Steps to take after experiencing sex discrimination in the workplace
An ex-Fort Valley city manager claims city leaders harassed her for being pregnant and for cooperating with an alleged federal investigation, according to a federal lawsuit.
The harassment allegedly involved several officials — including Mayor Barbara Williams and Councilwoman Juanita Bryant — falsely accusing then-City Administrator Karin Vinson of having a sexual relationship with the police chief and claiming she was unable to perform her job duties, the lawsuit said.
Vinson is suing the city, Williams and Bryant for creating a hostile work environment during her two years as city manager. She is seeking a minimum of $350,000 in damages in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on May 23.
Vinson accuses the mayor of retaliating against her because she raised concerns about Williams helping a business get contracts with the city, and for refusing to budget $40,000 to buy a digital sign from a company that made signs for the mayor’s campaign, the lawsuit said.
Bryant and Williams vehemently deny the allegations, City Attorney Tommy Coleman told The Telegraph.
Coleman said he has yet to receive a copy of the lawsuit when contacted by The Telegraph on Friday, but was able to review it afterward.
The majority of the allegations mentioned were outlined by Vinson during a “one-and-a-half hour soliloquy” as part of her termination hearing before the City Council shortly before her contract was not renewed, Coleman said.
Vinson’s claims were also part of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint filed by her, Coleman added.
Coleman said he has advised city officials and employees to not publicly talk about the matter.
“When you make those kind of allegations to an elected official they become very enraged about it,” he said.
Vinson, who is an attorney, was city administrator from November 2016 to November 2018.
Her attorney, Tyler Kaspers, did not respond to a Telegraph email asking for documentation related to Vinson’s accusations.
The lawsuit says Vinson was retaliated against after complying with a grand jury subpoena that was part of an FBI investigation into financial transactions involving supervisors that included Williams and Bryant.
Coleman said neither himself or city officials that he’s talked with have been contacted about a federal investigation into city finances.
Fort Valley had been dealing with chaos stemming from financial issues uncovered in audits, as well as other lawsuits, such as the city seeking money from the Fort Valley Utilities Commission, Coleman said.
Vinson also claims Bryant asked city employees to sign affidavits saying they did not like Vinson.
One of the focal points of the lawsuit’s allegations centers on Vinson and Police Chief Lawrence Spurgeon.
Vinson says the mayor repeatedly told people that Vinson was involved in a sexual relationship with the police chief, and that Bryant and Councilman Alonzo Allen also made similar remarks.
There were also instances where Vinson became “emotionally distressed” such as when she claims Councilman Jimmy Barnes confronted her for not letting him know she was pregnant when a maternity leave policy was approved, the lawsuit said.
“Barnes’ finger was pointed, in an aggressive manner, inches from (Vinson’s) face,” the lawsuit said.