MANCHESTER — The mayor of Manchester fired six city workers for political reasons the day after losing the Nov. 2 election, the former employees allege in a federal lawsuit.
The six are seeking a court order to get their jobs back, an unspecified amount of damages to compensate them for lost wages and embarrassment, and $6 million from Mayor Carmen Webb Lewis to punish her.
Lewis lost her bid for a second term this month to George Saylor, a council member, in a hotly contested race.
During the campaign, Lewis pressured city workers to be politically loyal and told employees they couldn't associate with Saylor or support him, the lawsuit claims.
Never miss a local story.
The six former employees did not get actively involved in the race because of fear of repercussions, the lawsuit said. However, the suit makes clear some of the fired employees supported Saylor, or declined to publicly support Lewis.
For instance, Lewis' husband asked one of the workers, Phillip Brown, to put a bumper sticker supporting her on his car, but he declined.
That contributed to the decision to fire Brown and the others, the lawsuit said.
In another instance, a supervisor told Calvin Bishop, a general laborer, that he needed to vote in a city precinct Election Day, but he refused because he doesn't live in town, the lawsuit said.
Lewis fired Bishop as a result, the lawsuit said.
Associates of Lewis told another worker, Jeffery Pennington, who did mowing and other labor for the city, that his participation in a fish fry for Saylor would cost him his job, the lawsuit claims.
The six workers did not hold jobs that entitled them to be terminated for political reasons, and firing them violated their constitutional rights and state law, the lawsuit charges.
Lewis was unavailable for comment Wednesday, a city employee said.
Prestonsburg attorney Ned Pillersdorf filed the action Monday in federal court in London. The six are Bishop, Brown, Pennington, Travis Buttrey, Scott Robinson and William Stivers.
Lewis won her first bid for mayor in 2006, defeating 28-year incumbent Daugh White, who was under federal investigation at the time.
White later pleaded guilty to charges that he extorted kickbacks from a city contractor and conspired with a council member to pave private driveways at public expense to win votes.
Lewis has been credited with trying to improve Manchester's image in the wake of a wide-ranging corruption and vote-fraud investigation in which several city or county officials went to prison.