National News

Former City Clerk claims racial discrimination in new federal lawsuit against Snellville

Posted August 4

— For a second time, the City of Snellville is being sued in federal court by former City Clerk Phyllis Moreland-Richardson over accusations that she was mistreated by the City Council and other city leaders.

This time, however, the allegations include a charge of racial discrimination, something Richardson has long maintained was a factor in her treatment by city officials.

Richardson's attorneys filed the lawsuit against Snellville this week and then released copies of the suit to the media on Thursday night. Richardson is seeking a jury trial for her discrimination suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

The former city clerk leveled four charges against the city in her suit: That she was racially discriminated against, that she was subjected to a hostile work environment at City Hall, that city leaders failed to address complaints about discriminatory behavior and that she was retaliated against.

"Defendant City of Snellville through its all white City Counsel, white City Manager and white City Attorney, created a hostile and abusive work environment by allowing discriminatory practice to occur over the course of Plaintiff's employment with the City of Snellville, and failed to take corrected measure to eliminate a racially motivated hostile work environment that Plaintiff was subjected to on a regular basis," attorneys wrote in the suit.

"Any stated reasons for the Defendant's conduct is not the true reasons, but instead are pretext to hide the Defendant's discriminatory animus."

The suit comes after Richardson's original suit, which was filed in October 2015 and alleged due process violations, was dismissed by a federal judge in January.

In her new suit, Richardson is seeking relief for damages she said were caused by the City Council, as well as for pre-judgment and post-judgment interest, attorneys fees and any other financial relief the court may decide to award her if she wins the suit.

A Snellville spokesman could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

Snellville leaders fired Richardson on Nov. 9, 2015. The former city clerk's attorneys argued in the suit that it was an act of retaliation against her for filing a complaint against the city with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

At the time of her firing, the Daily Post reported that members of the City Council had asserted qualifications, job performance and battles between the council and former Mayor Kelly Kautz were the basis for their treatment of Richardson.

The court filings released on Thursday recall the public feuding that took place between former Mayor Kelly Kautz and the City Council. It cites a string of incidents dating as far back as Jan. 10, 2014, when Kautz appointed Richardson to be the Snellville's first African-American city clerk.

There was a back-and-forth disagreement over who should be City Clerk. While Kautz supported Richardson, the City Council supported Melissa Arnold, who is white. Despite Kautz's appointment of Richardson, the council appointed Arnold three days later.

That led to a separate legal battle between Kautz and the City Council over appointment powers, during which Arnold resigned as city clerk and the council agreed to recognize Richardson in that position.

Richardson alleged the City County cut the city clerk position's salary and redistributed some of its duties to white employees after she began the job.

"Plaintiff alleges that she was treated differently from other non-African American employees for the City of Snellville and that the City of Snellville intentionally created a hostile and abusive work environment towards Plaintiff on the account of her race," attorneys wrote in the suit.

Witts defeated Kautz in the 2015 mayoral election and Richardson was fired the night he was sworn in as mayor.

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