Thursday, December 05, 2013 10:31 AM
Published on: Thursday, December 06, 2012
By Christa Puccio
ROCKVILLE – Another former Rockville employee is filing a lawsuit against Rockville with claims of racism, illegal procedures and unfair performance evaluations.
It is the first complaint filed since the recently concluded outside investigation by Saul Ewing LLC. That investigation was prompted after a series of complaints and stories in The Montgomery County Sentinel following a six-month investigation by this newspaper.
"This law firm has been retained by Courtney Morgan to pursue a racial discrimination and workplace harassment claim against the City of Rockville,” said Terry E. Morris, a partner at Morris Palerm, LLC. “Without getting into many specifics I want to state that this law firm has filed formal charges on behalf of Mr. Morgan with the EEOC, and we anticipate a law suit to be forth coming in a matter of weeks.”
Morgan relocated from Florida to Rockville with his family to begin employment with the city in Aug. 2011 as the Chief of Inspection Services. According to Morgan’s employee evaluation dated Feb. 1, 2012, Morgan only received a six-month evaluation and it was provided to him a week and a half before he was terminated.
“It was my understanding that it was a discussion amongst [my immediate supervisor] that I wasn’t a good fit for the department,” said Courtney Morgan, former Chief of Inspection Services. “What does that mean? It does have some overtones to it. Do I not fit the City of Rockville’s corporate image because I’m an African American?”
There was no signature provided for the Immediate Supervisor. According to Morgan he said he was told by his supervisor he would have the opportunity to meet to discuss the evaluation. Morgan said he did not get the opportunity to meet with that supervisor before he was terminated.
“They didn’t give me a three-month evaluation and it’s on their policy that they’re supposed to,” said Morgan. “If there was an issue at that point, at least you could say it to the individual and give them the chance to see what issues they may have. By not doing that and then giving me a late six-month evaluation and then within a week and a half, turn around and say we’re not going to continue your contract – that doesn’t really say much about the way the city operates. If there’s an issue, how do you let this individual know what they are and preclude them?”
Morgan was issued a letter from Susan Swift, director of Community Planning and Development Services, dated March 1, 2012, which stated, “You will be placed on administrative leave until close of business on Friday, March 9, 2012, at which time you will be terminated from City service… As a probationary employee, you do not have the right of appeal.” This letter also apparently contains the signature of Carlos Vargas, the chief human resources officer at the time, and the signature of Jenny Kimball, acting city manager at the time.
“It’s my personal opinion that if a person recruits an individual 1,800 miles from Florida to come here, that it is that supervisor’s and the department’s responsibility to make sure they give this individual the tools and invested interest in making sure that this person succeeds,” said Morgan. “I truly believe that I was fired ‘because I was not a good fit,’ and that’s what bothers me. What does that mean? Do I not fit the City of Rockville’s corporate image because I’m an African American? That’s the crutch. That’s my opinion. And to sideswipe a guy, and not let his immediate supervisor do the evaluation? But it was because she wanted someone else in that spot and could not validate it.”
Swift said that she is aware of the former employees’ complaints of racism. “It’s a lot of confidential information,” said Swift. “So I don’t think I’m prepared to talk about it.”
Morgan also claims city employees used Morgan’s signature to issue building permits while he was on administrative leave.
“It’s my understanding that permits were issued under my signature after my exit interview with Ms. Swift and Mr. Vargas,” said Morgan. “I requested that my signature not be used to issue any more permits. I was not given a response yes or no. I found out a few days later that it was still being used. That’s what made me put it in writing and submit it to the city myself.”
According to the letter Morgan wrote on March 7, 2012, “It has come to my attention that the City of Rockville continues to issue building permits under my signature which is unlawful after my termination by the City as Chief of Inspection Services / Building Official. I request that this activity be ceased immediately and ALL stamps bearing my signature be destroyed immediately (06/March/2012). Failure to do so will be construed as using my likeness in a fraudulent act by the City of Rockville.”
The city responded with a letter to Morgan stating, “In response to your letter we received today, the City of Rockville’s permitting system was changed to remove your name from all building and other permits we issue. That change occurred by the close of business on your last day with the city on Monday, March 5, 2012. All stamps bearing your signature have also been destroyed. Please contact the city’s Department of Human Resources should you have any further questions.”
Morgan said he contacted Saul Ewing LLP, but never received a phone call back. He said a city official also gave Saul Ewing LLP Morgan’s contact information and asked for him to be contacted, but Morgan said he still never was contacted.
“In regards to the Saul Ewing report, it seems that Saul Ewing never interviewed Mr. Morgan who I believe should have been interviewed,” said Morris. “The fact that Mr. Morgan was not interviewed certainly calls into question the credibility and reliability of Saul Ewing's report.”
Saul Ewing LLP Partner Devin J. Doolan, Jr. did not return phone calls as of press time.
Posted By: Disgruntled Resident On: 12/6/2012
Title: I WOULD NOT RELEASE THE REPORT EITHER ...
Now I know why Rockville wont release the report...probably because Saul Ewing never interviewed anyone of substance...A $190,000 mistake left to the tax payers to absorb. There should be a Council hearing just on the waste and abuse of the a report that was created for marketing purposes!! What a joke..
This report should have been conducted by a government agency or non profit.. and not hired liar...