ESL demolition workers sue city officials over retaliation for reporting harassment

By Kelly Holleran | Jan 3, 2013

Two former East St. Louis demolition department workers claim various city officials spread rumors about them, which cost them their jobs, in retaliation for their reports of sexual harassment.

Sheila Thomas and Marcus Johnson filed a lawsuit Dec. 17 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Tommy Dancy, Delbert Marion, Alvin Parks Jr., Deletra Hudson and the city of East St. Louis.

In their complaint, Thomas and Johnson claim they were working for the city’s demolition department when councilman Robert Eastern III and Dancy allegedly began to sexually harass Thomas. After complaining about Eastern’s and Dancy’s treatment of her, Thomas found an ally in Johnson, who claims to have witnessed the sexual harassment, according to the complaint. Johnson agreed to testify on Thomas’s behalf -- a fact that was widely known among East St. Louis employees, the suit states.

Following an internal investigation performed by Lt. Donald Watson of East St. Louis’s police department, Thomas received a right to sue letter and decided to file a complaint against East St. Louis, the complaint says.

However, after she filed the lawsuit, Thomas found herself at the center of a different controversy in which she was playing the role of defendant. Dancy and Marion started to accuse Thomas and Johnson of abusing their powers as members of the city’s demolition department by misappropriating dump tickets.

As part of their duties for the demolition department, Thomas and Johnson issued dump tickets to contractors. The dump tickets were then used by the contractors at landfills where they brought the contents of demolished buildings. In turn, the landfill would charge the city of East St. Louis for the costs associated with removing garbage.

Dancy and Marion accused Thomas and Johnson of issuing dump tickets to contractors for their own personal use, according to the complaint.

On Dec. 19, 2011, the city of East St. Louis publicized Thomas’s and Johnson’s alleged misconduct in a press release, which then was published in local newspapers, the suit states. However, the plaintiffs contend they are innocent and that Dancy’s and Marion’s accusations are false. Dancy and Marion allegedly spread the rumors in an attempt to retaliate against Thomas and Johnson for their sexual harassment allegations, the complaint says.

Because of the defendants’ alleged actions, Thomas and Johnson claim they lost their jobs, have been unable to secure subsequent employment and have suffered harm to their reputations.

In their 10-count complaint, Thomas and Johnson seek actual damages, a reinstatement to their previous positions, back pay and benefits they have lost since their termination, attorney’s fees, costs and other relief the court deems just.

Brian L. Polinske of Polinske and Associates in Edwardsville will be representing them.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 12-L-663.

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