DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Delray Beach’s deputy vice mayor is now asking for an explanation about a six-figure payout to the city’s former fire chief.
The request comes after Contact 5 first reported on the payment to Neal de Jesus last month following accusations of inappropriate behavior.
During a virtual commission meeting Tuesday, Deputy Vice Mayor Shirley Johnson pressed for more information and a discussion with city officials into the decision to cut a six-figure check to the city’s former fire chief, who resigned while under investigation.
“I hope City Manager Gretsas will lead us in a brief discussion, once and for all, for the public to understand why the topic of the day, Mr. De Jesus, received the type of severance he received,” Johnson said.
As Contact 5 first showed you, Neal de Jesus, the former fire chief and two-time interim city manager, resigned suddenly March 10 after a city employee claimed he “frequently used sexual language towards her, called her an expletive, pulled her hair and touched her inappropriately on more than one occasion,” according to an investigative report.
De Jesus’ employment agreement provided for 180 calendar days written notice and 20 weeks of pay if dismissed for any reason other than official misconduct. He resigned instead of providing a statement to investigators, according to the report.
The report also found there wasn't enough evidence to conclude harassment by De Jesus, but it says he may have violated city policy.
Despite that, the city negotiated with De Jesus and cut him a check for more than $131,000 for 36 weeks of pay.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the city’s attorney defended the payment to De Jesus, calling it a good decision for the taxpayers.
“There’s nothing illegal that happened with his payout. In fact, in my position, based on the total value of those agreements, he was paid a lot less in light of the situation,” City Attorney Lynn Gelin said.
Commissioners also plan to discuss bringing back an internal auditor during their next meeting.