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Clay pays $50,000 in wrongful termination case

By Lee Weyhrich

CLAY — The city of Clay was required by mediation to pay Marlin Joe Gililand $50,000 in a wrongful termination case in addition to monies covered by insurance.

According to city officials, the mediator sided with Gililand in the case due to the fact that previous city officials had terminated his employment without going through the proper steps first.

“The city did not follow the city’s personnel policy,” City Manager Ronnie Dixon said.

The amount covered by insurance was undisclosed due to a privacy agreement that was part of mediation.

Clay City Hall
file photo by Gary Lloyd

“The insurance refused coverage on the misdeeds of the former administration,” Dixon said, adding that the administration knowingly disregarded policy.

In the original case filing, Lynn Burch, Bobby Christmas, Frank Garner, Charles Ed McGuffie, Ronald McGuffie and the city of Clay were listed as defendants.

This case was the last of a string of lawsuits leveled at the previous administration that have been settled during this administration. According to Dixon, there are no more of these cases pending.

Councilman Kevin Small was a councilman during the previous administration, and feels at least partially responsible for the way things turned out. He maintains that Gililand was terminated on legitimate grounds due to a large number of complaints, and is saddened by the decision to require the city to pay $50,000 due to procedural “misdeeds.”

“I take a little bit of feeling bad for this because I was the one that called for him to be removed or terminated by the mayor,” Small said.

One of the first acts of this administration was to update the personnel policies so that issues like this could be avoided in the future, Mayor Charles Webster said. At the last Clay City Council meeting, it was determined that Byars-Wright Insurance Company would be allowed to audit the city’s insurance policies through Alabama Municipal Insurance Corporation. Dixon shared those findings Monday, which determined that the city was underinsured.

Paul Burnett stated, in a letter addressed to Dixon, that under the current plan sheriff’s deputies are excluded from law enforcement coverage, there is limited auto coverage for all city employees driving vehicles, there is no permanent loss of tax revenue coverage nor is there any garage keeper’s coverage.

The city insurance plan is revisited each year and any additional costs for these upgrades will go into effect next year. According to Dixon, many of these items would only increase the cost of insurance by as little as $5 apiece. In fact, he said, due to some property value discrepancies, it’s possible that the new policy will be cheaper than the old one.

In other Clay news, the Clay City Council is able to look to improve the fields at Clay City Park. Roughly 220 truckloads of chert and soil have been piled up at the park, Dixon said. That dirt is what remains of the old Clay-Chalkville High School football field, which is being upgraded with artificial turf. The top soil will be used for the park’s football and baseball fields, while the chert has been graded next to the playground to aid in soil retention and drainage.

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