GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Fired Grand Rapids city clerk Lauri Parks is considering a racial discrimination lawsuit against the city following her termination.
Parks has retained Bloomfield Hills-based attorney H. Wallace Parker, who specializes in discrimination cases. He says Parks recently contacted him for representation.
Parker says his office is conducting an investigation into what he says appears to be a clear case of discrimination on the surface.
"We've concluded, and based upon also the statistics there as to treatment of minorities in the City of Grand Rapids, it leaves a lot to be desired across the board," Parker told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday. "Look at the fire department - next to no minorities. Look at the police department -- it has decreased from 2005 right down to where it is now -- next to nothing. So, when you look at those items it kind of looks like it's also drifted over into the clerk's office, as well."
Parker said Parks is "distraught" over her termination and wants her job back.
"She really put a lot into it and loved the job and gave it her all," Parker said. "It's disturbing for me and, hell, it wasn't even my job."
Records show that Parks's termination was based on poor performance that continued despite repeated efforts to correct problems.
"The commission wanted her to succeed," said one high level city official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the city isn't authorized to comment in personnel matters. "Many of the things we asked her to do, she simply won't do."
The official pointed out "arrogant" behavior and refusal to cooperate with her own staff and city leaders.
In a last-ditch effort, city officials offered Parks a reassignment or an opportunity to leave her position with severance. But the city official says Parks abruptly and "rudely" walked out of the meeting.
The city official said morale in Parks's office was also a major concern.
"That whole thing was falling apart," the official said, characterizing the office as a "sinking ship." "They hate her."
The biggest blow for city leaders was the realization that Parks had not worked on projects assigned to her in 2008, including development of a system to measure performance in the city clerk's office and a plan to work in better cooperation with other city departments.
The official said Parks "hadn't even started, let alone finished."
"We tried hard," the official said, calling Parks's demise a "tragedy."
But Parks's attorney seems to think the real tragedy is in how she was treated by officials in the city she still hopes to work for.
"If it was me I wouldn't give a damn about whether or not I worked there -- a place like this ... but I'm not her," Parker said. "Obviously, she cares."
Parker also said he was unmoved by the decision to fill Parks's shoes at least temporarily with Deputy City Clerk Darlene O'Neal, who is black.
"After I raised that point in a memo that I sent [to the city] -- they went out and decided, 'Well, maybe we'll try and replace her with a minority. Maybe that will diffuse that,'" Parker said. "That's bull. It doesn't work that way."
Some who attended Tuesday's city commission meeting protested Parks's firing, saying the city's reasons for terminating her were smoke for racial discrimination.
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