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Former clerk to sue
Stockbridge over firing

 

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent
 

  A former city clerk has put Stockbridge on notice that she plans to sue the city over her January dismissal.

Former Stockbridge City Clerk, Rhonda Blackmon, is suing the City over her termination. Her attorney alleges that the City Council attempted to preferentially protect African American jobs.                                                 Photo by Monroe Roark

  Mayor Tim Thompson received a certified letter dated Feb. 20 from Matthew C. Billips, Rhonda Blackmon’s attorney. The letter alleged that Blackmon’s termination was void and that the appointment of a less-qualified employee to replace her was racially motivated.

  Council members Alphonso Thomas, Anthony Ford and Lakeisha Gantt voted at the Jan. 3 meeting to name Stephanie Tigner the new city clerk. Blackmon, who was working at the meeting in her official capacity up to that point, was escorted from the council chambers by security. There was no discussion at the meeting regarding the change.

  Billips’ letter stated that he intends to bring an action against the city as well as Thompson, Thomas, Ford and Gantt pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as several specific federal code sections and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

  Billips also noted in the letter his contention that Blackmon’s termination took place prior to when new council member could be lawfully sworn into office and is thus void as a matter of law.

  Former mayor Mark Alarcon had scheduled the swearing-in of the new mayor and council members for Jan. 13, just before the regularly scheduled meeting for January. At the Jan. 3 meeting, which Thompson had called about 48 hours in advance, there was no mention of when he and his colleagues were officially sworn in.

  With regard to Tigner, Billips wrote that she “is far less qualified than Ms. Blackmon and has, at the very least, a checkered past. She ‘forgot’ to identify her criminal record; ‘forgot’ why she was practicing forging signatures of officials having check signing authority; filed a worker’s compensation and ‘forgot’ to tell the City about an automobile accident; and then ‘forgot’ to tell the City about payments she had received improperly from the City and GMA. Further, she does not have the requisite certification to hold the position of City Clerk.”

  Blackmon’s attorney alleged that he has firsthand witness accounts showing “that the City Council has embarked on an effort to preferentially protect the employment of African-Americans within the City, in this case at the expense of my client. Such conduct, as you are no doubt aware, is unlawful under clearly established law.”

  Council members Richard Steinberg and Robin Buschman, who did not attend the Jan. 3 meeting, were not named in Billips’ letter as possible targets of litigation.

  Requests for comment from city officials regarding the Blackmon case were declined.

In another employee matter, the Times has learned from multiple sources that city planner Vicki Coleman and assistant public works director Anthony Brown were fired in February by Thompson without any council input. It has also been alleged that Coleman and Brown were the top-ranking black employees at City Hall prior to their dismissal.

  The original agenda for the February regular council meeting included an item regarding the city’s organizational chart, but that item was stricken at the beginning of the meeting and the organizational chart was never addressed. The Times confirmed that both Coleman and Brown are no longer employed by the city.

  Of the entire council as well as the mayor, only Buschman and Gantt responded to an e-mail request for a comment.

  “The mayor would be the only person of whom could discuss this matter as the city manager has the right to terminate employment,” Gantt wrote in an e-mail.

  Buschman, citing the city charter, wrote that the mayor can remove certain city employees for cause and with confirmation by the council, and the council never confirmed the removal of either Coleman or Brown.

  “I cannot speak for other council members but the mayor has not communicated with me on this matter,” she wrote. “I have had the great privilege to work with both of these staff members. Both were well liked and did their jobs professionally and efficiently. To my knowledge no personnel issues ever were documented.

  “I believe these staff members should be reinstated immediately as this council spoke loud and clear when we made NO changes in the organizational chart at the last council meeting.”

 

 

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