Politics & Government

Three former employees sue Rowan County property valuation administrator

The property valuation administrator in Rowan County improperly fired three employees for political reasons, the three have charged in a federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit says that the new PVA, Carmen Eldridge Black, fired Yvonne Thompson, Claudette Thomas and Kenneth Vencill the day Black took office on Dec. 6.

Thompson ran against Black for the office in the May 2010 Democratic primary. Thomas and Vencill supported Thompson, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday.

The day after Black won the primary, an associate who had worked for her told Thompson, "See, you can't say and do the things you did and get by with it," the lawsuit says.

Thompson, Thomas and Vencill took the statement as an admission Black would retaliate against them politically, the lawsuit said.

Black fired the three about 30 minutes after taking office, Thompson said in an interview.

Black gave the three no reason for firing them, saying only that their services were no longer needed, Thompson said.

Firing the three violated their First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution and state policy, according to the lawsuit, prepared for the three by Prestonsburg attorney Ned Pillersdorf.

Attempts to reach Black for comment were not successful.

The lawsuit says Thompson, Thomas and Vencill have suffered embarrassment and lost wages.

It seeks an order putting them back to work, unspecified compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages for each from Black individually, not from official funds.