A former Columbus Parks and Recreation Department assistant director claims she was terminated by the city manager’s office for “perceived whistle blowing” in connection with the internal audit and police investigation that resulted in the arrest and firing of director Tony Adams.
Cammy Currie, who was fired this week for lying to her boss, Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin, made the allegation in a stinging four-page rebuttal to her termination.
Currie has hired Macon attorney Charles Cox, a former federal prosecutor who specializes in labor, employment and civil rights law.
“Since May, I have been shunned by the department, and I have not been asked to meetings or copied on e-mails that were part of the projects that I was directly responsible for,” Currie wrote in a letter to Goodwin that was obtained by the Ledger-Enquirer. “This behavior was retaliatory for my perceived whistle blowing on Tony and the department.”
The city attempted to fire Currie in October for lying to Goodwin. Currie, who fought that termination, was reinstated at a lesser job with a lower salary.
On Nov. 9, Currie was informed by Goodwin that she had not been truthful regarding information about a small park on the city’s new rails to trail.
“I can only conclude that your attempted termination in October, and this recent letter on the Born Learning Trail ‘misinformation,’ are all part of the same pattern to harass me and defame me to ruin my credibility,” Currie wrote in response to her termination.
Goodwin and City Manager Isaiah Hugley did not return calls Friday to their cell phones. The Ledger-Enquirer has requested documents related to Currie’s most resent personnel action. The deadline for the city response is Monday. Goodwin and Hugley have declined in the past to answer questions about Currie, stating it was a personnel matter.
Currie hired Cox after the second termination letter.
“We intend to utilize all of our options to fight this attempted termination and what we view as a smear on Miss Currie’s good name,” Cox said.
Currie plans to take her case to the city’s Personnel Review Board on Dec. 15, Cox said.
“She is a public employee and she is protected by the First Amendment when she speaks about issues of importance,” Cox said. “I am confident she will remain an employee of the city of Columbus and we will prevail.”
Currie provided Goodwin with “false information” regarding a slab that was poured at one of the trail stops near Legacy Chevrolet on Manchester Expressway.
Goodwin had “in fact authorized the placement of the cement slabs,” Currie countered in her response. The project was part of a public-private partnership involving the United Way that was commended by council, Currie’s letter reads.
“I wish I could take credit for ‘authorizing’ proceeding with this project,” she wrote. “... The city is not out any supply monies, as the Young Professionals paid for the concrete cost. And the city council is commending our involvement. So, what is the issue? The issue is you have been attempting to find something to pin on me since the financial audit in May 2010 that resulted in unveiling the Nike contract that the former director entered the city into, and resulted in his termination of employment.”
Adams and his attorneys repeated denied that the city-sponsored elite youth basketball team Adams coached had a sponsorship contract with Nike. They insisted the contract was with East Marietta Basketball Inc., a non-profit organization that handled the Nike deal. Columbus police found five contracts between Adams and Nike dating back to 2006. Those contracts were central to a case that led to the arrests in August of Adams, Parks and Recreation employee Herman Porter and in September of East Marietta Basketball Director of Basketball Operations William Fox.
The three men face felony charges related to misappropriation of more than $200,000 in city funds, police say. Attorneys for Adams and Porter have argued that the money was not city money.
The police investigation started after an internal audit ordered by Mayor Jim Wetherington uncovered management and money-handling issues in the department. A copy of that audit was obtained by the Ledger-Enquirer on May 17.
“After the audit came out, I was pulled into a meeting with you and Tony Adams,” Currie wrote to Goodwin. “And I was basically berated and badgered about why I didn’t refuse to talk to the auditors before letting you two know they were asking questions and consulting with the two of you on my responses.”
On June 8, Goodwin presented the Parks and Recreation response to the audit. Adams, on advice of his attorney because the police investigation had started, did not attend. Currie claims she was ordered out of council chambers.
“Tony Adams called and directed me to leave the city council meeting where the Parks and Recreation Department response was presented,” Currie wrote. “Mr. Adams direct words to me were ‘They (Lisa and Isaiah) don’t want you there.’”
Currie, the No. 2 person in the department at the time, claims she was not consulted about the response to the audit.
City Human Resources Director Tom Barron referred all questions on Friday about Currie to the city attorney’s office.
“This employment issue has been referred to outside counsel,” Assistant City Attorney Jaimie DeLoach said. “Any comment needs to come from her, not this office.”
The city attorney’s office informed the city manager of a conflict of interest involving the first termination attempt against Currie. The city retained Carter Schondelmayer, a labor and employment law specialist with Hatcher, Stubbs, Land, Hollis & Rothschild LLP, in any issues involving Currie.Schondelmayer did not return a call left at her office.