ISLAMORADA CONTINUES TO DISCUSS FORMER DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR’S DEMAND FOR UNPAID SEVERANCE

a man in a suit and tie standing at a podium
Dan Gulizio. KEYS WEEKLY FILE PHOTO

Islamorada village officials and representatives of Dan Gulizio, the former development services director, are seeking a resolution to a complaint from last November that the village never paid severance. 

In addition, the complaint states that the former village manager made false statements regarding Gulizio’s termination in May 2023. Gulizio is seeking unpaid severance plus damages in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

On March 20, counsel for Gulizio filed a motion for an extension to serve the complaint to the village by May 21. The plaintiff’s initial deadline was March 21.

According to court documents, the parties are conducting ongoing talks of possible settlement, and request additional time in an attempt to resolve the matter. 

Two executive sessions to discuss the case were held among village council members, special counsel Brian Koji and the village attorney John Quick, of Weiss, Serota, Helfman, Cole + Bierman, on Jan. 9 and Feb. 15. Proceedings were recorded by a certified court reporter present in the room and will be made part of the public record at the litigation’s conclusion. 

Documents show the village paid a little more than $2,000 for counsel services between November and December in the Gulizio matter. 

According to a Nov. 6, 2023 demand letter, the village failed to pay severance to Gulizio after he was let go by Ted Yates, former village manager, on May 30. And with damages he’s also seeking following his dismissal, Gulizio believes he’s owed $317,000. Per the complaint by Gulizio’s attorney, Robert Bernstein, of the Coral Gables firm Annesser Armenteros, Gulizio wished to receive his severance in lump sum, which he was entitled to per the agreement to receive within 30 days of termination. 

In October 2021, the village hired Gulizio as director of planning and development. Gulizio was brought in by Greg Oravec, who was hired as village manager in June 2021 before leaving in January 2022. Gulizio succeeded Ty Harris, who resigned from the post in July 2021

Dec. 1, 2021 was Gulizio’s first day on the job. A year later, his job title changed to development services director. While Gulizio agreed to the title change, his compensation and duties stayed the same.

Gulizio received a $130,000 salary with a 5% increase at his one-year anniversary, as well as a $2,000 per month housing allowance if he lived in the village or $1,500 if he lived outside the incorporated boundaries. Gulizio’s contract also included 12 weeks of severance pay, plus unused sick and vacation time and paid holidays if terminated from the job without cause.

During a May 18 council meeting, Gulizio took to the microphone and discussed the threats he received of being fired. He also shared concerns with the hostile nature of the workplace. Gulizio was let go days after issuing the statements. It came as Gulizio and his staff were undertaking a larger effort to analyze and address inconsistencies and gaps in the village code. Gulizio ultimately crafted a list of items that the council could address to fix the village’s complicated code, which ranged from smaller “housekeeping” items to larger overhauls.

Gulizio now works as a senior planner with the Key West Planning Department.

Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.