(WSVN) - A city worker just doing her job finds a naked man who’d snuck into a park. He got arrested, but she got in trouble, too! That’s why she called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

A walk in the park is nice.

Working at a park? Not always.

Clorese Cooley, spotted law breaker: “She said it about three times.”

Early each morning its Clorese’s job to open all the parks in Oakland Park and unlock the restrooms. On this day, a jogger had warned her about a guy who had snuck into Royal Palm Park.

Clorese Cooley: “I see the particular gentleman sitting adjacent on the bench completely nude — no socks, no shoes, nothing, and he was masturbating.”

The man saw Clorese.

Clorese Cooley: “And he smiled at me, and he started to vulgar act in a more aggressive manner once he made eye contact with me.”

Clorese backed up and called BSO.

Clorese Cooley: “It was kind of traumatizing to think I could have been a victim that day.”

BSO quickly arrested the man.

Clorese then followed procedure and called her supervisor.

Clorese Cooley: “She kind of giggled, and I told her, ‘I don’t find that funny. This could have been something very serious.'”

Clorese had taken this picture of the guy as he was led away from deputies. She sent that with a description of the incident to several bosses. Her supervisor was not happy and called her.

Clorese Cooley: “‘I had already taken care of it, and you came behind me and sent an email, and it made me look like I wasn’t doing my job.'”

Clorese says her supervisor told her to not send anymore emails to their bosses.

Clorese replied the incident had frightened her, and she would be open all the parks but not Royal Palm anymore.

She suggested they have a male open it to avoid a female becoming the victim of sexual assault.

Clorese Cooley: “And she was like, ‘Are you serious?’ And I was like, ‘Yes, I don’t feel safe.'”

Clorese says she then hung up the phone and sent a second email to her bosses repeating what she had told her supervisor.

The response? Clorese was suspended, or as the city calls it, put on administrative leave for two days with pay, written up for hanging up on her boss and…

Clorese Cooley: “That I was insubordinate for writing the second email.”

The man accused of masturbating was arrested, but Clorese is stunned that she is also being punished.

Clorese Cooley: “I feel like a lot of times, this is why rape victims don’t say anything because when they say something, people make them feel like they were wrong for speaking up.”

Well Howard, was Clorese treated properly?

Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “Legally, it’s not clear if the city can do this, but from a managerial standpoint, it’s wrong. By suspending Clorese that day before they even began to investigate shows how poorly Oakland Park handled this whole manner. It seems clear they were more concerned with punishing her for hanging up on a boss than gathering information from all their parks to determine if female employees or the public are at risk.”

We contacted Oakland Park.

They think they are absolutely right, telling us, “The manner in which the employee in question acted following the regrettable incident in the park was unacceptable. We cannot condone an employee refusing to perform assigned duties or hanging up the phone on a supervisor. The discipline was warranted and appropriate.”

Howard Finkelstein: “Oakland Park better be careful because Clorese has notified them of a dangerous problem. If they do nothing and an employee or park goer is sexually assaulted, it could cost the city a lot of money.”

Clorese is back at work, and the city did change her schedule. She no longer opens parks.

Clorese Cooley: “But, I just feel I have to come forward. This was the right thing to do.”

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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