Employee sues city - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Employee sues city

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Albany - On January sixth, Helen Lockette, an 18 year city employee was asked to turn in the keys to her city issued vehicle, as were other employees.  Now, she's filed a lawsuit against the city.  Her attorney, Ralph Scoccimaro says, "This is really a lot more complex than just about a car."

In the lawsuit, Lockette outlines several complaints against interim city manager Lem Edwards, and her boss Shirley Smith.  "Mrs. Lockette's complaint is not really about Mrs. Lockette. It's about all employees who would be treated this way," says Scoccimaro.  He says the city violates employees first amendment rights by prohibiting them from freely expressing views on matters of public concern.

Scoccimaro says, "Many city employees are being abused in this way. They are being muzzled and that's what they intended to do with her." Helen Lockette filed a grievance against Edwards claiming he intimidated and threatened her when she questioned him about taking away the city vehicle. She also says Edwards told her to stop planning a party for former city manager Janice Allen-Jackson and was formally reprimanded when she spoke to the media about that grievance.

Scoccimaro says, "Basically the reprimand was in response to Mrs. Lockette's grievance as well as her willingness to talk to the media and I think that runs afoul of everyone's first amendment liberties. This case is really for the other city employees." Why? Because the person she filed the grievance against is the same person to whom she had to appeal her reprimand. Scocciamaro says that's unfair and violates due process rights. He says, "Hopefully this will have a positive impact on the way employees are treated in the future." A future Lockette hopes to spend as an employee with the city.

Interim City Manager Lem Edwards deferred our calls to city attorney Nathan Davis who refused to comment on the case.

posted by karen.collier@walb.com