Camp Wewa is a place to create memories for children of all ages that last a lifetime.
According to the City of Apopka website, it offers fun-filled summer activities for youth and teens. It provides activities, arts and crafts, athletics, boating, and target sports, and hosts events, parties, team-building retreats, educational trips, and other group programs throughout the year.
It's a happy place where the sun is always shining. But on August 1st, things got very dark.
Gary Fuchs, the manager of Camp Wewa, sat in his office at the beginning of a new week and his 10th full month on the job when Apopka Parks and Recreation Director Radley Williams and Human Resources Director Joseph Patton dropped in to deliver a "memorandum" to Fuchs.
Only this was not your typical office memo.
August 1st, 2022
221 Binion Road Apopka, FL 32703
Re: Notice of Termination of Employment
Dear Mr. Fuchs,
This letter confirms that your employment with the City of Apopka will be terminated, effective August 1st, 2022. This decision is based on you not successfully completing your probationary period with the City of Apopka. As a probationary employee, there are no appeal rights concerning this decision.
We request that you please return your ID's, access cards, keys, and other company property you may have in your possession. We realize you are residing in a City of Apopka residence; therefore, you will be given until August 14th, 2022, to vacate the premises.
Your final paycheck, including the last day worked, which is August 1st, 2022, will be direct deposited on August 12th, 2022. Your eligible PTO earned will be paid on August 19th, 2022.
Within one week, you will be mailed an information packet with details, your eligibility under COBRA for insurance benefits, and the status and amounts of any other benefits or retirement plans. As of today, all of your passwords used to access online company and client accounts will be disabled. If you have any questions, you may call Human Resources at the number listed above, or you may send an email to HumanResources@apopka.net.
I wish you all the best going forward.
Joseph Patton Human Resources Director"
The dismissal via a memorandum stunned Fuchs.
"They came to my office and terminated my position, offering zero severance, and notifying me I had to get out of my property within 14 days."
Later that day, on his Facebook page, Fuchs described his time at Camp Wewa and the work he had accomplished since his October 25th hire date in 2021.
"When I was hired, Camp Wewa was nothing more than weeds," Fuchs said. "It had been closed for two years with the pandemic affecting the entire camping industry, and it was left broken with the YMCA looking to sell it to a developer as they could no longer save it. I was lucky enough to be offered the task of bringing this wonderful place back to life and was glad to take on the challenge. Camp Wewa now, a mere nine months later, is a thriving summer camp and retreat center coming off a successful summer season and with groups booked well into the fall. I am proud of the work I've done here."
Fuchs and his family lived on-site at Camp Wewa during his time as manager, and according to Fuchs, Williams and Patton did not explain the reason for his dismissal.
The following morning, Fuchs emailed the City asking for severance pay he felt he deserved.
On August 4th, the City emailed Fuchs a second memorandum, which was obtained by The Apopka Voice in a public records request.
Dear Mr. Fuchs,
On August 1st, 2022, you were notified that you did not successfully complete your probationary period with the City of Apopka. Due to the nature of this memorandum, the City will provide you the option of resigning your position instead of dismissal. We are also prepared to offer you a two-week lump sum severance pay equal to 80 hours of pay. Should you decide to resign your position, you are required to write a letter of resignation to the City Administrator by close of business today. If you accept this offer, you agree to hold the City of Apopka harmless of any further action.
If you have any questions, please contact human resources as soon as possible.
I wish you all the best going forward.
Joseph M. Patton Human Resources Director"
Fuchs was not impressed with the City's offer.
"The second letter they sent was in response to my request for proper severance and an amount to which I thought I was entitled. If you notice the last line of the letter, it was merely an attempt to prevent me from filing an action against the City, as stated in the letter. It was an attempt to shut me up."
According to Fuchs, the two-week severance was contingent on his resignation.
"They said I can only have the severance if I agreed to resign my post and waive any further claims against the City as it says in the letter."
According to Fuchs, he neither resigned nor received any severance pay.
"They left my family penniless, threw us out of our house, and offered me two weeks compensation to shut me up," he said. "I was not willing to swallow my pride and dignity for that."
Williams confirmed Fuchs' dismissal during the Apopka City Council's August 3rd meeting when asked by Commissioner Nick Nesta but did not explain the reason for his dismissal.
"So coming into my role, I've been observing and evaluating the processes, policies, procedures in the department, how we're executing," Williams told the Council. "And Camp Wewa was a highlight of my focus through the summer. And after observing and evaluating how the program ran, how the facility was running, and the preparation, planning, and processes in place, it was just time for us to move to a new opportunity. So this facility, this program is a gem of Apopka. This is only the first year, and we've set our sights very high, lofty goals of making this thing and this facility top-notch throughout the state."
The City purchased Camp Wewa in 2021 from the YMCA for $4.7 million and projected spending an additional $3 million to upgrade the 75-year-old facility in the next five years.
Editor's Note: The Apopka Voice emailed City Administrator Edward Bass for a response to determine the reason for Fuchs' dismissal. Bass forwarded the questions to City Attorney Michael Rodriguez and Human Resources Director Joseph Patton, who did not respond before the story's publication.
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