By Wayne Gates –
Brown County Commissioner candidate David Daniel sued the county in 2016.
Daniel filed the suit September of that year in federal court, claiming that he should have been paid as a full time employee instead of an independent contractor when he did work for the county from January 1, 2014 through August 15 of 2016.
The case was settled in July of 2017 and the settlement was approved by Federal Judge Susan Dlott on August 2 and the case was dismissed.
Daniel was paid $33,017.63 by the county and his attorney was paid $11,655.34.
The payment to Daniel represented vacation pay, holiday pay, retirement benefits, wages and non-wages.
In the original complaint, Daniel’s attorney David Harman wrote that Daniel performed maintenance work for Brown County and that the county “treated him as an independent contractor, thereby denying him the benefits of overtime pay, insurance, paid time off and all the other fringe benefits that accompany being an employee.”
The complaint also states that “Throughout his time working for the board (of commissioners), it is clear that Mr. Daniel was economically dependent on the board, controlled by the board and not in business for himself.”
Another paragraph in the complaint reads, “The board, not Mr. Daniel, controlled when Mr. Daniel worked and expected him to be available at all times to serve the county, even after business hours. In being issued a county cell phone, Mr. Daniel was told he was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week…the board, not Mr. Daniel, controlled how Mr. Daniel worked, as the board issued Mr. Daniel a county vehicle, county tools, and a county cell phone that he was to use when executing his assignments.”
Another paragraph of the complaint states that “Finally, during the pendency of his employment with the board, Mr. Daniel did not have any other jobs for any other employers providing maintenance services.”
Daniel said that he felt that the county still had control of his time while he was working on other projects.
“If I would be working for myself, the county would call me for emergencies and I would have to leave my construction site and rush in and take care of the emergency,” he said.
Brown County Commissioner Tony Applegate sees things differently.
“He continued to run his business when he was contracting maintenance work with us. His treatment was more than fair,” Applegate said. “We contracted with his company to general maintenance at county owned facilities, but he was free to set his hours and work around his schedule and coordinate his hours with his other jobs.”
As for the whether Daniel should have been considered a county employee, Daniel said, “There were three federal labor laws broken and two state labor laws broken. I’m the victim here. I’m the one that was cheated out of the benefits. I tried to settle and be up front with them, but I couldn’t.”
Applegate’s said that Daniel’s employment status was clear to him.
“There was never any discussion with him of employment as a county employee or any permanency to the arrangement,” Applegate said. “All of the payments were made to his construction company, not him as an individual. At the end of the year, he received a 1099 as an independent contractor. He was well aware that he was not a county employee.”
Regarding the reason that the commissioners ended the relationship with Daniel, Applegate said, “We used him for a period of time to work in various offices. The work that he performed wasn’t always up to par. We fielded numerous complaints from other elected officials that they were not happy with is work. So we determined that we needed to find another independent contractor to do general maintenance work.”
The commissioners voted to end the contract with Daniel on August 15, 2016. The lawsuit was filed on September 8.
“I did not sue the people of Brown County. I had to sue the Brown County Commissioners. There is a very big difference there. The reason I did this was for the citizens of Brown County. I needed the commissioners to know that they were breaking the law,” Daniel said.
“I have to protect my family no matter what. That what I see as a good husband and a good Christian person. This affected my family, stole money from my family and I needed to address it.”
Applegate said that the decision to settle the case came down to a business decision.
“I feel that the lawsuit was frivolous. It would have cost the county more money to fight this and win than it did to settle it, so the settlement was in the best interest of the taxpayers of the county,” Applegate said. “He did not sue the commissioners personally. He sued the county, which is essentially suing the taxpayers. Now he is asking those same taxpayers to vote him into office.”
Daniel said that he wanted to put the lawsuit behind him and run the county the right way when he takes office.
“I held my elected accountable for their actions. When I’m elected, I expect the people of Brown County to hold me accountable. This is how out government should work. We have to hold each other accountable. That’s what I did and I expect the people of Brown County to do the same to me.”
Daniel said that he hopes that Brown County Commissioners Barry Woodruff and Daryll Gray can put the lawsuit behind them as well.
“I would hope that they would see that I’m willing to work with them to come up with the legal and right way to run the county business,” Daniel said.
Daniel and Applegate are running against each other in the primary election on May 8. Because there is no democrat opponent, the winner of the primary election will take office as a commissioner in January of 2019.