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Attorney Says Atlanta|Fired Her Over Lawsuit

(CN) - An ex-attorney for the city of Atlanta claims in court that the city fired her after it learned she filed a whistleblower lawsuit against a former employer.

In a lawsuit filed in the Atlanta Federal Court, Latonya Wiley says she was fired from her old job as attorney for Henry County, Ga., after refusing to participate in unlawful conduct at the behest of certain members of the county commission.

She filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the county of Dec. 23, 2014, and days later she told her new employer, the city, what she had done, the complaint says.

At the time, Wiley says, her direct supervisor was on vacation, but when she finally heard from her, the supervisor's response to the lawsuit was anything but supportive.

"This is awful," Wiley quotes the supervisor as saying.

She says she was then told to talk to City Attorney Cathy Hampton about the lawsuit.

Wiley says that based on what she was told by her supervisor, Hampton, who had previously been the subject of a whistleblower lawsuit herself, would not be happy to learn what she had done.

When they finally spoke, Wiley says she was stunned by Hampton's reaction.

"During the conversation ... Hampton told Ms. Wiley that ... [she] needed to be prepared to explain whether and how the lawsuit would affect the Mayor," the complaint says.

"During that conversation, Hampton also incredibly told Ms. Wiley that she needed to justify why she should not be placed on a leave of absence because of her lawsuit," it continues.

Hampton told Wiley they would discuss the matter further at a subsequent meeting. Wiley says she left Hampton's office "stunned" and "confused" by the response to her lawsuit, which "had nothing to do with her employment with the City of Atlanta nor any public service, policy or transaction involving the City of Atlanta."

Wiley scheduled a follow-up meeting with Hampton, but on Jan. 5, 2015, that meeting was abruptly cancelled without explanation.

That same morning, Hampton convened a meeting with all the deputies and chiefs of the city attorney's office. Shortly thereafter, the complaint says, Wiley was called into an officer where her supervisor fired her, saying her "services were no longer needed."

Atlanta offered Wiley the option to resign, but she refused.

The city later reported to the Georgia Department of Labor that she voluntarily resigned from her position, according to the complaint.

Wiley said the only possible reason for her termination was the filing of her lawsuit against Henry County, and that his retaliatory firing of a lawsuit under the federal Whistleblower's Act was a violation of her First and Fourth amendment rights.

She seeks front pay, back pay, and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Wiley is represented by Kimberly Worth of Thrasher Worth LLC in Atlanta.

Laura Burton, Atlanta's deputy city attorney for litigation, said in a statement:

"Although we do not routinely comment on personnel matters, it is relevant to note that the last former employee to raise unfounded claims incurred six-figure sanctions, and the case was dismissed. We expect a similar outcome here. While there is much more that can be said, we prefer to dismantle these false accusations in court."


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