Fired city worker has no local recourse

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Suffolk does not have to put a fired public utilities worker back on the city payroll, despite a grievance panel’s unanimous recommendation to do so.

Suffolk Circuit Court Judge Rodham T. Delk on Monday dismissed 25-year veteran employee Darlene H. Wilkerson’s lawsuit seeking reinstatement to her job, saying the court does not have jurisdiction to intervene in the case.

Wilkerson is one of seven public utilities employees terminated in October 2003 for cashing personal checks and using IOUs to replay borrowed public money.

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No criminal charges were filed against any of the terminated employees.

&uot;The law is clear as far as the court is concerned,&uot; Delk said.

&uot;The court does not find the city’s grievance procedure flawed.&uot;

In spring 2004, the three-member grievance panel-with Wilkerson, the city and the courts each selecting one member-unanimously voted that she should be reinstated and given all back pay, with the exception of one month’s salary.

In July 2004, Delk ruled that the city had the right to challenge the panel’s decision and per city policy, turned it back over to City Human Resources Director Yvonne Manning for review.

Wilkerson’s attorney, John D. Eure Jr., objected to the action, saying that Manning- who initially recommended Wilkerson’s

termination and later testified against her-

should not have the final decision in the panel’s ruling.

&uot;We believe the grievance procedure was legal and fair,&uot; said Raymond L. Hogge Jr., the Norfolk attorney representing the city.

&uot;The real question is whether circuit courts have the jurisdiction to get involved in issues related to city policies and their interpretation by the city manager,&uot; he added.

&uot;The General Assembly has not granted that authority to the courts.&uot;

The only exception is in cases involving employees of the sheriff’s department, Hogge said.

City Manager R. Steven Herbert refused to comment on the court’s ruling Monday.

Eure said he was disappointed in the outcome of the case.

&uot;We clearly lost today, there is no way to sugarcoat it,&uot; Eure said. &uot;I’m disappointed for my client.&uot;

Eure said he is unsure whether his client will appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.