OLIVE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A man who was not picked to be an executive aide in Ottawa County is suing the county for age discrimination, the Holland Sentinel reports.
Ryan Kimball, a former candidate to be county administrator John Gibbs’ aide, filed the lawsuit while former county deputy administrator Patrick Waterman and current human resources director Marcie VerBeek testified under oath Tuesday at a hearing about the possible termination of county health officer Adeline Hambley.
The suit claims Gibbs, and therefore the county, violated the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act while he was choosing between Kimball, 49, and Jordan Epperson, 23, to fill his executive aide position.
Gibbs had outlined qualifications he wanted in his aide including a master’s degree with experience in strategic management, a slot on the Dean’s List or Honor Roll, an undergraduate major or minor from an accredited institution, experience working internationally at the nonprofit level and at least two years’ experience serving on a major board.
Kimball met all the requirements. Epperson met just one — a bachelor’s degree, the Holland Sentinel reports.
But both Waterman and VerBeek testified that Gibbs thought there was one thing Epperson had that Kimball didn’t. Gibbs said Epperson was “young” and could be “bossed around,” the lawsuit claims.
“(That comment) was made in the first interview when we asked him what it was about Mr. Epperson that he liked,” testified Waterman Tuesday. “We all said age shouldn’t make a difference.”
VerBeek also testified that Gibbs said he would be able to “boss” Epperson around during a selection committee meeting. She said the selection committee did not choose Epperson to advance to the second round but Gibbs added him to the pool.
Verbeek said she had concerns about hiring Epperson and sent an email about it, the Sentinel reports.
“If I recall, that email said the age remark was a possible liability to the county,” Waterman testified. “I want to point out that Mr. Gibbs defined that position himself.”
Kimball’s suit seeks compensation for lost wages and emotional distress, attorney fees and any costs for expert witnesses, the Holland Sentinel reports. It also asks for an injunction banning any retaliation.
Gibbs was set to testify Wednesday in the Hambley termination hearing’s second day.