Kingman retaliated after criticism, lawsuit claims

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.