Pelham responds to criticism from lawsuit plaintiffs

Published 12:52 pm Monday, December 9, 2013

Attorneys for Pelham have responded to criticism from plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the city. (File)

Attorneys for Pelham have responded to criticism from plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the city. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Pelham’s leaders and attorneys are scheduled to meet with plaintiffs and attorneys in a lawsuit against the city during a Dec. 13 court hearing after the city filed a response to recent criticism brought by the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit, which since has become a class-action suit, was filed against Pelham in May 2010, and claimed Pelham violated the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and the Pelham civil service law by allegedly not properly compensating the firefighters for overtime worked.

The original lawsuit was filed by current firefighters Kenneth Camp, Todd McCarver, Patrick Smith and Stephen Kiel and retired firefighter Randall Bearden.

The Pelham City Council’s Nov. 4 meeting agenda originally included a resolution to reject a proposed memorandum of understanding to settle the lawsuit, but the item was removed from the agenda before the meeting and has not yet been voted on.

On Dec. 2, Birmingham Attorney Inge Johnstone, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed a motion claiming the city negotiated the memorandum of understanding “in bad faith, knowing that the mayor and the city’s lawyers did not have the authority to agree to a settlement on behalf of the city, and had no idea whether the terms they agreed to would be approved or not.”

Johnstone’s motion asked the federal court to “enforce the settlement or to reimburse (the plaintiffs) for the legal fees and expenses caused by attempt to go back on the settlement agreement.”

In a response to Johnstone’s motion filed in federal court on Dec. 6, the city claims the plaintiffs “engaged in a coordinated flank attack against the city by aggressively going public with the mediation process, including the terms of the memorandum of understanding.”

“These two frontal assaults on the negotiations could have but one insidious ulterior motive: To ensure that the city’s right to a fair trail is compromised,” read the motion.

The city’s motion claimed the plaintiffs violated the confidentiality of the mediation process by entering the proposed settlement into court documents, therefore making it public information.

Pelham’s motion asks the court to strike the plaintiffs’ Dec. 2 motion to uphold the proposed settlement agreement, order Johnstone to “abide by the confidentiality obligations” in the court’s mediation process and to lift a March 2013 motion limiting the city’s ability to publicly comment on the lawsuit.