Former East Ridge employee sues city

Former East Ridge employee sues city

August 16th, 2012 by Kate Harrison Belz in News

Tim Gobble

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EAST RIDGE LAWSUITS

Below are several lawsuits East Ridge now is engaged in:

• A lawsuit the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority filed against the city in July.

• An appeal filed by a group of citizens and fireworks retailers challenging the constitutionality of fireworks stores in East Ridge.

• A public nuisance suit the city filed against Superior Creek Lodge, set for trial in December.

Source: City of East Ridge

A former East Ridge employee has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and City Manager Tim Gobble, saying she wrongfully was fired after emailing City Council members about inconsistencies in overtime pay.

Beth Tatum, who had worked as the city's budget clerk since 2006, was fired in April right after she attached council members on an email that addressed concerns about her duties and compensation, according to the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, the city had stopped paying office employees for overtime work in July 2011.

A memorandum in Tatum's personnel file shows one of Gobble's top reasons for firing Tatum was for "surreptitiously communicating with council to undermine the internal management structure."

Gobble said Tatum tried to damage his credibility by emailing her grievance and "blind copying the council in an attempt to lessen the city manager's effectiveness with council and staff."

The memorandum in Tatum's file also included a list of errors Tatum's supervisor said she made in the job -- but that list was not compiled until after the email incident, according to records in Tatum's file.

"Yes, I asked [the supervisor] to compile it that weekend," Gobble said of the list. "But most I had been made aware of before."

Asked about the lawsuit, Gobble read a statement saying "Beth Tatum's termination was justified and the city acted within its policies and procedures."

Tatum's attorneys, Harry Burnett and Frank Pinchak, claim the city violated the Whistleblower Act since Tatum was raising awareness of not being paid overtime, and that she was unfairly terminated for "exercising her right to communicate with a public official," which is granted under state law.

The attorneys also claim that East Ridge violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by not paying her fair wages for overtime.

In the complaint, Tatum asks the court to order that the city give her old job back, pay all amounts owed her for overtime and award additional damages.

East Ridge has not yet filed a response to the suit.