Ex-city Aide Says She Was Ousted Over Patronage

August 21, 2009|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,annie.linskey@baltsun.com

Officials are investigating a complaint from a former City Hall worker who says she was forced to resign last year after she refused to fire a staff member to make way for a "patronage appointment," according to documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun.

The former employee, Jennifer L. Coates, who was director of council services, said that City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake and her chief of staff, Kim Washington, repeatedly asked her to fire legislative analyst Richard G. Krummerich and suggested that a botched photocopying job be used as the pretext.

Ryan O'Doherty, a spokesman for the City Council president, called Coates a "disgruntled" former employee whose accusations are "unfortunate and false."

The accusations are made in a January 2009 letter from Coates and her attorney, Howard J. Schulman, which gives the city notice of the incident under the Local Government Tort Claims Act, so that it can be investigated. Schulman declined to comment for this article. Coates could not be reached.

City Solicitor George A. Nilson said the city has "reviewed documents" related to the incident.

Coates has also filed an equal employment opportunity complaint that is pending before the Maryland Commission on Human Relations, Nilson said.

Laura A. Swisher, the chairwoman of the state and local government law section of the Maryland State Bar Association, said that employment claims can "drag on and on," and notice letters are often sent months or even years before a lawsuit is filed.

According to the letter, Coates, who worked in City Hall for 15 years before resigning last August, told Rawlings-Blake and Washington that firing Krummerich would violate civil service laws and potentially expose the city to race and age discrimination lawsuits. Krummerich, she said, is the only white employee in his department, and is also the oldest.

In May 2008, according to the letter, Washington told Coates that the City Council president wanted Krummerich fired "so she could fill the position."

In August 2008, Washington again asked whether Krummerich would be dismissed, according to the letter. "Washington then said that Rawlings-Blake had the five votes on the Oversight Committee to support her termination and wanted Coates' resignation or else she would be fired," according to the letter. Coates then resigned from her $94,000-a-year City Hall job.

Krummerich has worked in City Hall for eight years and remains in his $68,500 job.

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