Former HRC Chief Sues

WHEELING – Former Wheeling Human Rights Commission Executive Director Theresa Garrett is suing the city for unpaid leave time she claims she’s owed after leaving her position at the end of July.

Much of the controversy appears to hinge on whether Garrett should be classified as retired. Her lawsuit claims city Human Resources Director Leslie Waechter informed her in 2012 she was eligible to retire, but a July 5 letter to Garrett from City Manager Robert Herron disputes her status as a retiree.

Earlier this year, City Council voted to slash the Human Rights Commission budget from $66,000 to just $14,000 this year. Rather than accept a reduction to part-time status, Garrett informed city officials June 28 of her intent to retire after 26 years as the commission’s executive director.

Her lawsuit alleges Wheeling shortchanged her for accrued vacation and comp time and refused to pay her for a portion of her unused sick leave, in violation of the city’s own policy and the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act.

The suit also claims the city improperly designated time she took off in July as vacation rather than comp time, even though Human Rights Commission Chairwoman Rabbi Beth Jacowitz Chottiner pre-approved Garrett’s use of comp time.

Garrett alleges the city owes her for 25.5 days of sick leave, 80 hours of vacation and 28.5 hours of comp time. The lawsuit does not specify the amount of damages sought, but Garrett’s before-taxes wages for the hours for which she claims she should be paid would be about $5,700 based on her hourly pay rate of $18.28.

City Solicitor Rosemary Humway-Warmuth said she plans to file an answer to Garrett’s lawsuit Thursday. She declined further comment.