By Sean Yoes, Special to the NNPA from The AFRO-American Newspapers (Baltimore) –
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is being sued for $5 million by a former employee, Jennifer Coates, who claims she was forced from her job because she refused to fire a White colleague.
Coates, who is Black, served as director of council services for three Baltimore City Council Presidents including Rawlings-Blake. Coates says she was forced to resign from her post in August 2008 because she wouldn’t fire Richard Krummerich, the oldest and only White worker in the council services office at the time. Rawlings-Blake was president of the City Council from January 2007 until she was sworn in as Baltimore mayor February 2010 following the resignation of former Mayor Sheila Dixon.
A spokesperson for the mayor’s office declined to comment citing the lawsuit is pending litigation and Coates could not be reached for comment. Coates’ attorney Thomas J. Maronick Jr. said “Coates gave up a $90,000 a-year job because she wanted to do the right thing.”
Maronick says his client was pressured “directly and indirectly” by Rawlings-Blake and her then-chief of staff and current deputy chief of staff Kimberly Washington to fire Krummerich, who worked as a legislative policy analyst, and replace him with a younger Black man, Sean DuBurns.
Coates balked at the request because, “the OCS, Office of Council Services, would have no more White employees if Krummerich were fired and Coates did not believe such a move would comply with employment laws,” according to the suit. Coates was fearful the city could be vulnerable to a discrimination suit based on race, as well as age. Coates allegedly informed Rawlings-Blake and Washington that firing Krummerich would circumvent a required five-step performance review process in violation of the Civil Service Act. Maronick said, “She [Coates] was told if you do not fire Mr. Krummerich it could be bad for you.”
Court documents indicate once Krummerich was made aware of Rawlings-Blake’s desire to fire him, he urged some City Council members, including Bernard “Jack” Young, who replaced Rawlings-Blake as president, to intercede on his behalf. That’s when Rawlings-Blake allegedly told Coates, “If it doesn’t stop, it will hurt you.”
“If the tables were turned and Mr. Krummerich was the only African-American member of that office the media would jump all over this,” Maronick said.
According to the suit, Rawlings-Blake wanted Krummerich terminated because she felt he was incompetent and specifically because he was found sleeping on the job.
Coates is seeking $500,000 for wrongful termination and $1.5 million for each of three other counts: defamation, hostile work environment and retaliation. Coates, who lives in a predominately Black neighborhood of Northwest Baltimore, worked for the city since 1992 and served as director of council services since May 2001. Since her resignation she has been relegated to, “part-time seasonal employment with the IRS,” according to Maronick. “No one wants to touch her; she can’t get a job.”