Discrimination complaints filed against the city of Gordon by four city employees have resulted in settlements.
City Clerk Towana Brown, Police Chief Rupert “Mike” Hall, Deputy City Clerk Heather Hawver and Public Works Director Melvin Lawrence filed charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They alleged that racial discrimination caused a hostile work environment after Mayor Mary Ann Whipple-Lue took office in January 2014. The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces laws against workplace discrimination.
Brown, Hall and Hawver are white. Lawrence and the mayor are black.
Copies of settlement agreements obtained by The Telegraph through an Open Records Act request show the city agreed to pay each employee $3,000, and the employees agreed not to file lawsuits related to their claims.
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As part of the agreements, Gordon agreed that the employees can only be suspended, demoted or terminated after following a process outlined in the city charter, and only for cause.
If the employees testify in court or a deposition, the testimony can’t be deemed “cause” for suspension, demotion or termination, according to the agreements.
The city also agreed not to retaliate or penalize the employees because of their EEOC claims.
The agreements state that neither party admits to any guilt or wrongdoing in signing the documents.
Macon attorney Tom Richardson represented Gordon’s former insurance provider, the Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency, in the matter and signed the agreements on behalf of the City Council.
He said the settlements were cost-saving moves.
Charles E. Cox and Brian Jarrard represented the employees.
“We were pleased to be able to resolve this and put in place a procedure that protects these employees from retaliation and allows the city to move forward with its business,” Cox said.
A whistle-blower lawsuit that Brown filed in May was dismissed in November.
Although documents relating to the resolution were included in The Telegraph’s Open Records Act request, the city wasn’t involved in the resolution and doesn’t have any records on file.
Richardson, who said he represented Gordon’s insurance company in that matter as well, declined comment other than to say that it had been resolved.
Cox, who represented Brown, said, “that matter is resolved and we are pleased with the outcome.”
Whipple-Lue declined comment on the cases.
The Georgia Supreme Court is set to hear arguments later this month in a separate case involving the mayor.
Two city councilmen and members of the Concerned Citizens of Gordon group filed a lawsuit in 2014 seeking to remove Whipple-Lue from office, alleging that she had violated the state’s Open Meetings Act. They also alleged malfeasance.
The mayor’s lawyer filed motions appealing pretrial rulings in the case, which had been set to go to trial in December.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.