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9/18/2012 6:00:00 AM
Kingman retaliated after criticism, lawsuit claims

Ahron Sherman
Miner Staff Reporter

Former city employee Keith Adams filed a lawsuit against the city and several of its employees in late 2011 alleging his First Amendment rights had been violated and that the city interfered with an employment opportunity.

Council plans to slip into executive session today to discuss a possible settlement in the suit after it deals with a particularly light agenda.

"We feel his claim is without merit," said City Attorney Carl Cooper in an email to the Miner. "I need to get direction from the Council."

When reached by phone, Adams said he had no comment.

After 23 years as the Parks and Recreation Department's recreation superintendent, Adams retired in 2010.

In his exit interview, he expressed concerns regarding the city's use of money, especially when it comes to the golf course and other recreation programs, according to U.S. District Court documents.

About a year after his retirement, Adams applied for the job of pool operator. He was not offered a position.

According to court documents, Adams asked Parks and Recreation Department Human Resources Administrator Linda Semm, who's named as one of the defendants in the case, why he was not hired.

He received an email from Semm that said, "Based on your expressed displeasure with the city as an employer and with the department, we do not believe it is in the best interest of the department to select you for this position."

Documents go on to say that Adams believes current Parks and Recreation Director Mike Meersman and the department's Administrative Assistant Karen Fogg, both of whom are also named as defendants in the case, found out about Adams' criticism and lobbied against him being hired.

He sees this act as being retaliatory in nature and believes it violated his First Amendment rights.

According to the documents, Adams believes he had a prospective contract with the city for the pool operator position because of his qualifications and his track record in his time as recreation superintendent.

He alleges that the lobbying against him was based on retaliation and ultimately interfered with him getting the job.

He is suing for economic damages regarding loss of income and benefits.

He is also suing for compensatory damages regarding mental anguish, emotional distress, pain and suffering, humiliation, inconvenience, harm to reputation and loss of enjoyment of life.

He also wants attorney's fees, pre- and post-judgment interest, costs incurred from the suit and whatever else the court deems proper to award.

His suit does not name a specific damage amount.

According to court documents, the city admits to giving the pool operator job to someone with no experience but maintains that experience was not a requirement of the job.

The defendants also admit to the email sent by Semm to Adams explaining why he was not offered the job.

The city basically denies all the other allegations, according to the documents.

The city wants the court to dismiss the complaint, award the city attorney's fees and award any other relief seen as necessary by the court.

Council meets at 5:30 p.m. today at the City Complex, 310 N. Fourth St.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, September 21, 2012
Article comment by: V Stokes

@ tj denton

I believe that wholeheartedly. I also believe there is a time and a place and a method for providing that critique. I don't believe it is at an exit interview at a place you are retiring from. It's too damn late then. If you want to criticize as a private citizen....all well and good. More than a few times I've complained about services or person and in writing. But I was not an employee...nor did I expect to be. And if I had applied and a Boss said..."Hmmm, I remember you"...what would my chances be unless I had provided constructive criticism in the proper way?

Remember...criticism is easy....providing solutions is not. I don't know who originally said that, but it's just as valid as the one you provided.

Posted: Friday, September 21, 2012
Article comment by: tj denton

stokes...criticism builds a stronger foundation.

let me give you a little quote by some unknown guy. i think his name was Winston Churchill or something like that....

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Article comment by: V Stokes

@ tj denton and others....
If you ran a business...had a longtime employee who left, retired, whatever..and at his final goodbye he criticized how the business was run...would you hire him back a year later for a much lower position? If you can honestly say yes...well...ok. Your choice. was an exit interview...not sure...but I'd guess he was still an actual employee at the time?

In the jobs I've had...if I criticized management for how the business was run...they'd have shown me the door and said don't come back. In the military I'd have probably been up on serious charges.

As to the whistle blower thing....he never filed a complaint or charges while he was an employee, that stated fraud or criminal way it qualifies.

Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Article comment by: jerry sandhill

Good to see the city admit they hired an employee with less qualifications! WOW!
What about Adams right to whistleblower protection?
Come on Dick Anderson, as a past federal worker, you know what protections are offered on speech that is protected by whistleblower allegations.
Too bad that a past employee from within the organization had some knowledge of wrongdoing or questionable practices within the department and for that they are not considered for a follow-up city position.
What have you got to hide city of Kingman? When did we lose our right to free speech and common sense. This employee should have been given an award for pointing out issues within the department not blackballed and then settled with. Looks very bad on Parks/Rec management, Jack Kramer, and HR dept.

Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Article comment by: tj denton

why is it not okay for someone to express where they have concerns when asked? is he supposed to brown nose and say, "oh no, everything was peaches and rainbows the whole time". No, they asked where improvements should be made and he told them, it baffles me that people now a days are so afraid to be straight forward. did he hurt the city officials big over compensating egos with constructive criticism?? waaah!!

Posted: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Article comment by: Desert Angel

After retiring and then deciding to go back to work, this person may need the money. However, there are young people with families that need the money more. Give it up Mr. Trying to make the city go broke over this is no way to get your job back.

Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Article comment by: Here we Go Again

I can describe this in one word "BLACKBALL"!

Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Article comment by: David Gaither

Not Understanding wrote:

"This is a right to work state and to my findings it means employers have the right to refuse work to anyone with no reasons needed."

No..."Right to Work" means an employee in a union company, doesn't have to join the union to work there.

What you described is called "at will employment", where the employer or employee may terminate the employment, for any reason and not incur a liability. (except for certain established discriminations or specific employment contracts).

Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Article comment by: concerned citizen

Ref: Not understanding
"This is a right to work state and to my findings it means employers have the right to refuse work to anyone with no reasons needed."
That is exactly what the HR person sgould have done. Sais nothing! Instaed she opened up her mouth and Pandora's box and voiced an opinion. That's why they're thinking of settling!

Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Article comment by: Confused a bit

Why did he retire from the City with bad feelings and come back for a job? It does seem interesting that he had qualifications for the job and the one hired didn't. This is not the first time employees or past employees have voiced negative comments about the city, most don't because they want to keep a job or maintain good relations with management. From the story it seems employees were not thoughtful but it is a right to work state and the city should be able to hire who they want without any reason given. Too bad they gave a reason. "After 23 years", he was a good employee for 23 years and I can see his displeasure in the outcome.

Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Article comment by: Not Surprised

Good luck Keith, I hope you got a lawyer that is in no way associated with the city or county.

It is my observation the same mentality and character of the powers to be are still the same. The same people that left the management positions were replaced with the same type of people. You better than anyone knows how that game is played.

I find it funny how having a opinion and some morals is not an attribute the city officials find appealing.

Correct me if I'm wrong, I believe, during your previous service with the city you have witnessed and/or helped in the termination of employees that had an opinion and morals who complained about management and/or mismanagement.

It is my opinion that the city will settle with you because they do not want this to go to court. I believe they do not want someone who was in a management position to stir up the many skeletons of past or present wrong doings. I also believe, had you made an official complaint while you were still employed by the city you would have been terminated. Instead you waited until your exit interview, thus burning your bridge.

It seems the city would want to look into the complaints and fix the things that are wrong. It appears they just want their employees to be silent. Case in point that whole drug bust in the parks department. In my opinion there should have been some managers dismissed from their positions.

I will be completely surprised if the minor prints this.

Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Article comment by: Arizona Moderate

Let's make situations like this a non-occurrence by raising the minimum retirement age of public service workers to 62, the same as the rest of us schmucks. 23 years is slightly over half the number of years a private sector employee would expect to work, for far less generous terms, with a 401K - no guarantee.

A system that potentially allows past or present insiders to game it multiple times needs to change, no matter who's at fault here. If you're going to retire from government service, best of luck in private business opportunities, but stay retired from government service.

Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Article comment by: Truth Speaker

Why does someone that retired have to go back and get a job? These baby boomers keep taking all of the jobs away from the young people that need it to support their families. This is just plain old greed in my opinion. When you retire, stay retired. The person that got the job probably needed it more than someone that made good money and retired with the city.Go work as a Wal-Mart greeter!

Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Article comment by: Not Understanding

Why would he say anything other then the city runs a tight ship and there is nothing that needs improving during an exit interview if he was considering applying for another job with them down the road. This is a right to work state and to my findings it means employers have the right to refuse work to anyone with no reasons needed.

Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Article comment by: anonymous anonymous

I do believe folks sometimes fail to heed history, Nixon also thought using his power against his political foes had no consequences and he was above the law, sadly he discovered it is not always so!

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