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Animal warden files $250,000 lawsuit

February 19, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

Animal warden files $250,000 lawsuit

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - An animal warden for the City of Martinsburg was dismissed Wednesday afternoon, a week after she filed a civil lawsuit against the city.

In a $250,000 suit filed in Berkeley County Circuit Court, Carrie Birmingham, of Martinsburg, alleges she was harassed by city officials after asking for overtime compensation.

Birmingham's attorney, Keith Wheaton, of Martinsburg, said the money sought in the suit is more for the emotional distress she suffered, and for back wages.

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"She said that she had undergone a lot of stress through her job, she was treated unfairly, and a lot of unfair allegations were made (about her performance)," Wheaton said.

Wheaton declined to give examples of the alleged harassment.

Contacted at her home on Wednesday night, Birmingham said she was dismissed at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday by City Manager Mark Baldwin.

The reason, Baldwin told her, was that she couldn't respond to emergency calls in the absence of a full-time animal warden, she said.

"Right now I'm in school," Birmingham said. "They expect me to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Since I couldn't do that, they fired me."

But Birmingham said it's almost a relief.

"This has been going on for a year-and-a-half now I've been having trouble with them," Birmingham said.

Birmingham said she couldn't speak specifically about the case because of pending litigation, but according to the complaint, she was hired as a part-time animal warden on Dec. 17, 1996. At the time, there was no specific job description.

Between May 12, 1997, and May 27, 1997, full-time animal warden Joe Gray was on sick leave and Birmingham covered the bulk of his duties by cleaning and feeding the animals at the city pound. Those tasks took up 30 hours more than she was paid for, according to the suit.

When Birmingham ap-proached her supervisors about pay for the extra time, she was harassed by City Recorder Sharon Flick, Mayor Earnest Sparks and City Manager Mark Baldwin, the complaint alleges.

The complaint also alleges that Sparks threatened to fire her when she questioned the pay.

Baldwin said the city had not yet been served with the lawsuit.

"I'm not aware, nor is the city, of any suit being filed," Baldwin said.

When the suit is served, he said, all questions would be referred to the city's attorney.

When reached at his home Wednesday night, Mayor Earnest Sparks said he was also unaware of the suit.

In regard to Birmingham's dismissal, he said, "It would be inappropriate for me to comment" and referred all questions to the city's attorney.

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