Embattled cemetery owner hired for $100,000 salary to manage cemeteries he is accused of mismanaging

Better Call Behnken

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – A trustee, appointed by a federal judge to oversee three cemeteries in bankruptcy, has hired the owner of the cemetery and his son to help him. 

Clifford Work will be paid $100,000 to continue to manage the day-to-day operations and his son will be paid $25,000 a year to work 32 hours a week doing maintenance services, according to court documents.

The company, Work & Son, own Royal Palm South and Royal Palm North in St. Petersburg and Sarasota Memorial Park. Families have complained of neglected grounds at all three cemeteries for year.

Florida’s Division of Funeral, Cemeteries and Consumer Services has cited Work numerous times over the years and is actively investigating new complaints, including that of a family highlighted in a Better Call Behnken investigation.  

In that case, a family discovered they couldn’t bury their loved one in the pre-paid lot beside her husband because the cemetery had mistakenly buried someone else in her grave site. 

The list of upset families member is long.

Donna Saxer’s parents and other family members are buried at Royal Palm South. She tells 8 On Your Side that she about 70 families exchange emails, phone calls and pictures regularly. 

“A long history of bad business practices, bad relationships,” Saxer said of Work’s management style.

She is furious that Work and his son were hired to stay on board. She had been hopeful that the court-appointed trustee would make positive changes. 

“Absolutely ridiculous,” Saxon said. “As if Clifford Work hasn’t proved he cannot run a cemetery. And now, we’re going to turn around and reward him by giving him a $100,000 a year salary to continue the daily operations of a cemetery. Absolutely makes no sense whatsoever.”

In Trustee Stanley A. Murphy’s application to the court, he states the father-son team will “minimize the disruption of the debtor’s business and is in the best interest of the estate.”

“Other employees ‘would likely require significant training or require a higher salary,'” the application reads. 

Stanley, nor his attorney, returned calls from 8 On Your Side. 

A spokeswoman for the state’s Funeral, Cemetery, and Consumer Services, under the state’s CFO’s Office, called this “outrageous” and said the families “deserve better.”

She said Florida law does not give the state authority over who the appointed trustee employs.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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