Osceola Clerk of Court Armando Ramirez released a Facebook video on Wednesday addressing employee misconduct issues in his office and announced actions he has taken to improve work relations.
Whistleblower complaints filed in February outlined misconduct among employees at the Clerk’s Office as well as failure of oversight by Ramirez himself.
In the video, Ramirez acknowledges the misconduct in his office and said that one senior staffer was terminated and another employee was suspended without pay for several weeks. He does not mention who the employees were in the video. The News-Gazette reached out by email to the Clerk’s Office to learn the identities, but have yet to receive a response. You an find the video at: (https://www.facebook.com/ArmandoRamirezCOC/videos/3638146406213291/UzpfSTIyOTQ4NDEyMzk3NDoxMDE2MDI0MTE5NzE5Mzk3NQ/)
“I take this very seriously because we work for the taxpayer. We wanted to know what happened and what we need to do to make improvements,” Ramirez said in the video.
He also noted that he has hired an outside human resources consultant to review policies and procedures and recommend changes, “to avoid any problems in the future.”
Multiple lawsuits have been filed against Ramirez, alleging he was complicit to the misconduct rampant in his office as well as arguing they were unjustly terminated after cooperating with a May investigation of the Clerk’s Office.
In an email dated June 23 from Ramirez to his staff, the clerk addressed the misconduct issues and stated he had called for the investigation into his office. The 48-page report of the investigation was conducted by Tampa-based firm Brown Law and Consulting.
“I wanted to know what happened and what we needed to do to make improvements,” Ramirez wrote, adding the violations are “not acceptable.”
“I expect every employee in our office to be honest, ethical, and accountable,” he wrote, adding he had terminated an unnamed “senior employee” and put another on unpaid suspension for several weeks.
The report outlines multiple instances of misconduct by Deputy Clerk Jennifer Soto, who is engaged to Ramirez’s son, John. Those substantiated instances include being paid by the Clerk’s Office while working at John Isla Insurance, a business Soto holds a financial interest in.
The report found rampant issues with absenteeism, tardiness, productivity and accountability for employees with a personal relationship with Soto who would regularly not be in the office while being paid.
During the inspections of several employee badges and logins, the Brown investigation found instances of employees coming to the office for work as few as six of the 18 workdays in November 2019 while still being paid.
The investigation acknowledged instances when an employee may not use their badges because they followed behind another employee to get into a door where an employee badge is required to unlock the entry. However, the investigators stated it was near impossible for employees not to have any footprint in an entire day if the employee was in the office.
“I am committed to make whatever changes we need to ensure ethical behavior and accountability for all employees,” Ramirez said.