Stockbridge facing discrimination lawsuit

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

Two former Stockbridge employees alleging that they were fired because of racial and gender discrimination have filed a lawsuit against the city and Mayor Tim Thompson.

It was filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, charging various violations of the Civil Rights Act.

Vicki Coleman and Anthony Brown were employed by the city in 2013, and both were terminated in early 2014, less than two months after Thompson took office. Both filed charges more than a year ago with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for race discrimination, and Coleman added the charge of gender discrimination. They filed the lawsuit after receiving notice from the EEOC of their right to sue.

According to the filing, Coleman began as a city planner with Stockbridge April 1, 2013. She had 14 years of experience and a master’s degree, and she received no negative performance reviews.

“Shortly after taking office Thompson began reassigning Ms. Coleman’s duties to a white male with little to no city planning experience,” the lawsuit stated. “After reassigning many of her responsibilities to an underqualified white male, Thompson summarily terminated Ms. Coleman from her position as city planner. At the time of her termination Thompson told Ms. Coleman that he wanted to fire her from the time he first occupied office.”

The suit asserts that the city charter requires termination of employees at her level to be for cause and require a vote and approval of the City Council.

After Coleman’s firing, according to the suit, the city created the position of administration and community services director, for which she was qualified and which performed many of her former duties. She applied for it but was denied an interview.

“Thompson rewrote the position description to prevent Coleman from obtaining the position and to make it available to one of his non-black cronies,” the lawsuit stated, adding that a less-qualified white male was hired and appointed without a council vote.

Brown started working for the city as assistant public works director July 12, 2013. The suit claims that he performed well and without incident until his termination Feb. 6, 2014, and that his immediate superior, public works director Kevin Walter, was not asked for an opinion or recommendation prior to the firing. Walter did not learn of Brown’s termination until 24 hours before Brown was notified, according to the suit.

“During his termination, Thompson remarked to Brown that he does not know what an engineer does,” the filing stated.

In addition to the actions against the former employees, the lawsuit alleges that Thompson “has a history of hostility toward black city council members.”

City manager Michael Harris issued the following statement Aug 3: “Both positions occupied by Vicki Coleman and Anthony Brown were eliminated by a vote of the City Council for both budgetary and operational efficiency reasons. To date, neither position has been reinstated by the City.”