Employee, Association File Lawsuit Against Greenville

The city of Greenville is facing a lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed by the Greenville Professional Firefighters Association and Lisa Davis-Christ.

The lawsuit alleges the city is trying to break up the association and has targeted Lisa Davis-Christ, an EMS specialist with the Greenville Fire Rescue Department. Davis–Christ is also the vice president of the association.

Davis-Christ and the association claim their efforts in early 2013 to report and address issues of low morale in the Greenville Fire Rescue Department have resulted in the city and some officials targeting the association and Davis-Christ. The lawsuit also alleges the association’s efforts to encourage the city to keep Chief William Ale of the department did not receive a response. The lawsuit states Deputy Chief Eric Griffin was appointed as Interim Chief of the Fire Rescue Department in March 2013 and then called a meeting of staff in which he made comments that were “negative or threatening” to the association and its members.

Davis-Christ also claims she was unfairly punished for a residency issue, for which she was put on 60 days disciplinary probation, and she claims that caused her to not qualify for a promotion to Lieutenant.

According to the lawsuit, there is a residency requirement for members of the department.

Davis-Christ alleges her superiors, including Chief Griffin, knew that she was living in Raleigh starting in 2012 and that in the fall, she “openly and formally” changed her address with the city personnel department. She claims no communications had been made to her about her residency or its impact on her employment.

The lawsuit states Davis-Christ, believing she was a “possible target for retaliation,” rented a place in Winterville on April 1, 2013.

On April 9, the lawsuit states, Chief Griffin put Davis-Christ on probation for her failure to live in the Greenville Residency Area, which encompasses part or all of Craven, Beaufort, Martin, Wayne, Wilson and Nash counties, as well as Pitt County. Davis-Christ alleges she appealed the probation. Davis-Christ alleges she notified management that she was living in the residency area, but that did not affect the disciplinary action.

The lawsuit says a personnel review board consisting of three city employees heard the evidence in her case. The lawsuit alleges the review board then recommended the probation be “rescinded or removed” but that City Manager Barbara Lipscomb rejected the recommendation.

The lawsuit asks for a trial by jury on issues that are appropriate for that venue, that the court declare the city and its officials violated the rights of the Association and Davis-Christ and provide injunctive relief to prohibit the city and its officials, including the Command Staff of the Fire and Rescue Department, from “engaging in actions to intimidate and discourage Firefighters from joining, supporting and taking an active role in the Greenville Professional Fire Fighters Association.”

Also included in the lawsuit is the request that Davis-Christ be promoted to the position of Lieutenant effective May 18, 2013 with full back pay, fringe benefits and seniority, as well as compensation for Davis-Christ for “humiliation, anguish, anxiety and distress.”

Chief Eric Griffin returned our call Tuesday and referred us to the City Attorney. Dave Holec said Monday afternoon “the City has not been served with a complaint. It is not appropriate for me to comment upon a complaint which the City has not received service.”