$62K settlement paid to former Vernon City Clerk

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The City of Vernon reached a $62,500 settlement with former City Clerk Tracy Walker in a lawsuit first filed by Walker in April 2022, who was fired from her position in February 2022 following months of growing tension between her and members of the city council. 

Among allegations brought in the suit, Walker referenced a raise given to Public Works employees in the summer of 2021, stating the action discriminated against other staff who had lateral seniority and qualifications. 

“The legislative act excluded any female employees who worked for the City,” stated the initial filing. “The increase in pay was provided solely to the male employees and unlawfully discriminated against the female employees.” In addition to expressing concern over “suspected gross mismanagement, malfeasance, misfeasance, or conduct by city employees which constituted a gross neglect of duty, Walker addressed her objection to the raises in an open meeting, an action court documents filed on her behalf by Tallahassee-based attorney Stephanie G. Webster says constituted a report of a violation of federal, state, or local law and is considered “protected conduct” under the Whistle blower Protection Act. The documents go on to allege retaliatory action, including disciplinary write-ups and – ultimately – Walker’s termination. “[The] Petitioner engaged in protected conduct by disclosing violations or suspected violations of federal, state, or local law, and those violations or suspected violations did present a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare “The city dismissed, disciplined, and took other adverse employment action against the Petitioner in retaliation for her having engaged in protected conduct,” reads the petition.

The City of Vernon responded to the allegations, stating in response that the raises were given to the Public Works employees were not based on gender, rather the employees of that department happened to all be male at the time of the raises. The city also asserted Walker did not engage in protected activity, nor did she experience retaliatory action. “Even if the plaintiff engaged in protected activity, there is no casual connection between such activity and her termination,” state the response filed on the City’s behalf by attorney Zachery A. Scharlepp of the Tallahassee-based Coppins Monroe firm. 

To read a more in-depth report, pick up the March 6 edition of the Washington County News.