OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - The Osceola County Clerk of Court is coming under fire for some questionable hiring decisions.
Clerk of Court Armando Ramirez called an April 11 news conference to explain why he had recently fired employees, including his chief of staff.
Ramirez said that his son's girlfriend, Jennifer Soto, had been hired as a $56,000 a year assistant.
He neglected to mention at the conference that he had promoted Soto three days earlier to replace his chief – and given her a $40,000 raise, increasing her salary to about $96,000 a year.
When he was asked at the news conference about hiring his son's girlfriend for a $56,000 job, he said she was very qualified.
"This office is transparent. We are full of integrity in this office," Ramirez had said.
When Channel 9 asked Ramirez Wednesday why he wasn't transparent about promoting his son's girlfriend and giving her a $40,000 raise, he said, "I honestly don't remember if she had been promoted at that time."
WFTV learned most of the 160 employees that work for Ramirez have not received raises in five years, and are not happy about the promotion of his son's girlfriend and the other $10,000 raises he has given to several other employees.
Another employee, Special Projects Manager Mary Lou Carroll, who makes $50,000 a year, had two arrests in the 1990s, one on shoplifting charges and one on carrying a concealed weapon charges.
The charges were later dropped. Ramirez said he knew about Carroll's arrests because she admitted it on her application.
"What matters to me is if there's a conviction," Ramirez said Wednesday over the phone.
Carroll had also been written up for disciplinary action while previously employed with the Volusia County Clerk of Court. Some of the allegations included gossiping about coworkers, misfiling injunctions, excessive tardiness and misuse of work email.
In the April 2008 report, her supervisor wrote, "Mary Lou is disrespectful and unprofessional to customers, co-workers, and management. She also uses profanity on a regular basis in the office and gossips about co-workers."
She was suspended for two days without pay.
Ramirez also said he wouldn't rule out hiring a convict, and that it was for him to decide on a case-by-case basis.
This comes after he criticized the former clerk for "relying on a whim in making decisions."