By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
The Wackenhutters? Sure, they come cheap, at about $9 an hour. "But you get what you pay for," says the Rev. Terry Danger, one member of the County Parks Advisory Board who's critical of park privatization.
With low pay comes rapid turnover and a lesser commitment to the job, Danger and others say. "How many of those Wackenhut guards even know what the animals are?" Danger asks.
The rangers all have tales about their Wackenhut colleagues showing up with a couple of weenies and a Big Gulp and disappearing for an eight-hour shift into the guard shack while the rangers patrol. But parks Director Bob Harbin says there have been problems with some real rangers as well. "We've seen misjudgment or errors from both types of employees," he says. Harbin adds that the switch to Wackenhut will eventually save the county $180,000 a year and that the rangers are not being laid off; they're being offered other county jobs.
This evokes bitter laughter from the rangers. Fred Caldwell, who took the county job 17 years ago "because they told me I'd have a career," says he's applied for a number of other county jobs. "They offered me a job climbing into sewage treatment plants, scraping out the filters. How does that apply to my years as a ranger?" Because he turned the job down, Caldwell adds, he won't qualify for unemployment insurance when his time is up in September.
Maybe it's time for drastic measures to save county bucks (though, according to the rangers, that $180,000 figure doesn't add up). But county park users deceive themselves if they think substituting a uniformed stiff for Caldwell, Brennan, or Truman adds up to the same thing.
Bijan Jamkhu says his coworkers at Nova Southeastern University paid little attention to his national origin until a few years ago. The tech-savvy Iranian worked as a systems administrator at the private university in Davie for 21 years, often putting in extra hours without claiming overtime. Throughout his tenure, he was responsible for the care and upkeep of sensitive data and files.
It wasn't long before Jamkhu's coworkers began giving him the cold shoulder, he says. Supervisors Ginny McLain and Greg Horne stopped replying to his hallway greetings, he alleges, and they failed to invite Jamkhu to staff meetings.
Then, on the evening of May 17, 2006, Jamkhu says, he misplaced his keys. He was walking between the Nova gym, where he had been exercising, and his campus office. He began retracing his steps, peering below hedges and anything else that might have been concealing the keys. There was an uprooted plant, he says, so he lifted it up in hope of seeing metal glimmering beneath.
Suddenly, a Davie police officer confronted Jamkhu and accused him of pulling the plant out of the ground.
Jamkhu thought nothing of the accusation until he was called into McLain's office nine days later. She placed him on administrative leave, he says, because of the plant incident. She never asked for his version of events. On June 1, he was fired.
He filed an appeal with the school. The Nova grievance committee recommended that Jamkhu be placed elsewhere at the university. But Jamkhu says McLain nixed that idea, stating that "under the heightened security alert in the country, it is not advisable to keep him around."
Last month, Jamkhu filed an employment discrimination complaint in the Florida Southern District Court. He's seeking a formal written apology, job restoration, and compensation for emotional suffering and lost wages.
Should Tailpipe worry about the state of the American university?