Former Fairhope Public Works Director Jennifer Fidler has sued the the city and Mayor Karin Wilson, claiming in a seven-count civil complaint she was wrongfully terminated in April 2017 and subsequently harmed by her successor’s higher rate of pay and Wilson’s defamatory statements about her tenure.
The complaint outlines Fidler’s brief employment after Wilson took office in November 2016, including an incident in which the mayor allegedly took former Human Resources Director Pandora Heathcoe by the shoulders and shook her during a meeting with Fidler in late 2016.
Subsequently, Fidler alleges she was called into another meeting with Heathcoe and Wilson, along with Personnel Board Chair Lorenzo Howard, where Wilson “pressured” both Fidler and Heathcoe to either not speak about the incident to others or, in Heathcoe’s case, admit her own wrongdoing leading up to the “shaking incident.”
The next month, when Wilson allegedly informed Fidler she was going to be fired, Fidler claims she asked to be retained as city horticulturist until her scheduled retirement date on Jan. 1, 2018. Alleging minimal communication with Wilson after the request, Fidler said she subsequently took leave time and only learned she was fired after she filed a public records request to view her personnel file — which subsequently was found to contain a notice of termination effective the same day she requested the file.
Afterward, Wilson’s public statements about Fidler’s termination amount to defamation, slander and libel, according to the complaint, while Fidler also claims breach of contract and violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act, tortious interference with a business contract or agreement, civil conspiracy and “failure to equally compensate” due to Wilson’s hiring of a successor at a rate of pay “in excess of the Plaintiff’s salary and benefits for the position described and maintained by the City on or about Feb. 24, 2017.”
“As a result of the defendant’s conduct, directly or by and through the defendant’s agents, employees, servants or designees, Ms. Fidler has lost income, benefits, both past and future, and has suffered severe mental and emotional distress and damage to her reputation,” the complaint states.
Fidler’s attorney is listed as Alyce Spruell of Rosen Harwood in Tuscaloosa. The full complaint accompanies this article on lagniappemobile.com.
Wilson, who has the statutory authority to hire and fire department heads and replaced at least four shortly after taking office, issued a brief statement on the complaint.
“Although I cannot comment on pending litigation, I will say I’m confident once all facts are known the city and I as mayor will be finally vindicated,” she said.
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