CHAPEL HILL – Chapel Hill Civil Rights lawyer and NAACP Redress Chair, Alan McSurely says the town has a political problem on its hands that has led to the firing of three black men.
“The problem is that the Town Council has allowed the Town Manager to run roughshod over the rights of its employees—particularly its black employees,” McSurely says.
Late last week, Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil announced his ruling to uphold the firing of Kevin “Lee” Thompson for the misuse of Town resources that resulted in personal profit and after multiple written warnings of “incidents of detrimental personal conduct and/or unsatisfactory job performance.”
However, McSurely says his client believes he was dismissed for other reasons.
“The system is rigged against black employees and people who join unions,” McSurely says.
Kerry Bigelow and Clyde Clark, otherwise know as the Sanitation 2, were fired from the Town of Chapel Hill in October 2010 for insubordination and complaints by town residents about their job performance. An investigation was conducted by Raleigh-based human resource and compliance firm, Capital Associated Industries (CAI) and recommended the men be fired; the Citizens Advisory Committee concurred. In an email to WCHL, McSurely calls CAI “a union-busting outfit”.
However, the advisory committee, which McSurely referred to as a group of impartial hearing officers, did not agree with the firing of Thompson in a unanimous vote, 5-0. Stancil released his findings after that ruling, while taking it into account.
The Sanitation 2 are in a 30 day window with which the Town can appeal the ruling the North Carolina Court of Appeals gave earlier this month stating the two men should be given a hearing in front of a jury. Once that time is up, McSurely says they plan to take further action in the cases.
He says part of the discussion will be about how the two cases contradict themselves. He says Thompson was fired for doing extra work for which someone asked, while the Sanitation 2 were fired for not doing an extra favor while on the job.
“We send our black employees out into the neighborhoods, and we’ve done it for years with very little guidance about how to respond to requests of residents to do small favors,” McSurely says. “The Town has never developed a solid training program or policies that help guide our employees. The Town Council knows that; they obviously knew that from the Sanitation 2 case, and they have not done anything about it.”
The personnel appeals committee agreed, at least during the Thompson case, that there needs to be “a formal written policy regarding work performed by employees on private property” and additionally that “all Final Written Warnings are time-limited and include specific performance expectations.” Those recommendations were made by the appeals committee and sent to Stancil on February 27, 2013 after the committee ruled on Thompson’s case.
McSurely says before going back to court, he and his clients want to address the issue that they believe is still in place.
“We intend to issue to the Council first and try to get them to step up and do what they’re supposed to do, which is to help set policy for the town,” McSurely says.
No one from the Town was immediately available for comment.