Commission to consider lawsuit settlement


City may pay out nearly $200,000 following settlement

By Sam Wildow - Miami Valley Today



PIQUA — The Piqua City Commission will be holding an executive session and voting on a potential settlement regarding a lawsuit from a former city employee during their meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m.

The commission will be considering a resolution authorizing City Manager Gary Huff to approve a lawsuit settlement agreement with William Douglas Harter, Jr., who was formerly the director of the Public Works Department. The lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Ohio against the city of Piqua and Huff claimed the plaintiff, Harter, “was retaliated against because he advocated against racial and ADA discrimination.”

The resolution coming before the commission on Tuesday states the city and Huff “have denied and continue to deny any and all of Mr. Harter’s claims” in the lawsuit. Harter’s complaint stated he filed a hostile work environment complaint on June 26, 2018 against Huff and two other employees in the city’s Engineering Department “regarding unethical acts, passive aggressive acts, racism, and humiliation.” He then claimed he was “discharged for allegedly making false accusations and statements against city employees in violation of the personnel policy manual” on July 30, 2018. Harter’s complaint went on to say he “was harassed for complaining about race discrimination regarding the overtime procedure for an African American subordinate and the failure to promote a qualified African American subordinate.”

Harter’s hostile work environment claim to Human Resources Director Catherine Bogan was included in the lawsuit, as well as Bogan’s findings in a letter responding to Harter’s claims. In that exchange, Harter claimed he had been told “not to do handicap ramps for in-house street projects” against federal ADA regulations. Bogan’s letter claimed Huff had “initially instructed that the ramps be done after the paving.”

Harter also claimed the city had instructed him to cut “overtime completely out for one employee, but not for others.” Harter said the employee “wanted to know if it was because of the color of his skin.” Harter also said he had to send an email to Huff and the city’s finance director noting every time he approved overtime for this employee. The lawsuit also claimed Harter did not have to notify the city administrators when he approved overtime pay “for white employees under his supervision.”

In Bogan’s letter responding to his hostile work environment claim, she wrote that the “employee in question had nearly doubled his regular earnings in overtime for the fiscal year 2016,” and Bogan went on to claim “there was an apparent lack of oversight” for the approval of that overtime.

Harter’s lawsuit also claimed when that employee was found “to be the most qualified candidate” for a working supervisor position, “the City of Piqua and Mr. Huff demanded that a test be created and given to all applicants in order for a preferred white candidate to become the most qualified for the position.” The lawsuit goes on to claim that Huff “decided not to create the working supervisor position” when Harter informed the city and Huff that Harter had a “reasonable good faith belief that such action was unlawful and discriminatory.” The lawsuit also claimed “Mr. Huff pervasively intimidated, ridiculed, insulted, and harassed Mr. Harter.”

The settlement outlined in the resolution includes the city paying $40,000 to Harter “for alleged non-economic damages” and then pay the law firm Fungan & Lefevre Co. $60,000, representing Harter’s alleged attorney’s fees incurred in the lawsuit.

Within five days of those payments, Harter is to dismiss the claims in the lawsuit against the city and Huff with prejudice.

Then, on Jan. 2, 2020, the city will pay Harter an additional $20,000 “for alleged non-economic damages,” according to the resolution.

On July 31, 2020 the city will reinstate Harter, without interruption or loss of time from his termination date of July 30, 2018, to a comparable position as that of his former position of employment with a stated salary if his employment had continued in the same position without interruption since the date of his termination on July 31, 2018.

On Aug. 1, 2020, Harter will voluntarily resign from his employment with the city and agree not to seek, apply for, or accept future employment with the city. Then, the city will pay Harter $19,540 “for alleged back wages.” The city will also agree to pay $53,991.23 to the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS), representing the amount of employer and employee contributions that would have been reported and paid to OPERS if Harter would have reported to OPERS between July 31, 2018 and July 31, 2020.

In other news:

The commission will also be voting on a resolution directing staff to develop and implement policies and procedures relating to utilities. The commission will also consider contract services for for the Lock 9 Park Utility Project and an amendment to the CDBG Downtown Revitalization Program Construction management services contract.

Also during their meeting, the commission will vote on a resolution of appreciation for the public service of Bruce A. Jamison, former chief of police who retired earlier this year.

Jeremy Weber of the Piqua Police Department will be taking an oath of office for police lieutenant.

This meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday in commission chambers on the second floor of the municipal building, located at 201 W. Water Street in Piqua.

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated William Douglas Harter, Jr. filed a hostile work environment complaint on July 26, 2018 against Huff and two other employees in the city’s Engineering Department. It was actually filed on June 26, 2018. The Miami Valley Today regrets this error.

City may pay out nearly $200,000 following settlement

By Sam Wildow

Miami Valley Today

Reach Sam Wildow at swildow@aimmediamidwest.com. ©2019 Miami Valley Today, all rights reserved.

Reach Sam Wildow at swildow@aimmediamidwest.com. ©2019 Miami Valley Today, all rights reserved.