The News has obtained a copy of a grievance filed by Port Arthur City Manager Steve Fitzgibbons against the City, in particular Councilman John Beard.
The letter reads as follows:
To: Mayor and City Council Members
Date: March 21, 2011
From: Steve Fitzgibbons, City Manager
RE: Grievance Based on City Personnel Policies and on the Texas Whistleblower’s Act Requirements
I believe the City of Port Arthur, through actions of Councilman (John) Beard, is retaliating against me for reporting violations of law to the proper law enforcement authority in violation of the Texas Whistleblower’s act. The Whistleblower’s Act defines law to include local government ordinances and rules adopted under a statute or ordinance. The term “violation of law” was intended to include the violation of rules of conduct prescribed by an official authority, whether the violation carries a civil or criminal sanction.
About eleven months ago I sent information to the person I believed to be the proper authority on an alleged incident involving violations of the Charter and federal employment law. This incident involved Councilman Beard entering the Mayor’s Office without her knowledge and taking pictures of her office which appeared in a local TV news broadcast. During this event, it was alleged that Councilman Beard made a comment to a city staff member that the staff member viewed as a threat to the staff member’s job.
On April 22, 2110, the day after the incident with the Mayor’s office, I reported the alleged threat to the City Attorney based on my belief that the City Council was the appropriate body to begin investigating the allegation. I believed that if the allegation was true, it would be a violation of both statute and federal employment law. By memo, I asked the City Attorney to give me an opinion on what would be the appropriate action to take regarding this issues. I do not know if discussions took place regarding the alleged threat but no information was provided to me regarding any action involving the information I sent to the City Attorney. City Council agendas of April 27, 2010, June 1, 2010, June 15, 2010 and June 29, 2010 had executive session wording under Section 551-071 to discuss with the City Attorney potential claim regarding employment issues where this issue could possibly have been discussed.
As you know, Councilmember Beard was cited by the Port Arthur Police Department for Obstructing Driver’s View and was found guilty by a jury on February 21, 2011 and was fined $500. I am attaching copies of the jury verdict and the judgement.
During the last five months, the City Council has met in closed session on October 19, 2010, November 2, 2010, November 5, 2010 and November 16, 2010 to evaluate the performance of the City Manager. Councilman Beard has again placed my evaluation on the March 22, 2010 Council agenda. This would be another evaluation approximately seven weeks before an election where six of the nine members of Council are running for re-election in contested races. I believe this evaluation and other evaluations requested by Councilmember Beard are efforts by Councilmember Beard to take adverse employment actions against me and to continually harass me as a result of my reporting what I believed to be violations of the law by Councilmember Beard to the proper law enforcement authorities.
The Whistleblower’s Act requires that prior to filing a lawsuit, the aggrieved employee must initiate action under the grievance or appeal procedures of the employee state or local governmental entity. Please consider this memo as my formal written grievance against the City of Port Arthur based on what I believe to be retaliation against me by Councilmember Beard as a result of my reporting what I believed to be violations of law to the proper law enforcement authorities. These reports of violations of law involve both the alleged threat against a city employee and the filing of a Citation against Councilmember Beard in Municipal Court.
To resolve this grievance I want the Council to remove Councilmember Beard from any involvement regarding my employment with the City of Port Arthur including any participation in my evaluations, settlements, termination or any other personnel action involving me in an effort to help prevent further retaliation against me. I also want the City Council to take whatever actions are necessary to insure that threatening city employees or similar acts by council members will be thoroughly investigated and, if found to be true, appropriate action will be taken.
I am hopeful that this grievance can be resolved in a timely manner. However, I believe the Council’s not adequately addressing past Councilmember problems has contributed to what is becoming a more hostile work environment for me and other city employees.