Ex-secretary plans to sue city, mayor

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 10, 2004

A former secretary in the Ironton mayor's office has filed a complaint alleging that she was wrongfully terminated by current Mayor John Elam, something that the administration vehemently denies.

Cindy Friend, secretary to former Mayor Bob Cleary was fired in December once the new administration took over operations of the city. She and attorney John Phillips, of Phillips Law Firm, Inc. of Cincinnati, plan to sue the mayor and city on allegations that Friend was terminated based on age and sex discrimination, as well as other undisclosed violations.

"What is going on is, Friend has filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee saying that she was terminated wrongfully due to her age and/or that the current mayor desired to have someone more attractive in that position," Phillips said.

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The attorney is awaiting a determination letter from the EEOC that would outline the results of a preliminary investigation. Regardless, after Aug. 24, once the EEOC's 180-day review period has expired and he is given what is called "a right to sue," Phillips said they "have every intention of filing a suit" in federal court.

"We don't think Ms. Friend was treated appropriately in this matter," he said. "She did absolutely nothing wrong."

On the contrary, Mayor John Elam believes that it is the city that has done nothing wrong.

"The complaint was investigated by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission," Elam said. "There were no findings for probable cause."

Robert Cross, a labor consultant for the city of Ironton, said that the position is not part of the city's union and because of its status as an "unclassified civil service," it has no tenure rights when the administration changes.

"Obviously, the agency investigating the complaint did not feel it had merit or they would have proceeded with it on their own," Cross said.

Phillips said that the OCRC and the EEOC's decision will not deter anything. It simply means that they will not foot the bill on the case, he said.

"It is not over, let's put it that way," he said.

Phillips is currently considering another case involving the city of Ironton involving alleged abuse of authority and denial of equal protection under the law. The investigation is ongoing and Phillips said he has not decided whether to take the case or not.