Alachua County employee quits with claims of political favoritism

ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. (WCJB) -- Alachua County leaders are looking into claims by a former county landscaping inspector that he was punished for doing his job, and not favoring businesses supported by county manager Michelle Lieberman.

Steven Kabat handed county commissioners a six-page letter when he resigned two weeks ago. He highlighted problems with the county's growth management department, detailing how he was placed on an improvement plan with possible disciplinary consequences.

Kabat writes, "I believe that these charges have been brought due to my persistence in pursuing code enforcement, regardless of the economic status or affiliation of the violator."

The letter often refers to a change in supervision when Growth Management Department Director Steve Lachnicht was asked to resign, possibly because his ideas didn't align with County Manager Michelle Lieberman.

"I've been there for almost 18 years; I had a very successful record of accomplishments and when she became the county manager, she had other ideas," Lachnicht said. "I don't have anything I could point to say there was a reason."

"I've had commissioners ask me that same question and I don't have an answer for them either."

Lachnicht said he was shocked because he attended a morning meeting and was suddenly asked to resign hours later. He also says Kabat was a very hard worker.

"Steve Kabat was a good employee for many years," Lachnicht said. "He carried a very heavy workload and I know that was difficult for him, but he did a good job."

"It is unfortunate that he had to come to this end, but I will recognize he did a lot of good work for the county."

In Kabat's letter, he addresses Lachnicht's forced resignation, saying "Decisions seem to be made based on how they will be viewed by the county manager" rather than how they line up with the county's established land development standards.

Kabat says this is why he left his job.

The new Department Director, Missy Daniels, wrote a response to Kabat's letter.

She takes issue with many of his points, saying he was never required to get approval to pursue code enforcement.

We also made calls to county manager Michelle Lieberman's office on this story; we didn't hear back from her but were able to talk to the county spokesperson.

Mark Sexton says there's no official investigation into Kabat's claims, but the county is looking into it.

"The county always looks at things like this seriously and gives them the thought that they deserve," Sexton said. "There will come a time when both letters are brought up and the meeting of those who need to be involved will get together to decide what, if anything, to do with this information."

Kabat's full letter and Daniels' response are attached to this article.