Michael Verdugo Press Conference Preceded August 12th Hearing

The Law Offices of George Castrataro, P.A.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida- August 10, 2010 – Hollywood, Florida openly-gay police officer Michael Verdugo ("Mikey"), George Castrataro, Esq., and Norm Kent, Esq., who represent Verdugo; along with former Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Dean Trantalis ; president of the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus Michael Albetta; and former Chairman of Equality Florida Tom Runyan today spoke on behalf of Verdugo at an important press conference at the Wilton Manors Pride Center.

Verdugo's attorneys announced that the City of Hollywood plans to use taxpayer dollars to fly the Chief of Police and staffers to a ratification hearing in Tampa this Thursday, August 12th, with the intent of blocking the ratification. The Tampa hearing is being held to ratify a settlement in the ongoing Verdugo wrongful termination case.

"We were gratified by the strong show of support at the press conference and the testimonials given by other victims of discrimination," Mr. Castrataro said. "The press conference was held to educate the community about the City of Hollywood's vengeful and unprecedented war against equality." Attendees were urged to send a powerful message to City of Hollywood officials in support of Verdugo and against discrimination.

Michael Verdugo's story is shared by countless Americans who have lost their jobs and careers simply because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Background

Intro to Mikey's Story:

As an openly gay police officer, Mikey faced the challenges of working in a paramilitary world that still harbors resentment and animus towards the GLBT community. During his tenure, he stood up and filed sexual harassment complaints about a discriminatory hostile work environment. They were sustained. His bosses were ordered to sensitivity training, and supervisors admonished. However, some people don't get angry. They get even.

Getting Revenge on Mikey:

Because those supervisors wanted their pound of flesh and revenge, they orchestrated a specious and conspiratorial scheme to get rid of Verdugo, superficially alleging his application for employment years before failed to disclose his 'employment'. So they put him on 'administrative leave' eventually fired him and even tried to force the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to revoke his certification as a law enforcement officer.

Mikey Fights Back:

Over the past few months we have been engaged in two legal battles to protect Mikey and to overcome GLBT discrimination in the workplace. The first battle has been against the City of Hollywood for their wrongful termination of Mikey. This battle is set to unfold in our first hearing in November of 2010. The second battle has been to ensure Mikey's Florida certification as a law enforcement officer is protected. On May 17, 2010, we were thrilled to reach a settlement agreement with the attorneys at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement wherein Mikey's Certification as a law enforcement officer would be preserved. The settlement affirms to a large extent that Mikey's conduct was not outrageous or severe as the City contends and ensured his license will not be revoked; The settlement seriously undermines the City of Hollywood's arguments and I believe further exposes the homophobic motivations behind their dismissal of Mikey and subsequent legal battle; and The settlement established that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was not willing to support the City of Hollywood in their homophobic witch hunt against Mikey.

The City Spares No Expense in Their War

Unfortunately, the City of Hollywood could not stand by and allow the attorneys at FDLE to do their jobs and let justice unfold. Rather the City of Hollywood, drafted a letter to FDLE opposing the settlement. The City of Hollywood's unprecedented war against Mikey reflects the institutional discrimination that continues to reinforce harmful bias against the GLBT community. Perhaps equally disturbing is the City of Hollywood's willingness to waste thousands of tax payer dollars in enacting their war.

Timing and ENDA

Mikey's fight is poised during the national debate to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). While ENDA may not be able to help Mikey, we can only hope Mikey's plight serves as a powerful reminder to the GLBT community that discrimination is real and must end.