A former member of the Mount Vernon Department of Recreation is suing Mayor Richard Thomas, the city and Darren Morton, the Commissioner of his former department, alleging that he was fired for attending for attending a meeting regarding Memorial Field with former Mayor Ernest Davis.
In a lawsuit filed this week, Larry McDowdell, a former nutritionist, claims that he attended a meeting with Thomas and Morton regarding the possibility of a new roof at the Memorial Field tennis center, and the mayor subsequently sent an email to City Council stating that “he was surprised to see Mayor Davis in attendance” at the meeting, and McDowdell was fired two days later by Morton.
Thomas went on to decline the new roof, stating that it did not generate enough revenue.
On Dec. 29, 2016, the lawsuit states that McDowdell “received a letter from Morton (notifying) him that ‘effective immediately, your employment as a Nutrition Aide with the Department of Recreation is hereby terminated,’” although McDowdell was “a good and loyal employee receiving many compliments from seniors and others that he served and assisted.”
"Upon information and belief, Mr. McDowdell was summarily terminated because of his association with and implied support and relationship with the ex-Mayor Davis and support of the tennis roof, which was supported by Davis, as demonstrated by his appearance with Davis at the City Council meeting of December 27, 2016," the lawsuit states. "And as such, his rights were violated in being discharged from his position as a nutrition aide.
“The actions and omissions of the defendants were, upon information and belief, done to punish the plaintiff, McDowdell, for his support and association and/or support the issue of placing the roof on the tennis center in the City of Mount Vernon, and as such, the acts of the defendants in summarily terminating him two days after the meeting violated McDowdell’s First Amendment, as these rights are secured by provisions of the due process clause.”
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