According to court documents filed in May of 2020, Former Manchester Public Works Director Brent Carter sued the City of Manchester. The case has be settled.
Carter was seeking backpay and front pay, lost sick and vacation time, and attorney’s fees, which would all be tripled.
Carter filed a lawsuit against the City of Manchester for violation of the First Amendment, the Tennessee’s Public Employee Political Freedom Act (PEPFA), and for deprivation of property without due process.
According to PEPFA, it’s unlawful for any public employer to discipline or discriminate against an employee because the employee exercised his or her right to communicate with an elected official.
Carter became the director of Public Works in 2006. Carter alleged that the now late Mayor of Manchester, Lonnie Norman, was pressuring him to “buy local,” which meant “spending the City’s tax money on businesses that were politically connected to Norman and his friends — as opposed to shopping for whichever business offered the best price,” Carter claims.
When the late mayor became aware Carter had purchased supplies at a rival business instead of a politically connected business, he would call up Carter and order him to “buy local,” according to the lawsuit. Norman also pressured Carter not to speak with other elected officials. Carter said was threatened that he would be fired if he spoke with an alderman about any decisions.
Carter was removed as the department head and transferred to a laborer job at the water department.
The lawsuit was recently settled out of court for $250,000 and Carter has now released a statement concerning the matter.
Below is a statement from Mr. Carter:
My name is Brent Carter. I’ve been an employee of the city of Manchester for almost 30 years. While head of the public works from 2008 to 2018, I was responsible for the maintenance and improvements of critical city infrastructure like streets, drainage, and lighting. Under my leadership, the public works department ran under budget and with clean annual audits. I was proud of the service we provided to residents and of successful projects like the paving and striping of the parking lot at Fred Deadman Park.
I did my best to run a professional department, but over the years I faced pressure to make decisions that were not in the best interests of the taxpayers. For example, I was expected to buy auto parts and goods from businesses connected to city officials, told to hire unqualified employees because of their political connections, and asked to sign off on a purchase order for a sign that was not for the street department. When I communicated my concerns about conflicts of interest and corruption to the aldermen, I received little support. Instead, my job was threatened for bringing these matters to the board’s attention.
In December of 2018, with no write ups in my personnel file and without being told a reason, I was called to city hall and given an ultimatum- either resign my position as public works director and accept a lower position in a different department or be fired. This forced demotion cut my salary by 40% and moved me from management to a job that was much more physically demanding. After over 25 years of service to the city, I was demoted right before Christmas, on my son’s birthday, and while my mother was on hospice.
Knowing I’d done nothing wrong, I contacted the aldermen for their support. Over the next several months, I appealed in vain to the board to investigate my sudden demotion and the underlying issues behind it. I never wanted to sue the city of Manchester, but when almost a year had passed, I was left with little choice. After much prayer and consideration, my wife Becky and I made the decision to stand up for our family and filed a lawsuit against the city in November of 2019.
Last month, we decided to settle this lawsuit. The settlement agreement allows us to move forward after what has been a very stressful time in our lives. We want to thank our family and friends and those in the community who have supported us. We remain disappointed in the aldermen for their lack of response and support for a loyal, longtime city employee.
The people of Manchester deserve to know what decisions are being made by the city and why, and that qualified individuals are entrusted with running city departments instead of people who are chosen for their political connections. Millions of taxpayer dollars and the future of the city are in the hands of a small group of people elected by the voters. Is Manchester moving forward the way it should?
Current Manchester Mayor Marylin Howard released the following statement: The City’s insurance carrier resolved this matter without the involvement of the City or any of its funds.
Photo: Manchester City Hall