FORMER HAMPTON DIRECTOR SUES CITY
Lawsuit claims wrongful termination, gender and racial discrimination
A former Hampton director is suing the city for wrongful termination, gender and racial discrimination, alleging that his firing was based in part on “baseless innuendo” that he engaged in an affair with an employee from his department.
Kevin Myers was fired as the city’s Parks, Recreation and Leisure Services director on Sept. 24, 2018, following a protracted investigation in which he, “for several weeks, was surveilled without his knowledge,” according to court documents.
In a lawsuit filed this year in federal court in Norfolk, Myers who is Black, says he was treated differently, disciplined and ultimately fired based on his race and gender for alleged behaviors, while white male and female city employees accused of similar acts were allowed to keep their jobs.
Myers was placed on administrative leave June 2018, suspended for a month without pay a few weeks later and fired that autumn. The city hired a white male who had less experience than Myers for the director role, court documents said.
In July, the city filed a motion to dismiss the suit saying the case is “insufficient” to claim “gender and/or race discrimination,” as the basis for firing Myers. Further, the motion states that “the chaos, issues with communication and ability to lead were also factors that led to his separation.”
Myers managed a department that had more than 70 employees.
City spokesman Fred Gaskins said the city would not comment on ongoing litigation.
Carteia V. Basnight, a Hampton-based attorney representing Myers, did not respond Friday to
a request for comment.
Myers also filed a discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in July 2019. The commission said it was unable to make a determination based on the information presented, according to an EEOC document.
In August 2016, barely eight months after Myers took the director role, some city employees “initiated an investigation into an alleged inappropriate relationship,” with a staffer in his department, and sent an anonymous letter to City Manager Mary Bunting, according to the complaint.
Myers called the anonymous letter “harassment” and denied any affair or wrongdoing.
The city says it received two more anonymous letters: one sent to the Hampton City Council in October 2016 and another in April 2018, that included photos of Myers’ personal vehicle near the employee’s vehicle at night, according to correspondence from Bunting dated June 18, 2018, sent to Myers, which he entered as an exhibit.
Bunting first proposed to dismiss Myers by July 3, 2018, because of “criminal, dishonest, improper and other conduct prejudicial to the interest of the City,” and stated it was brought to her attention that “it appears that you are having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate employee.”
Also in her letter, Bunting states, there is “no policy against fraternizing in the workplace,” but the entire situation, perception of an inappropriate relationship and the negative impact to the department caused her to question his ability to manage the department, she wrote.
Myers responded in a June 21 letter, denying the affair, calling it “baseless innuendo,” and noting “A full (21) months have expired since the initial false report.” His note said the city did not have any “evidence of anything inappropriate of a sexual or intimate nature.”
He added during the times and days stated, “there is nothing to substantiate or corroborate the drawing of such conclusion.”
The city suspended Myers without pay for 30 days on July 9, 2018, citing what it called his “failure to address this has created (dissension) within your department … I have concerns on your ability to effectively lead the department,” Bunting wrote in a letter.
She added that the city would do a “climate survey” on the department with a third-party contractor. The letter also stated Myers was ineligible to file a grievance because he was a department head.
In subsequent exchanges Myers and Bunting shared, he was asked to outline how he would revamp the department and improve morale. The city followed up with a detailed list of why he would be fired that included results of a “climate assessment” that revealed a majority of the 20% survey reported “morale was low throughout the department,” in a letter dated Aug. 30, 2018.