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Rockville Waits For Appeal Ruling

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Published on: Thursday, December 26, 2013

By Holden Wilen

ROCKVILLE – While the city awaits an appeal on a circuit court judge’s ruling to release parts of the Saul Ewing report, it also continues to deal with other lawsuits dealing with allegations of discrimination.

Last week the Sentinel reported a circuit court judge ordered the city to release parts of interviews included in the Saul Ewing report because information in the summaries would be relevant to the plaintiff, public works employee Donald Dorsey. The city filed an interlocutory appeal with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals and has not released the documents.

According to the court clerk’s office, the appeal is still pending in a preorder stage and cannot proceed until the court has issued an order, which is not expected to occur until next month at the earliest.

Meanwhile, the city has seen progress in other lawsuits.

The city is also dealing with a lawsuit from Courtney Morgan, a former division chief of inspection services, who was hired in August 2011 after Baker left. The case is being handled in the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md.

Morgan claims he was wrongfully terminated after a six-month review without ever having mandatory three-month reviews completed. According to his complaint, he claims the city has adopted a policy and custom of inaction condoning discriminatory acts against employees. Additionally, he claims Saul Ewing never contacted him and “the report is a sham.”

“In regards to the Saul Ewing report, it seems that Saul Ewing never interviewed Mr. Morgan who I believe should have been interviewed,” Morgan’s attorney, Terry Morris, previously told the Sentinel.  “The fact that Mr. Morgan was not interviewed certainly calls into question the credibility and reliability of Saul Ewing's report.”

In response to the lawsuit, the city filed a motion to dismiss through attorney Kevin Karpinski, who is representing the city through the Local Government Insurance Trust. Karpinski said there are no facts to support Morgan’s arguments because if the city wanted to discriminate, it would not have hired Morgan in the first place.

“The plaintiff cannot avoid the fact that he was hired and fired within six months and that the city was obviously aware when it hired him that the plaintiff was African American,” Karpinski said in his motion. “Thus there is no rational inference to be made that the plaintiff’s termination had anything to do with his race or was motivated by discriminatory animus.”

In his opposition to the motion, Morris wrote the city forced former director of human resources Carlos Vargas to resign in an effort to escape liability before hiring Saul Ewing. He also pointed out that Saul Ewing never contacted Vargas.

“The city conducted a sham investigation whereby the city knew that Mr. Morgan’s complaint would never be discovered and/or resolved,” Morris wrote.

In response, Karpinski said the city hired Saul Ewing to ensure all laws were being complied with and its personnel manual was updated appropriately.  “The city’s evaluation by Saul Ewing occurred after the plaintiff had been terminated and was no longer a city employee and Saul Ewing, not the city, decided who to interview and what to investigate,” Karpinski said. “It is not plausible that the alleged failure of Saul Ewing’s attorneys to interview plaintiff after his termination leads to the inference that the city terminated him because of his race.”

City spokesperson Marylou Berg declined to comment on the dismissal of Baker’s lawsuit and directed any questions about Morgan’s lawsuit to the docket.

U.S. District Court Judge Paul W. Grimm, who is overseeing the Morgan lawsuit, will rule on the city’s motion to dismiss next month without a hearing.

 Charles Baker, a former chief of inspections for the city, filed a lawsuit in the aftermath of the investigation conducted by Saul Ewing LLP, a law firm the city paid $190,000 to look into complaints employees made to The Sentinel of racism and discrimination. Saul Ewing’s report has been sealed by City Attorney Debra Yerg Daniel, City Manager Barbara Matthews and Assistant City Attorney Cynthia Walters.

In his lawsuit, Baker claimed his supervisor chastised and ridiculed him in front of coworkers and gave him a negative performance review to prevent him from getting a pay raise. Additionally, he claimed he received suspension-without-pay for not getting assignments in on time even though he had turned in the assignments before his deadline.

Despite the claims, Circuit Court Judge Ronald Rubin upheld the city’s motion to dismiss the case.

Baker did not return phone calls and emails, and his attorney, Terry Morris, was not available for comment.

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