ROWLETT, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – The former mayor of Rowlett defended the city Friday, denying what he called “inflammatory” allegations in lawsuits filed this week by two former employees.
The lawsuits accuse current and former city leaders of sexual harassment, conflicts of interests, retaliation and ended discrimination.
“My clients really believe that the culture there needs to change… the culture that tolerates the discrimination, sexual harassment,” said Andrea Loveless, who represents the former employees.
In her lawsuit, the city’s former chief financial officer, Kimberly Wilson, claims she suffered retaliation for uncovering discrepancies and miscalculations, including problems with the widely publicized Bayside development and placement of a radio tower on the wrong piece of land, which she says caused city manager Brian Funderburk to become “frustrated and angry.”
“She was instructed not to bring those issues up to the city council,” said Loveless. “And if she did, his entire attitude would change.”
A statement from the city Friday said it “vehemently denies that any state or federal statutes have been violated.”
Former mayor Todd Gottel, who resigned last year is not mentioned in the lawsuit or accused of any wrongdoing.
In a Facebook post Friday, though, he stated, “I know first hand there is and was not corruption, no good-old-boy system…” He called the lawsuits “nothing more than an attempt by disgruntled former employees to try to extort money from Rowlett and its taxpayers.”
Loveless, though, says her clients have had trouble finding new employment in part because of how they were fired.
The lawsuits claim city records show the women were terminated for misconduct, while men in similar positions were allowed to keep clean employment records by resigning, including one who was removed following a sexual harassment investigation prompted by one of the plaintiffs.
Both sides say they look forward to making their cases in court.
“I think the detail we were able to put into our complaint is the smoking gun. I mean, I don’t take these cases lightly,” said Loveless.
Here is the former mayor’s entire statement:
As many of you know I served as mayor and on city council for over 10 years. Many of you have asked my thoughts on the two lawsuits that were recently filed by two former employees. I felt compelled to share a few thoughts with you.
These lawsuits are a serious manner and will be addressed accordingly.
I know first-hand that there is and was no corruption, no good-old-boy system, and no self-dealing on the part of any of our city officials. That part really disgusts me! The lawsuit has lots of inflammatory allegations that are little more than rumor and innuendo being made by disgruntled former employees who have a huge financial interest in the outcome.
Many of the issues raised by these former employees were brought to the council’s attention as they occurred and were dealt with swiftly by the City Manager with full knowledge of the entire council.
As for the sexual harassment allegations, they deal with a matter that was immediately investigated as soon as city management became aware of it and was categorically dealt with by removing the offending employee. That happened three years ago. The radio tower issue was investigated by an outside firm; it was a serious mistake that city staff took responsibility for.
I wanted to comment about the statements made against my friend and Mayor, Tammy Dana Bashian. Tammy’s relationship with the city judge is misleading. She has been friends for many years. Tammy’s vote is only one of seven. ADDITIONALLY, she specifically refrained from participating when the judge’s hiring and contract were discussed.
In my opinion, these law suits are nothing more than an attempt by disgruntled former employees to try and extort money from Rowlett and its taxpayers.
Please also know that the city is prohibited from responding publicly while they are involved with litigation. Keep all parties in your prayers during this time and pray that real justice will be done!