Former ESL Housing Aurhority manager sues after firing

Ann Knef Jan. 5, 2007, 2:44am

A former manager at the East St. Louis Housing Authority (ESLHA) claims his public criticism of the organization's executive director cost him his job.

Robert Betts filed suit against ESLHA and William Wilkins in St. Clair County Circuit Court Dec. 29 alleging he was "constructively discharged" from his position as property manager.

Betts, represented by Mark C. Scroggins of Crowder & Scroggins in Columbia, claims he was demoted from his position as development manager of the Replacement Housing Program after he "spoke out" about his opposition to Wilkins' "impermissible practice of giving paid days off work to ESLHA employees who contributed to certain charities."

"With knowledge of, and in retaliation for, the above actions of plaintiff, Wilkins demoted plaintiff to the position of property manager," the complaint states.

"Plaintiff was qualified, experienced and capable of performing the tasks of his Development Manager position, but lacked knowledge and experience as a property manager.

"Further, in his new position, plaintiff was expected to perform the work that several persons performed prior to his being assigned to the position."

Betts claims he was assigned to a housing project where he feared for his personal safety and that of others working with and around him.

"There was no security force in place at plaintiff's work site, although plaintiff reported frequently of the lack of security and problems with violence at the project," the complaint states.

Betts claims he has been deprived by ESLHA, acting under the color of law, of the rights, privileges, and immunities secured to him by the United States Constitution and other laws, specifically his rights and freedoms of speech and expression; of assembly and of association.

He claims he has suffered an impairment of his reputation, anxiety and humiliation, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of wages, loss of benefits, loss of professional advancement and has had to expend a substantial amount of time and money in order to protest his unconstitutional deprivations.

Betts is seeking compensatory damages for unrealized salary and fringe benefits, reimbursement of costs, equitable relief expunging his demotion and termination from the organization's records and other databases and equitable relief ordering ESLHA to return him to his position as development manager of the Replacement Housing Program.

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