in emails, Srinivasan has been given sketchy answers – except that he was told he couldn’t access the computer systems and databases necessary to do his job because auditors are conducting an investigation of the alleged fraud and theft.

The data analyst was asked to provide some of his documentation of inventory discrepancies for auditors to review.

Srinivasan said he was content with coming back to a non-hostile atmosphere and not suing the city for the original harassment, but after being warehoused for nearly six weeks and, in his words, subjected to “inhumane” treatment, he’s now contemplating a lawsuit.

Under serious pressure from Councilman Brian Heady to not send Srinivasan back to the power plant to work, the city decided to instead house him at City Hall.

But it seems he was ill equipped to do his old job from his new location.

The emails started about three hours into the workday.

On Jan. 26, Srinivasan sent Power Resources Director Jim Stevens and then-Acting Electric Utility Director John Lee an email asking for his computer with access to various drives on which the data and templates he normally used were stored.

Lee responded: “We are working on getting all the tools you need to get your job done. It may take a day or two for everything to be completed.”

On Feb. 1, Srinivasan asked for an update on the computer situation.

“I am still just sitting around with nothing to do,” he wrote to Lee.

Lee responded: “The Information Technology staff is still working to transfer all of the files you need. I will check on their progress after today’s City Council meeting and provide you with an update.”

Later that day, Srinivasan was given his first report to complete, compiling generation data for January. He emailed it back to his bosses the next day.

Other than copying and pasting the hourly generation figures into a spreadsheet of daily load, which would take less than 30 minutes per day, Srinivasan had no assignments until Feb. 7, when he was asked to do something for which he had not yet been given access to a particular folder containing formulas needed to do the report.

On Feb. 9, Srinivasan asked for certain personal files and documents to be deleted from his computer at the power plant, which had not been brought over to City Hall for him to work on.

That request set off a flurry of emails about privacy of information on city computers.

He also appealed to Lee that he still felt shunned and underutilized since returning to work two weeks earlier.

“I gathered that I will just continue doing my job that I was doing at the power plant, but it seems to me that the data and the tools I need to carry out my job effectively is being held back from me, even my actual job functions are being held back from me,” Srinivasan said.

“I am still basically sitting around. I have a feeling of being ostracized or warehoused or to put it more bluntly, I feel I am being penalized for my correct actions,” Srinivasan wrote. “I feel management would have preferred inaction from me or to put up with the constant abuse and economic discrimination from Jim Stevens and Jack Keltner and just ‘go on’.”

On Feb. 10, the data analyst attempted to reconcile gas inventory and billing data from the power plant, but didn’t have access to all the files and reports he needed to clear up questions he had about the numbers.

On Feb. 11, Srinivasan got this response to his pleas from Lee: “Good morning Keith — Since the issue seems to be with your computer, I will come by your office this morning so you can show me your concerns.”

On Feb. 14, there appears to be some progress, as the employee was allowed access to his personal documents and files to delete them off the computer.

He was also given access to files to complete an analysis of the power plant’s gas usage for the last quarter of 2010.

On Feb. 16, Srinivasan was assigned a report of oil usage for 2010 and to start a similar report for 2011.

He returned those reports to his boss at 11:06 a.m. the next day.

On Feb. 17, the data analyst sent Lee a detailed list of duties he could remember doing at the power plant that he was no longer doing.

Lee responded: “Good morning Keith — Thanks for the info. I will look it over and get back to you.”

On Feb. 21 he was provided some data from the Orlando Utilities Commission that he used to analyze on a regular basis. But he did not have what he needed to do the report.

“I also require the templates that I had set up to reconcile the OUC data,” he wrote on Feb. 23. “I am unable to do my review. You have not provided me all the OUC (Orlando Utilities Commission) data.”

Srinivasan also wrote to Interim City Manager Monte Falls on Feb. 23 about the frustration he was experiencing in trying to be productive at City Hall.

The subject line of the email reads, “Inhumane.”

“I write you this morning to complain. What is being done to me is inhumane, I have been sitting around doing almost nothing,” he wrote.

He explained how Lee has tried to help him, but how those efforts were being thwarted.

“I have been ostracized and warehoused. You have given me an office with nothing to do,” he wrote to Falls. “I am unsure what the modus operandi here is, but I am a human being and even after your investigation gave veracity to my complaint, I am still being treated like I was the problem. “I am letting you know, there must be laws and regulations against this. I will seek legal redress if this inhumanity persists . . . Just because I raised some issues, there is no requirement in the law that says I should be ostracized and given nothing to do.”

Falls responded that Srinivasan should have gone through proper channels.

“Mr. Srinivasan, I have discussed this e-mail with your supervisor, Mr. John Lee. Please discuss this and any other matter(s) you may have regarding your current job responsibilities with Mr. Lee before bringing them to me.”

That same day, four weeks after his return to work, Srinivasan forwarded all the relevant email correspondence back and forth with his supervisors to an attorney at the Melbourne Legal Team.

On March 3, a series of questions were posed by Vero Beach 32963 to John Lee, who is now back in his old job as Customer Service Manager and is no longer Srinivasan’s supervisor, asking for an explanation of why an employee is sitting in an office at City Hall collecting $19.80 per hour doing nothing and begging for work.

“As you know, the auditors are checking the inventory and work order system at the Power Plant,” Lee responded via email on Monday. “Until that process is complete, Mr. Srinivasan has not been asked to work on inventory or work order related tasks. Once the auditors have completed their work, I anticipate that Mr. Srinivasan will once again be helping with the tasks relating to inventory and work orders.”

Lee acknowledged that Srinivasan’s job duties had changed.

“There have been some changes to his job, due in part to the fact that he is no longer at the Power Plant. According to Mr. Srinivasan he often helped out when needed to open the gate, answer the telephone and work on various copy machines and other business equipment,” he said. “As he is no longer at the Plant, he cannot be expected to handle those tasks.”

In regard to the computer and data access issues, Lee said, “Mr. Srinivasan has a new computer in the City Hall work station and every effort has been made to insure that he has access to all of the data that he needs to get his job done.”

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