Another former Charlottesville official is seeking legal action against the City of Charlottesville. The Daily Progress reports that Dr. Tarron Richardson has filed a federal lawsuit against City Council and four individuals for entering into an agreement that prevented his ability to publicly critique the city after he left his position as City Manager in September 2020.
“The First Amendment expressly forbids government bodies — including city councils — from engaging in viewpoint discrimination and retaliating against people based on the content of their speech,” reads the Nature of the Case section of the suit.
Richardson wants a jury trial. The civil rights suit seeks damages as well as a declaration that a non-disparagement clause in his severance agreement is not enforceable. The suit also individually names City Councilors Heather Hill and Nikuyah Walker as well as City Attorney Lisa Robertson and former interim City Manager John Blair.
The suit revisits Richardson’s tenure as city manager including his enactment of a policy to regulate use of city-issued credit cards and claims some Councilors sought to usurp his authority.
“Because of ridiculous demands and the ongoing chicanery and obstructionism from Walker and Hill that would eventually prevent him from adequately performing his job, Dr. Richardson was constructively terminated,” the suit continues.
The narrative claims that Councilors did not hold up their end of the severance agreement and disparaged him in social media posts and one interview that was later removed from a local media outlet. This past January, Dr. Richardson asked to publish an op-ed in the Daily Progress on race-relations in Charlottesville, but Robertson said the city would keep open the option of suing to compel Richardson to return the severance payment of $205,000.
In all, the suit has four counts including violation of the First Amendment and breach of contract. He’s represented by the Haley Law Firm of Greenville, South Carolina, Keith B. French Law of Pearland, Texas, and Brand Law of Dallas.
Earlier this month, former Police Chief RaShall Brackney announced she was filing a wrongful termination claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That’s the first step toward a potential lawsuit.
After Richardson left, Council appointed John Blair to serve as interim city manager before naming Chip Boyles this past January. Boyles resigned in October, six weeks after firing Brackney. Marc E. Woolley will become the next interim city manager on December 1.
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