City rejects Taylor’s claim

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 19, 2004

DEMOPOLIS- Demopolis City Attorney Rick Manley promised an “answer” from the City of Demopolis during Thursday night’s city council meeting. The answer is a reply to the former Demopolis City Clerk’s lawsuit in which she claims she was improperly dismissed from her position a few months ago.

Manley read a prepared statement during the meeting that basically said the City of Demopolis rejects all claims made by Vickie Taylor in her lawsuit. After the reading of the statement, all the board members including Mayor Cecil Williamson voted unanimously to accept the proposed stand on the suit.

Gregg Smith has been retained by former Demopolis City Clerk Vickie Taylor, who seeks compensatory damages from the city for its handling of her dismissal.

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“First, we don’t think [the city] properly complied with the legal provisions of appointing a city clerk,” said Smith, a Birmingham attorney who specializes in labor and employment law. “According to the law, a city clerk holds office until a new clerk is elected and qualified.”

On Thursday, Oct. 7, Taylor reported to work before 8 a.m. and was escorted from the building shortly after by Public Safety Director Jeff Manuel. At the time, Taylor was informed that she had been placed on administrative leave.

“It’s outrageous how that happened,” Smith said. “I’ve never heard of a public safety director escorting a faithful employee out of the office.”

Even more peculiar, to Smith, is the reason Taylor was given when she was asked to leave the building.

“You don’t put someone on administrative leave unless alcohol or drugs is involved, or if there’s an emergency illness,” Smith said. “My client was not accused of any wrongdoing, so why was she placed on administrative leave?”

Smith’s suit, being filed in the Southern District Court in Mobile, said Taylor is owed for extra time she worked preparing for the municipal elections. He also said Taylor has certain rights that she obtained while working for the city.

“Prior to being city clerk, my client worked for the city for 10 years,” he said. “During that time, she gained certain rights. We believe she still has a right to her previously held job, and as a public employee, she has a right to due process — a notice and a hearing.”

Smith also said the city erred in its administrative procedures once Taylor was dismissed.

“She never received notification of COBRA insurance, and that’s against the law,” he said.

While Smith said he believes Taylor has a strong suit against the city, the Birmingham attorney also said the entire conflict could have been avoided.

“The right way to handle this was to say, ‘Vickie, we don’t want you here anymore,'” Smith said. “This was handled very poorly by someone who was newly elected as mayor.”

Though it is unconfirmed, one report says Taylor is asking for $400,000 in damages.