Fayette County

Second Lexington dispatcher files whistle-blower lawsuit

A second employee at Lexington's Division of Enhanced 911 has filed a lawsuit claiming that a supervisor retaliated when she went outside her chain of command to report problems.

Emergency call taker Tammy Hayden seeks compensatory and punitive damages and "removal of the negative reprimands from her personnel file." The lawsuit was filed Wednesday against the city in Fayette Circuit Court.

It is the second whistle-blower lawsuit filed by an E911 employee in two weeks. Dispatcher Amy Ross sued May 18.

Hayden and Ross are represented by Covington attorney Shane Sidebottom. He has represented several government employees in past whistle-blower, discrimination and harassment lawsuits.

Sidebottom said Hayden's and Ross's lawsuits were not related to each other but are "in a similar mold."

"They are the same issues Ms. Ross had" with E911 director David Lucas, he said. "There seems to be a pattern that when an employee takes significant personnel issues or safety issues outside of the Division of E911, they tend to get retaliated against or punished."

Reached by phone Wednesday, Lucas said city policy prevented him from commenting on pending lawsuits.

In her lawsuit, Hayden said Lucas suspended her March 7 for four weeks for "improperly handling a telephone call and for 'malicious interactions' with co-workers." Hayden has been employed 11 years as a call taker.

The lawsuit said the disciplinary action was "without cause and was issued to ... Hayden for reporting her mismanagement and public safety concerns" to government officials outside her division, including Mayor Jim Gray, special-projects manager Glenn Brown and city human-resources employees.

Sidebottom said the accusation that Hayden improperly answered a call was in regard to a man who called 911 for a non-emergency. Hayden was accused of being rude. Sidebottom said she was "professional but curt" when telling him he should not call 911 for non-emergencies.

The lawsuit outlines several "negative issues" that Hayden brought to the attention of the mayor's staff and human resources. The issues include:

■ Lucas' "point system policy," an internal discipline system that is not incorporated into the city's personnel policy.

■ Selective enforcement of overtime assignments and discipline by Lucas that appear to be based on favoritism.

■ E911 management's failure to investigate "numerous complaints" from E911 employees and police officers that "a telecommunicator may be under the influence of narcotics while handling emergency calls."

■ Management's interference in employees' personal lives. The lawsuit noted that a manager at E911 called an employee's wife and told her the employee was "engaged in a sexual affair" with another employee. The wife showed up at the call center and demanded to speak to employees while they were working, creating a distraction, the lawsuit said.

Hayden said in the lawsuit that she also was retaliated against for giving deposition testimony "critical of LFUCG management" in another pending lawsuit against the city.

That lawsuit was filed in 2006 by three female 911 dispatchers who claimed that they were subject to retaliation after reporting sexual harassment and gender discrimination. A trial has been scheduled for September in that case, Sidebottom said.

The alleged sexual harassment and discrimination at the heart of 2006 lawsuit took place when 911 was under the direction of the Lexington police department, before Lucas became director.

After a nearly two-month-long management assessment this year to address problems at E911, public safety officials have recommended to the city that E911 employees be placed back under the direct supervision of the police and fire departments.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader