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Retired Gainesville police major clashed with chief

Severance included 3 months’ salary

POSTED: August 8, 2014 2:09 a.m.

The retirement of Maj. Paul Sherman from the Gainesville Police Department in January, less than two years after being promoted to No. 2 in command, appears to have been the result of infighting and reveals growing concerns about employee morale, according to documents obtained by The Times.

Moreover, Sherman’s departure came with a healthy settlement agreement, including a lump sum payment of $18,361, representing three months of salary. Most of his benefits also continued for these additional months, totaling about $2,100.

A job performance evaluation given by Chief Brian Kelly late last year seems to be the catalyst that pushed Sherman, 48, out the door after more than 25 years of service. 

In an interview with the Times on Thursday, Sherman said he wasn’t forced out and that he didn’t threaten a lawsuit.

“It was my decision to retire,” he added. “I wasn’t fired.”

While Sherman’s overall performance was rated “very good,” Kelly lodges several criticisms against his assistant chief, including his interpersonal skills, or purported lack thereof.

“... If (Sherman) is not 100 percent engaged or behind an idea, his non-verbal communication shows it,” Kelly writes in the evaluation. “He needs to take a proactive approach to identify and present more ideas to benefit our department, especially in the realm of improving employee engagement and morale.”

In a separate comment, Kelly writes, “Maj. Sherman has a very straight forward and no nonsense personality that can at times create an uncomfortable work environment for personnel.”

Kelly and city officials said they could not comment on personnel matters.

But the job evaluation and subsequent response from Sherman clearly show the two top officials at the police department were not getting along.

“There was one incident during this period where (Sherman) failed to follow my directives on handling an employee’s failure to work an extra-duty assignment,” Kelly wrote. “We discussed the importance of him following my directives and that he has the latitude to discuss his concerns with any of them, but when the decision is made it is to be carried out as instructed or he will face severe discipline up to and including his termination from employment.”

In a memo to city officials dated Dec. 9, 2013, Sherman confirms the “threats” of suspension or termination, adding his handling of the incident in question was done to “keep the heat off of the administration and to avoid any further loss of confidence in the Chief.”

Sherman also addresses Kelly’s complaints about his attitude and responsibilities for boosting employee morale.

“While I recognize that employee morale and employee ownership are fundamental to the success of the agency,” Sherman wrote, “I further realize that both qualities are at the lowest I have experienced in nearly 25 years of employment with the Gainesville Police Department. On several occasions Chief Kelly has been informed that he is the reason for the low morale and lack of ownership within the agency.”

When Sherman retired in late January, he was put on administrative leave and paid his regular salary and benefits for the remainder of the month.

The city also agreed to pay Sherman’s unused sick and vacation days at his regular salary.

Finally, Sherman began receiving $4,338 per month in retirement pay in February, a benefit that will continue for the rest of his life.

According to Gainesville Human Resources Director Janeann Allison, Sherman paid into this retirement plan at a rate of 13.2 percent of taxable income, and the city matched his contributions.

“When (Sherman) retired, he was entitled to the amount that any 25-year city employee is entitled to receive and nothing more,” Allison said.

Moreover, the city agreed to scrub Sherman’s job evaluation, removing from his personnel file any evaluation he deems “unfair or inaccurate” and promising to give a positive recommendation for any employment he seeks going forward.

Per the terms of the settlement, the city and Sherman agreed not to make any derogatory or disparaging comments about the other.

Sherman, who now works in a transportation and security role for Black Bear Lodge, an addiction and mental health treatment facility in White County, did address his reasons for leaving.

“There was a difference in leadership styles ... and we just got to a point there where we were polarized in our opinions,” he said. “The underlying climate of everything is that we had reached a professional impasse. We just simply weren’t seeing eye to eye on certain issues.”

Sherman said the terms of the settlement agreement were brought to him by city officials.

He said he could not comment on employee morale issues, citing the terms of the agreement.

But Sherman’s decision to retire and his feelings about the conflict between him and Kelly are revealed in the memo to city officials.

“I would contend that many of the comments are driven by Chief Kelly’s long desire to undermine me and my efforts as a professional based on some undisclosed personal reason(s),” he wrote.

Meanwhile, Kelly said he is in the process of filling the role vacated by Sherman, and hopes to hire a candidate internally by Oct. 1.



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