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Sarasota News Leader October 18, 2013 Page 20 of county employees and insisted that the employees that provided the information to me should be fired," Uebelacker wrote to Barbetta. "I do not believe that it would be good practice to discuss the names of the individuals with anyone, as there is clearly a fear of retaliation within this organization." The ethics portion of the county website specifically promises that employees "shall not be subject to retaliation for reports made in good faith alleging fraud, waste, abuse, or misconduct." It's that "good faith" section Barbetta questions. "Using your theory, you're saying that there are no consequences for reckless accusations by County employees??!!!" Barbetta shot back in his email to Uebelacker. "That's ludicrous." Uebelacker did not respond directly to requests for comment, but county spokesperson Jamie Carson tells the News Leader he stands by the content of his emails. She says Uebelacker's meeting with Barbetta was not part of any formal ethics investigation, but "an informal heads-up, as a courtesy." "At no time during that process did he think that that information warranted an investigation or formal inquiry," Carson says. In his email Uebelacker acknowledged that even if the allegations were true, they would not qualify as ethics violations. But Carson says Uebelacker believed it was important, even if the allegations were false, that Barbetta be made aware of "perceptions" in the community. "Most problems and issues are uncovered when people come forward, and people are only going to do that when they feel comfortable," Uebelacker said in a statement provided Steve Uebelacker is the county's ethics and compliance officer. Photo courtesy Sarasota County by Carson. "My job is to make people feel safe. It would be unfortunate if this current situation negatively impacts that atmosphere. It's imperative to me that employees know they can come to me in confidence." Richards says Uebelacker should have either investigated the matter further or just let it drop. Even if the allegations are unfounded, he says, there's now a "stigma" attached to him, Storm Tech and Barbetta. "When this stuff happens it's incumbent on Reid and Uebelacker to stop it," Barbetta says, "and Uebelacker instead just said, 'You're overblowing it.'" In his email, Barbetta wrote that "several people in the community" told him Uebelacker was mentioning the incident in public. That didn't sit well with him, he says. "That's when I went nuts about it." %

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