Fired city employee files suit over job $1 million lawsuit claims man's constitutional rights were violated.

June 27, 1991|By Edward L. Heard Jr. | Edward L. Heard Jr.,Evening Sun Staff

A city worker has filed a $1 million lawsuit claiming that his constitutional rights were violated when he was fired from his job in the Mayor's Office of Cable and Communications.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on behalf of William Dionne, who was reinstated to his post as chief of media technical services in the cable and communications office. Named as defendants were the city and Joyce Jefferson-Daniels, the cable and communications director.

Dionne was abruptly fired from his $48,800-a-year post in October after city officials accused him of being at home when he was supposed to be at work. In April, the Civil Service Commission ordered the city to rehire Dionne and to reimburse him $31,000 in back pay because the firing was unjustified.

Dionne reported back to work on June 3 and subsequently learned that his job would be abolished on June 30, the end of the fiscal year. Jefferson-Daniels told Dionne that the job was being eliminated for budgetary reasons. Dionne has worked at the office since September 1985.

Kathleen M. Cahill, Dionne's attorney, said Friday will be her client's last day on the city payroll. After learning his job was being abolished, Dionne started using accumulated leave and vacation time.

Cahill said it may be next year before the case goes to trial. Dionne is seeking $500,000 in compensatory damages from the city and $500,000 in punitive damages from Jefferson-Daniels. He also is seeking lawyer's fees, and past and future pay and benefits he would have received if he had remained on the job.

The lawsuit claims Dionne's personal and professional reputation suffered because of the publicity his case has generated. He also has undergone mental distress and emotional trauma, the suit alleges.

Cahill said Dionne had been mistreated and stripped of his rights.

"There is an astonishing denial of due process here," said Cahill said, adding: "They order him back to work and then they do something worse."

Jefferson-Daniels ordered an investigation that resulted in Dionne's firing. City auditors followed him for three days. They alleged that he neglected his job by spending excessive amounts of time at lunch and at home. Daniels later called Dionne to her office and fired him without giving him notice or a formal hearing.

In December 1990 and January 1991, the Civil Service Commission conducted a hearing on the firing and found that city investigators did not document their observations and could not provide adequate proof of their charges against Dionne.

City workers cannot be fired without being given written notice and a chance to contest evidence, according to the Civil Service Commission's rules.

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