ANNA MARIA ISLAND, FL (WWSB) - Two Anna Maria City employees have been fired after removing two planks from the city pier while working, later giving them to the families that sponsored the planks. Now the community is petitioning the mayor to give the men their jobs back.
When Hurricane Irma destroyed the Anna Maria City Pier, community members were worried about whether or not they would get their sponsored planks back. They didn't want the city to throw them away.
Jeanette Langer was one of them.
"We were just afraid that something was going to happen to it," Langer says.
Langer dedicated a plank on the pier in memory of her grandson Phillip Guttridge. Guttridge is a former City Pier Restaurant employee who died at age 22 from pneumonia.
When Irma destroyed the pier, Langer wrote to the city to see if she could get the plank. Langer says she got an automated e-mail response, but never heard anything else.
"We went there and asked if they received our email, and they said they never got it," Langer recalls.
Langer was worried, so her daughter Denise Raykov talked to her good friend Peter Piir, a 10 year veteran in the public works department for the City of Anna Maria.
"Denise called me very upset," Piir says. "She wasn't getting the right information. Every time she tried to call the mayor or someone, they wouldn't tell her anything."
So Piir went down to the pier to help her out.
"I went out there just to see where it was and right away I saw it," he says.
Piir grabbed his co-worker, Taylor Mannhart, to help him pry off the plank. Then Mannhart saw a plank for a friend of his, so they pried that one off too. Then replaced the planks with other boards so that no one would get hurt.
That was a Friday. Saturday morning Piir got a call from his boss, Dean Jones, who questioned him about the missing planks. Piir says he told him exactly what happened. Then he and Mannhart were both fired.
"It just caught be by surprise," Piir says. "I had no idea it would go this far."
Now Langer and Raykov are leading a fight to get both men their jobs back. They have hundreds of names on a petition they plan to present at Thursday's city commission meeting.
"Not one person agreed with the mayor," Langer says. "They thought maybe give them a warning or two week suspension, but not lose his job over it."
ABC 7 reached out to Anna Maria City Mayor Dan Murphy who did not wish to comment on the issue. He did say however that in terms of rebuilding the pier, the city is still in the permitting phase. Murphy says the pier should be rebuilt by the end of 2019 or beginning of 2020.
The deadline to request the sponsored planks from the city was January 26th.
As for the Langer family, the city came and took their plank away from them.