Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson and former Public Works Director Jennifer Fidler have settled a six-count lawsuit Fidler initially filed last February, alleging she was wrongfully terminated in April 2017, a few months after Wilson took office. Both the city of Fairhope and Wilson were named as defendants, with Wilson being sued both in her official and individual capacities.
Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Terry F. Moorer signed an order dismissing the case, accepting a joint stipulation of dismissal from all parties and ordering each party to bear their own attorneys’ fees and costs.
Attorneys for the defendants — Kirkland E. Reid and Matt McDonald of Jones Walker LLP representing the city and Hope Hicks of Ball, Ball, Matthews & Novak representing Wilson — offered simply “the parties amicably resolved the case and have no further comment.”
In a complaint first filed in state court before it was transferred to the U.S. District Court, Fidler claimed her termination stemmed from a December 2016 incident in which she allegedly witnessed Wilson taking former Human Resources Director Pandora Heathcoe by the shoulders and shaking her. In January 2017, Fidler claimed Wilson called her into another meeting where both she and Heathcoe were warned not to talk about the incident.
According to the complaint, in February 2017, Wilson told Fidler she intended to fire her but afterward, Wilson indicated she would consider retaining Fidler as city horticulturist until her retirement the following year. Fidler subsequently took sick leave and claims she only learned she was fired in April, after she requested her own personnel file.
Further, the city’s new male public works director was offered a substantial increase in pay over Filder’s salary, from $94,000 per year to $130,000. Along with counts of civil conspiracy, failure to adequately compensate, breach of contract and violating the Family Medical Leave Act, Fidler’s amended complaint also accused the mayor of defamation, libel and slander for statements made after her termination.
Fidler sought compensatory and punitive damages, “including but not limited to, mental and emotional distress, back and front pay, benefits, interest, court costs and expenses, a reasonable attorney’s fee, and such other and further relief” as the court saw proper.
Wilson denied the claims and listed 10 affirmative defenses, including failure to state a claim, statutes of limitations and qualified immunity.
A trial date was set in December 2020, but retired Circuit Court Judge Lang Floyd mediated the case last month, reporting that as a result, “the parties have reached a full and complete settlement of all claims.”
Details of the settlement are not in the public record. Fidler’s attorney Alyce Spruell did not immediately return a request for comment. Heathcoe also filed a notice of claim against the city and Wilson in 2017, but it too has been settled.
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