Longtime Lanett city employee suing city, McCoy

Published 4:05 pm Thursday, September 24, 2020

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A longtime city of Lanett employee is suing the city and Mayor Kyle McCoy for alleged first amendment violations.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on the behalf of Former Lanett Utilities Superintendent David DeLee, who worked for the city for 29 years and seven months. DeLee said he was released from his position after filing a complaint with the Alabama Ethics Commission about McCoy’s alleged misuse of city funds.

“This is a matter of justice denied and justice deserved and we are going ahead to seek that justice,” said Attorney Julian L. McPhillips, who is representing DeLee.

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According to the lawsuit, DeLee alleged in his complaint to the ethics commission that McCoy was not paying the utility bill at his home or personal business antique store, that the mayor’s significant other was being allowed to drive McCoy’s city vehicle and that people unrelated to the city were taken on beach vacations to various locations.

DeLee filed the complaint with the ethics commission on Feb. 14, and on Aug. 5, the commission announced that there was probable cause that McCoy had violated the law and referred his case to the attorney general.

After the ethics commission announced its decision, DeLee said he was informed he was being released from the City of Lanett and would receive his unused vacation time. According to the lawsuit, DeLee has still not received a payment. He is seeking damages for lost income and mental anguish and is currently unemployed.

McCoy said Thursday he was surprised to be informed of the lawsuit. He said the allegations were “all wrong and completely false.”

McCoy forcefully denied that DeLee had been terminated or had been pressured into leaving. He said that DeLee had gone to Montgomery on July 30 to meet with officials from the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) for his retirement from the city. According to McCoy, his last day of employment was Aug. 5, 2020. He said that DeLee had missed many working days in the past year due to a bad back.

“Because of his longevity with the city and due to him having back trouble, we agreed to pay him his accumulated sick leave through the month of August. There is a 30-day grace period before a person who retires starts getting paid. He should start getting his retirement pay in October. He received his regular rate of pay through August,” McCoy said.

As for the allegations in the complaint filed with the Alabama Ethics Commission, McCoy said he had been advised by counsel not to comment on any of that.

Following the ethics commission ruling, the lawsuit, which only gives DeLee’s account of the events, says that McCoy distanced himself from DeLee. The lawsuit alleges that McCoy also removed DeLee from an AMEA election committee board and created a false reprimand of him.

The lawsuit said DeLee started suffering anxiety and depression due to the work environment. Believing McCoy was “vindictive,” DeLee and his wife installed security cameras and security lights at their home, even though they live in Valley.

“The pressure upon the Plaintiff was so bad that on July 30, 2020, the Plaintiff took paperwork to the Retirement Systems of Alabama due to the constructive discharge he was experiencing and being subjected to by the City and Defendant Mayor McCoy,” the lawsuit reads.

According to the lawsuit, after the ethics commission ruling became public knowledge, DeLee received a call from Lanett’s Human Resources Director Donna Thompson to tell him that he had enough unused sick leave left that he could leave work immediately and still be paid until the end of August 2020.

The defendant said that as of Sept. 3 he had not received any payment of his sick time, which he said totaled 161 hours at $34.91 an hour. That would total $5,864.88. The plaintiff also claimed payment in the amount of $279 .28 from Lanett for paid sick leave for Aug. 31. With the sick leave, the total is $6144.16.

The lawsuit says that in a letter dated Sept. 17, the defendants declined to pay the amounts owed and falsely accused the plaintiff of absconding with city property.

The plaintiff is asking for an award granting plaintiff compensation for all lost pay benefits and an award of compensatory damages, including for mental anguish; an award of punitive damages; and any other relief as the court may deem appropriate.

According to McCoy, DeLee did not make a graceful exit. McCoy also said records are missing from his office.

“This has nothing to do with justice,” McCoy said. “It’s an attempt to smear someone’s name and to tarnish some really good things that have been going on in the city. We will soon have a beautiful new terminal at our airport. We’ll have a new 5,400-foot runway next year, and we are continuing to make progress with our downtown streetscape.”

“There’s a group out there that wants to give Lanett a black eye,” he said.

McCoy said that Lanett had been making substantial progress in recent years and vowed to continue that for Lanett residents.

“There are people with vision on our council, and they have been great to work with,” he said. “We are working together to make this city a better place to live. We want to improve the quality of life for all our citizens.”