Dan Gulizio, former director of development services. FILE PHOTO

Islamorada’s former development services director is seeking unpaid severance pay plus damages for comments made by one village official following his dismissal, according to a demand letter sent to the village by his attorney on Nov. 6.

According to the letter, the village failed to pay severance to Dan 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. 

The complaint also claims Gulizio’s termination was improper due to false comments made by Yates during council meetings in June and July. According to the complaint, during a June 8 meeting, Yates falsely stated that “Gulizio was terminated due to ‘inefficiencies in the way that he operated’ when in fact the termination was due to pressure from council members and Gulizio’s refusal to perform improper acts.” During a July 6 meeting, the lawsuit states, Yates falsely said Gulizio was terminated as he was “not the right fit” and was “affecting the effectiveness of the department,” when the termination was due to pressure from council members. The complaint doesn’t name which council members were involved. 

“The false statements regarding Gulizio’s performance caused damage to Gulizio’s personal and professional reputation, including Gulizio’s ability to obtain new employment,” the complaint reads. 

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. 

Not only is Gulizio seeking damages for severance pay he didn’t receive, but he’s also seeking reinstatement, either temporarily or permanently, to the development director services position pending the final outcome of the complaint. 

John Quick, attorney for the village of Islamorada, didn’t immediately respond for comment on Nov. 7.

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.