Former CEO Tarron Richardson’s trial against Charlottesville is “last resort” to lift restrictions on free speech following his departure
Former city manager Tarron Richardson is suing the city of Charlottesville over a free speech case after his lawyer said he tried to resolve the issues in private.
After resigning in September of last year and declaring that the work “Wreaks havoc”, he now has more to say. In his lawsuit, he alleges that a non-bashing agreement he was “forced” to sign in order to receive $ 205,000 in severance pay from the city prevented him from speaking, which violates his rights. to freedom of expression protected by the First Amendment.
The defendants named in the lawsuit are the current Charlottesville City Council, which is made up of Councilors Michael Payne, Sena Magill, Lloyd Snook, Heather Hill and Nikuyah Walker. Hill and Walker are also listed separately as defendants, along with City Attorney Lisa Robertson and former City Attorney John Blair – who served as Acting City Manager for three months after Richardson left.
Charlottesville Tomorrow has reached out to councilors for their comments. At the time of this posting, only Hill responded that she declined to comment.
“Richardson has given defendants in this trial many opportunities to lift restrictions on his constitutional rights,” Keith French, one of Richardson’s lawyers, said in a statement. “Our last resort is for the investigator to find that Dr. Richardson (and others) be allowed to exercise their constitutional right to free speech so that the public can acquire the knowledge and truth that would help Charlottesville to move forward. “
The statement also asserted that the non-denigration agreement is an “attempt to cover up the issues of dysfunction, inequality and racial discrimination within the Charlottesville government.”
The non-bashing agreement stipulates that neither the City nor Richardson would make any statements or take any action that disparages or damages the reputation of the City, its staff or Richardson, whose lawsuit called the agreement ” too big “.
As for the timing of the trial – more than a year after Richardson left – his lawyer explained in an email that he and his client had “tried to resolve this dispute without litigation, which has been difficult to say the least.” .
The lawsuit gives some details of the problems Richardson is said to have encountered during his tenure as city manager. He attributes “chicanery and Walker and Hill’s obstructionism “to part of his decision to resign and alleges that Hill attempted to force him out of office by working with others to” fabricate charges “against him for” so-called bad misconduct. ” city management ”.
Further, Richardson alleged that he was in fact fired rather than the resignation reported by several media outlets – including Charlottesville Tomorrow – in 2020. The cause, he alleged, is the statements he made at the time. ” a meeting of the municipal council and for an interview he did with C-VILLE Weekly before his planned resignation.
At a council meeting he spoke about the racial issues at town hall that had been raised by members of the community and in the article he spoke about having a good relationship with the former councilors – but omitted the names of Walker and Hill from its list, according to the lawsuit.
Walker, who is also black, has spoken of alleged racism within City Hall during his term on council which ends this year.
After announcing his resignation on September 11, 2020, the end of the month was to mark his departure. But following the Sept. 22 publication of an interview in C-VILLE Weekly, the lawsuit said Hill had emailed city officials about his “dismay” with Richardson. As a result, he was told by Blair not to return to his office, with immediate effect, according to the prosecution.
“Apparently Dr Richardson was fired on discriminatory terms and in retaliation,” the lawsuit said.
A few months later, Richardson considered publishing an op-ed on his experience as a black man working for mayor and the racism he said he experienced or saw within it. The lawsuit alleges that by clarifying whether this would constitute a violation of the non-bashing agreement, Robertson said the city would take legal action.
The city has experienced a “myriad of problems” since his departure, according to the lawsuit.
“Many of these issues validate – albeit belatedly – the concerns that Dr. Richardson raised during his tenure,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit points to a change in the policy for the use of credit cards by city officials, Richardson, proposed after the summer of 2019 when the former council clerk Paige Rice pleaded guilty to failing to return an Apple Watch and iPhone X that she purchased with municipal funds. In September 2019, the changes proposed by Richardson were not adopted by the Council and in January 2021, Walker was criticized for alleged embezzlement of city funds. Commonwealth Attorney Joe Platania did not file a complaint and the Council then decided to adjust its policy on the use of credit cards.
The lawsuit also alleges that at one point city council exchanged emails in an attempt to appoint a deputy city manager to “usurp the authority of Dr. Richardson”. During this time, it is up to the city manager to select and hire deputy city managers.
Another allegation is that former Fire Chief Andrew Baxter drafted an email Hill sent to Richardson urging him to “push forward some funding requests.”
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia on Nov. 18, Richardson is seeking a jury trial, a declaration that the non-disparagement provision was not legally enforceable, and unspecified financial rewards.