By Ashley Graves
The Cullman Times
Former director of aging for the North-central Alabama Regional Council of Governments (NARCOG), Rodney Gann, has filed a civil suit against the organization once again, this time for discrimination.
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the northern district of Alabama in Birmingham, the lawsuit lists NARCOG as a public entity defendant, while former interim director Lona Johns and West Point mayor Kenneth Kilgo are listed as individual defendants in documents received by The Times.
The move came one day after the NARCOG board unanimously agreed to hire Decatur attorney Barney Lovelace as a replacement for the Birmingham based law firm of Maynard Cooper & Gayle. NARCOG interim director Stefanie Franklin cited the reason for the change was due to cost.
"They were very expensive," Franklin said. "We've paid out a lot of money for legal representation in the past and we don't need to continue doing that."
Maynard Cooper & Gayle represented the organization throughout the first civil suit filed against NARCOG in April of last year that alleged board members of violating Alabama's Open Meetings Act law by going into executive session to discuss Gann. A Morgan County judge dismissed the lawsuit two months later.
In the newest lawsuit, it alleges NARCOG violated Gann's rights protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act after he was replaced by a woman much younger than him following his termination at a NARCOG board meeting at Cullman City Hall on March 8, 2012. The suit claims Johns retaliated against Gann after his reprimanding of her for racist comments she had made. The document states Johns falsely accused Gann of unethical conduct for receiving over $36,000 in extra benefits, and suspended him from his job pending an investigation by the Alabama Ethics Commission.
Furthermore the lawsuit states Johns and Kilgo made public false statements about Gann at the March 8 meeting that subjected him to public ridicule and scorn, and damaged his reputation to the community.
In the days following, Gann sent a request to NARCOG asking to be compensated for unpaid leave, but was denied. The NARCOG board also refused to hear Gann's appeal of the payment.
When contacted by The Times Friday, NARCOG board chairman Stanley Yarbrough confirmed the organization was aware of the case.
"We're letting our attorney handle this issue," Yarbrough said.
Gann is asking that Johns and Kilgo pay $250,000 in compensator damages for damage to his reputation, mental anguish, embarrassment, emotional distress - both past and future, and loss of business opportunities. He's also seeking an additional $250,000 in punitive damages from Johns and Kilgo for intentional and malicious actions.
In compensation for age discrimination, negligent hiring/supervision, and civil conspiracy, Gann is asking NARCOG for all back pay and/or unpaid compensation from the date of his termination until a finding by a jury, liquidated damages, reinstatement, compensatory damages for loss of wages, loss of benefits, damage to his reputation, mental anguish, embarrassment, emotion stress-both past and future, punitive damages against the appropriate defendants, injunctive relief, pre-judgement interest, attorney fees, costs, and other legal and equitable relief as may be appropriate to effectuate the purposes of Title VII or the ADEA to which he may be entitled to.
* Ashley Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 225, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org