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TC Palm
January 27, 2010

Whistleblower who exposed allegations of corruption in Fort Pierce City Hall says she's being harrassed at work

By Alexi Howk

FORT PIERCE - Assistant Finance Director Melissa Moore, who for the first time is publicly disclosing she was the "whistleblower" in exposing allegations of corruption in the Community Services Department, said she's being harrassed at work for her actions.

Speaking through her attorney Brian LaBovick, Moore said she arrived at work Jan. 7 to find someone had poured oil on her office chair.

Moore claims the oil incident was to intentionally ruin her clothing in retaliation for revealing allegations of corruption in the Community Services Department. She verbally complained to the Human Resources Department about a hostile work environment.

Human Resources Director Mazella Smith said she investigated Moore's complaint and has filed a confidential report with the City Manager's Office.

Moore also called police when she realized someone at City Hall had hacked into her work computer in October and accessed her personal e-mail account by installing a device to record her keystrokes, LaBovick said.

Fort Pierce Police confiscated her computer and the matter is now under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

"(FDLE officials) were here earlier this week to investigate the Moore computer hacking incident," City Manager David Recor said Tuesday, adding he does not know who broke into Moore's computer or put oil in her chair.

"We couldn't prove who did it," he said.

LaBovick said that because Moore was the whistleblower, her boss, Finance Director Gloria Johnson, wants to fire her.

Johnson could not be reached immediately for comment.

Johnson's daughter, Ursula, received $33,970 from the Community Services Department and has been accused of receiving preferential treatment. LaBovick said Recor offered to create a position for Moore in Human Resources as an auditor because Johnson wants her gone.

Recor, who earlier said the issue is a "personnel matter," could not be reached for comment on this issue.

"Hopefully there's a happy ending," he said, declining to comment further.

When Moore, who has a background in auditing, was hired by the city in July 2008, she discovered errors and irregularities in city-backed mortgages issued by the Community Services Department when they came through the Finance Department for review and recording.

Moore is accused by co-workers of leaking the information she found to citizens through her personal e-mail using her work computer, her attorney said.

In response to the issues being made public, Recor hired Kessler International of New York City to conduct a forensic audit. The Kessler audit called the Community Services Department a "corrupt organization" that used federal and state housing dollars to benefit employees, their friends and relatives.

LaBovick said that when Moore brought issues of wrongdoing in Community Services to the attention of her supervisors, her concerns were ignored.

"Everything Melissa uncovered she was told, 'Don't worry about it. It's not your deal,'" LaBovick said.

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