IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE THIRD JUDICIAL CIRCUIT IN AND FOR HAMILTON COUNTY, FLORIDA
CITY OF JASPER, FLORIDA,
Plaintiff: JENNIFER H IGHTO WER , sues Defendant. CITY OF JASPER , FLORIDA, and
- This is a civil action seeking monetary damages, and legal and equitable relief against This is an action brought pursuant to§ 112.3187, et seq., Fla. Stats.
- This is an action involving claims which are, individually, in excess of Fifteen Thousand
- This Court has personal jurisdiction over the parties to this action because Plaintiff subjects herself to this Court’s jurisdiction and because the Defendant conducts business in Florida, and committed the tortious act at issue herein in this
- Plaintiff has satisfied all conditions precedent to bringing this action, if
- Venuc of this action is properly in this Court because the cause of action accrued in Hamilton Co unty ,
- At all times material hereto, Plaintiff, JENNIFER HIGHTOWER (“Plaintiff’), has been a resident of Leon County,
- At all times material hereto, Defendant, CITY OF JASPER, FLORIDA (“JASPER”), has been organized and existing in Hamilton County, Florida and under the laws of the State of At all times material to this action, Defendant has been an “employer” as that tem1 is used under the applicable laws identified above. Defendant was Plaintiff’s employer as it relates to these claims.
STATEMENT OF THE ULTIMATE FACTS
- Plaintiff began her employment with Defendant Jasper in or about March 2011, as a customer service In or about November 2002, Plaintiff was appointed city clerk, a position she held until she was unlawfully terminated on August 13, 2018, as described more fully herein.
- As the city clerk, Plaintiff’s job duties included, but were not limited to, coordinating the agenda for monthly city council Often times this duty involved Plaintiff discussing agenda topics with other city personnel.
- On Wednesday, April 4, 2018, Plaintiff met with Mr. Charles Williams, Manager for the City of Jasper, in his office to discuss the agenda for the monthly city council meeting on April 9, 2018.
- Williams immediately set the tone for his meeting with Plaintiff by closing the door behind her, something he had not done when the two had met previously. Mr. Williams proceeded to demand that Plaintiff add an item, a two-year employment contract extension for Mr. Williams, to the April 9th meeting agenda.
- In making said demand, Mr. Williams threatened Plaintiff by brandishing his firearm and stating “if I don’t get what I want Monday night, I will take you down,” among other threats.
- That evening, April 4, 2018, Plaintiff filed a formal complaint against Williams with the Mayor’s Office and contacted the Hamilton County Sherriff’s Office (“HCSO”) regarding Mr. Williams’ threatening behavior.
- On Thursday, April 5, 2018, Mr. Williams learned that Plaintiff had not included his requested item on the April 9th meeting agenda and he became Specifically, Mr. Williams stormed into Plaintiff’s office, threw a copy of the proposed agenda in her direction and began screaming at Plaintiff. When Plaintiff informed Mr. Williams that she had been instructed by multiple council members not to include Mr. Williams’ item, he intimidated Plaintiff by placing his hand on the holster of his gun and stating “I’ll get the [city] council to deal with you.”
- Several witnesses observed and/or heard Mr. Williams’ threatening outburst and comforted Plaintiff, who was noticeably distraught and fearful,
- That evening, Plaintiff filed an incident report with HCSO documenting, and objecting to, Mr. Williams’ unlawful behavior over the past two
- At the April 9th city council meeting, Williams unnecessarily distributed copies of the HCSO incident report filed by Plaintiff to city council members.
- At the same meeting, Ms. Hightower stated that Mr. Williams’ actions had placed her in fear of her In acknowledging the hostility between Mr. Williams and Plaintiff, Mr. Rhett Bullard, city attorney, proposed that Mr. Williams and Plaintiff work separate work schedules and suggested an independent investigation into hostile work environment ensue.
- Immediately following the April 9th meeting, Plaintiff was retaliated against by coworkers, including but not limited to a city council member, who yelled at her, cussed at her, and threw objects at
- On May 22, 2018, Mr. Williams voluntarily resigned from his position as city manager amidst an investigation by the State Attorney’s Office for the Third Circuit of Florida into his unlawful conduct concerning Following Mr. Williams’ resignation, Plaintiff was further retaliated against by city council employees, including having a complaint filed against her with the EEOC that was determined to be completely unsubstantiated by an independent investigator.
- On August 13, 2018, a monthly city council meeting was held wherein Plaintiff was unlawfully terminated without cause in retaliation for reporting, and objecting to, Mr. Williams’ unlawful behavior, as described Specifically, at the meeting council member Gerald Lewis made a motion to terminate Plaintiff’s employment. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Lewis was heard whispering to council member Mr. Stewart Mitchell, “I need you to second that,” regarding said motion. Mr. Lewis’ motion passed and Plaintiff was immediately terminated from her employment in retaliation of the events described herein.
PUBLIC EMPLOYEE WHISTLE-BLOWER RETALIATION
(Against Defendant Jasper)
- Paragraphs 1-21 are incorporated herein by
- This count sets forth a claim against Defendant Jasper under 112.3187, et seq., Fla. Stats.
- Plaintiff was a public employee protected under the provisions of Chapter 112,
- As stated more specifically in part above, Plaintiff reported and disclosed violations of mles, regulations and laws, and/or malfeasance, misfeasance and/or gross misconduct to persons both inside and outside her normal chain of command, and who had the authority to investigate, police, manage and otherwise remedy the violations of mles, regulations and laws that she reported. Plaintiff also disclosed this information when she participated in investigations or other agency inquiries. Plaintiff reported malfeasance, gross misconduct, and other acts specifically outlined in§ 112.3187, et seq., Fla.
- After reporting these matters and/or participating in investigations or other agency inquiries, as related in part above, Plaintiff was the victim of retaliatory actions set forth in part above.
- Plaintiff’s termination and/or other retaliatory actions as described, in part, above, were a direct adverse result of her reporting violations of mles, regulations or laws, and/or her reporting malfeasance, misfeasance or gross misconduct, and/or her participating in investigations or other inquiries, specified in part
- The actions of all employees within Defendant’s control who affected Plaintiff’s employment adversely did so at least in part in retaliation against her for her “whistleblowing” activities.
- As a direct and proximate result of the actions taken against her by Defendant Jasper, Plaintiff has suffered injury, including but not limited to past and future wage losses, loss of benefits, and other tangible and intangible damages. These damages have occurred in the past, and are occurring at present and will occur in the
PRAYER FOR RELIEF
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff prays for the following relief:
- That process issue and this Court take jurisdiction over this case;
- Enter judgment against the Defendant and for the Plaintiff awarding damages against Defendant;
- Prejudgment interest on monetary recovery obtained pursuant to law;
- Award attorneys’ fees, interest and costs; and
- Such further relief as is equitable and just.
DEMAND FOR TRIAL BY JURY
Plaintiff hereby demands a trial by jury on all issues set forth herein which are so triable.
All conditions precedent to bringing this action have been satisfied, if any.
DATED this 5th day of November, 2018.
By: /s/ Ryan P. Molaghan
Ryan P. Molaghan Florida Bar No: 119780 Ryan B. Hobbs
Florida Bar No.: 044179
BROOKS, LEBOEUF, BENNETT, FOSTER & GWARTNEY, P.A.
909 East Park Avenue Tallahassee, FL 32301
Phone: 850-222-2000 / Fax: 850-222-9757