A former Mobile Housing Board executive director has filed a lawsuit against the agency and the Mobile County Personnel Board over his firing after less than a year on the job.
Akinola Popoola, who MHB commissioners terminated in September of 2018, is claiming the agency breached his employment contract and owes him back pay. Popoola is also claiming MCPB denied him due process by not allowing him a pre-disciplinary hearing or an appeal.
MHB and Popoola, who was hired in October 2017, disagree over whether he was on a probationary period at the time of his termination. The board claims he was, while Popoola’s suit argues he was not.
Specifically, the suit claims Popoola was notified he’d been selected for the position in August of 2017. Therefore, the suit argues, he was appointed in August. By MCPB rules, the suit says, Popoola’s working test period should have ended in August — a month before his termination.
“As executive director of the MHB, plaintiff’s working test period was one year,” the suit reads. “From his appointment … plaintiff was an employee of the merit system for more than one year.”
However, previous Lagniappe reporting suggests Popoola was officially hired at the board’s October meeting of that year. He didn’t actually begin the job until Dec. 1, 2017.
In addition to his appointment by MCPB, Popoola was offered a contract through MHB, the suit argues. A condition of that employment contract included doling out severance pay for any “termination without cause,” according to the suit.
“Plaintiff performed all duties and requirements of his position in a satisfactory manner, or better during his tenure, receiving a raise in pay ‘for good cause shown’ during that time,” the suit reads.
During the meeting where commissioners fired Popoola, the board read off a list of reasons for the termination. Reid Cummings, the board’s vice chairman at the time, and other board members blamed Popoola for financial blunders discovered while Popoola was at the helm.
One instance was former Chief Financial Officer Lori Shackelford’s handling of an email phishing scam that cost the agency $478,000. At the time, Cummings admitted that while Popoola might not be “directly responsible,” he should have had “a hand on the wheel.”
In the suit, Popoola — through his attorney Ed Smith — denies responsibility for those issues.
Popoola is also still embroiled in a lawsuit involving sick leave with his former employer, the Opelika Housing Authority. Popoola claims in that lawsuit that he is owed more than $100,000 worth of unused sick time. An attorney for the housing authority has stated in a letter to Popoola that the former executive director is not owed the sick leave because he quit.
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