Former chief sues city

Published 8:01 pm Monday, June 18, 2012

Jimmy Davis, a former Washington fire chief, is suing the City of Washington over his termination as a city employee in June 2009.

In his civil lawsuit, filed Friday in Beaufort County Superior Court, Davis lists 14 claims for relief, including intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy, seeks a judgment in excess of $10,000, punitive damages and reinstatement will all back pay, raises and “other incidents of employment he would have been entitled to but for the Defendants’ unlawful actions” among others. Davis seeks a trial by jury.

In addition to the city, Davis is suing former City Manager James C. Smith, Mayor Archie Jennings and City Attorney Franz Holscher, each individually and in his official capacity.

The city and city officials declined to comment on the lawsuit. During its meeting Monday to approve the 2012-2013 budget, the council met in closed session to protect its attorney-client privilege in relation to the lawsuit. Other than saying, he had not yet seen a copy of the lawsuit, Smith also declined to comment on it.

The lawsuit contends Davis’ termination from his position as fire chief is illegal. The complaint also alleges a conflict of interest on Jennings’ part (when Jennings was a councilman, not the mayor). The complaint also notes that Davis “believed that Jennings was violating a state criminal statue and city ordinance for improperly receiving benefits in the form of rent from the WTDA.”

The complaint reads: “At a time when come city officials, including Jennings and Holscher (who held positions of authority and influence with the City), were already openly critical of Plaintiff to members of the public and maneuvering to had the Plaintiff removed as President of the youth baseball league, the Plaintiff spoke out a number of times to city officials and others that he believed Council member Jennings (by virtue of his being an elected official for the City of Washington) had a conflict of interest being the agent, and presumably the owner, of real property which was rented by the Washington Tourism Development Authority (WTDA).”

The complaint lists several instances “in which the city attempted to undermine the plaintiff.” The complaint includes Davis’ allegations against the defendants for violating city personnel policies and ordinances. The complaint also contends the defendants accused Davis of violating city policies and ordinances.

The complaint is rife with claims and counter-claims between Davis and the defendants. Davis contends the defendants conspired to deprive him of his employment with the city, deprive him of a meaningful grievance hearing and make false allegations against him.

In November 2010, Davis filed a petition with the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings, seeking to appeal the city’s dismissal of his grievance. Davis contends the city had no just cause to fire him.

Davis, in a May 2010 interview, said he’s entitled to a hearing before an OAH official because he served as the city’s emergency-management coordinator in his final years with the city.

That petition remains before NCOAH. Emails seeking the status of the petition were not returned by NCOAH on Monday.

In the matter of the lawsuit, Davis is represented by Brian Jones with the law firm of Hassell, Singleton, Mason & Jones, P.A.


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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