MANATEE -- Manatee County Animal Services former shelter manager Beth Lewis was terminated after less than four months on the job, according to her personnel file.
In a letter dated July 14 from Animal Services interim director Bill Hutchison, Lewis was told that the division was terminating her employment for "failure to complete your probationary period in a satisfactory manner." The letter states that the termination was effective at 8 a.m. July 15.
Lewis, the former Hillsborough County Animal Services shelter supervisor, began at the county shelter, 305 25th St. W., Palmetto, on March 25.
According to her personnel file, which was obtained through a public records request, Lewis had one "employee warning/counseling notice" dated May 12 for "failure to use good professional judgment; refusal to fully and truthfully cooperate in an investigation of a complaint; improper conduct which negatively affected your relationship to your
job and fellow workers and Manatee County Government's -- specifically Animal Services -- reputation or goodwill in the community; and making false statements concerning the county and its operations."
The complaint was related to the recommendation to euthanize a dog and a Facebook post that appeared the next day with Lewis and the dog with text saying Animal Services intended to kill the animal for "spite" due to friction between Lewis and another shelter employee, according to the complaint.
Lewis said in an email to the Bradenton Herald on Friday that "if I would have just shut up and do as I was told I would still have a job."
"I did for a couple of weeks but could not withstand me putting my values and care for the animals aside for a paycheck," Lewis said. "Florida has been very difficult for the animal field. Not due to the desire only that it is in the infant stages of making changes. A lot of caring people will be lost in the beginning of this battle."
In the email, Lewis attached a letter in which she shares her side of what happened at the Palmetto shelter.
In the letter, Lewis said she "truly realized who I was dealing with when I was confronted by the hate of my fellow employees."
Responding to the complaint in her file, Lewis said she "quickly realized that this dog was targeted because of (her)."
"Wow, these are the people I was working with," Lewis said in the letter. "Through much controversy, the dog was rescued. I was written up and told not to interact with the 'crazies and I hope you learned your lesson.' ...I had to make a choice. Do I give in or do I go down with a fight?"
According to the complaint in Lewis' personnel file, it says if Lewis engages in "conduct that is the same or similar to the conduct described in this notice, or if you fail to comply with any of the directives in this notice, the County Administration may initiate further disciplinary action up to and including your immediate discharge."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.