Former employee files lawsuit against city, administrator

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By The Express

A former city employee has filed a lawsuit against the City of Red Oak, naming administrator Brad Wright as a co-defendant, alleging sexual harassment and civil rights violations.

Christine Morrison was hired as the city’s Nuisance and Animal Control Officer April 3, 2006, and was terminated by Wright, July 18, 2008.

During that time, she alleges Wright created a “hostile work environment” by making unwanted sexual advances, and that he punished her for fulfilling her National Guard obligations.

According to federal court documents obtained by the Red Oak Express, Morrison informed Wright in March 2008 she planned to enlist in the National Guard, and she would need to take a half-day of vacation in April for processing.

Court documents state Wright became “very upset” and informed Morrison he was not happy and while she was deployed, her job duties would fall to him.

Wright then allegedly began disciplining Morrison for “false reasons, unsupported reasons, or for minor infractions.”

Morrison then missed work April 17-18, 2008 to serve in the Guard, and was reprimanded April 22. She was suspended for three days without pay May 5.

A week later, Morrison complained to Wright regarding his alleged sexual harassment.

“Throughout most of plaintiff’s employment, Brad Wright subjected her to a sexually hostile work environment, including but not limited to touching plaintiff inappropriately and using terms of endearment toward her,” the court documents state.

Morrison was then terminated July 18.

The lawsuit, which names Wright and the City of Red Oak as defendants, includes five counts:

Violation of Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act;

Violation of Iowa Civil Rights Act Retaliation;

Violation of Title VII Retaliation;

Violation of Fair Labor Standards Act;

Violation of Iowa Wage Payment Collection Law.

Kristopher Mardsen, an attorney with the Council Bluffs-based Stuart Tinley Law Firm, is representing the city in the case. In his five-page response to the initial filing, he denied all allegations and requested the lawsuit be dismissed at Morrison’s expense.

While the lawsuit was filed in June 2009, and slated for a Nov. 8, 2010, trial date, members of the Red Oak City Council were unaware it even existed.

“I think it’s very interesting in this case that we (the council) haven’t been notified. It’s been very hush-hush,” Councilman Larry Brandstetter stated. “I think the council should request a closed session to have things explained.”

Mayor Ted Schoonover was notified of the lawsuit when it was filed, but indicated it wasn’t time to inform the council yet.

“Once the attorney is done with all of his investigating, he will come to the council and explain it to them,” Schoonover said.

He estimated that meeting would take place sometime in December.

Citing the pending lawsuit, Wright declined to comment, and Morrison referred inquires to her lawyer, Paige Fiedler. The Des Moines-based attorney did not return several phone calls seeking comment.