By CAT SMITH
BULLHEAD CITY—A former Public Works employee with the City of Bullhead City has filed a notice of claim against the City of Bullhead City and former boss, Donald Carley, citing wrongful termination.
Phoenix-based attorney Elizabeth Tate filed the claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, on April 14 on behalf of former employee, Michael Nesbitt II. Nesbitt is seeking monetary damages; punitive damages—against Carley only; injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees based upon federal and state wage violations as well as for wrongful termination of employment that took place on Dec. 17, 2017.
Nesbitt was employed in the Public Works Department as a maintenance worker until he was reportedly fired by then-supervisor Carley. Nesbitt alleges Carley and the City of Bullhead City fired him unduly after he brought several issues to the attention of Carley and the Human Resources Department.
According to court documents:
In 2017, the City of Bullhead City had been using inmates from the Arizona Department of Corrections prison in Golden Valley to provide labor for the city parks and roads pursuant to a contract with the ADOC. Someone had set up a target inside the City of Bullhead City metal shop where the claimant had observed Carley and Jim Berg, another supervisor with the Public Works Department, engage in target practice with a rifle, a direct violation of the employee handbook and provisions of the Arizona Criminal Code. The claimant reports there were about six inmates sitting near the target having lunch on one occasion. The claimant complained to Carley and Berg that such target practice was unlawful and endangered everyone nearby, including the inmates who were sitting close to the target. They responded to his complaints in a hostile manner and told him to stop complaining or he might be fired.
On or about Oct. 6, 2017, the claimant was ordered by Carley to start reporting for work fifteen minutes before his scheduled start time. However, he was not paid for this additional quarter hour of work, thus violating the federal and Arizona minimum wage laws.
On Nov. 14, 2017, Carley told the claimant that he wanted to talk to him about “saving his job” in which Carley told the claimant to “stay out of his boss’ office” and to “stop causing trouble” for him or he’d be fired.
The claimant recorded this conversation.
On Nov. 29, 2017, the claimant saw Carley and other City of Bullhead City employees acting under Carley’s direction take city owned property—steel side rods for use in city parks—and load it onto Carley’s personal truck trailer. Carley told the city workers that he was “doing the city a favor” by taking the items for his personally owned trailer. The claimant confronted Carley about his actions, but was told not to ask questions. The claimant began documenting the theft with a by taking photos. The theft was reported and investigated by the Bullhead City Police Department.
On Dec. 18, 2017, Carley fired the claimant effective immediately with no written notice of grounds for termination or an exit interview. On the same day, the claimant went to Human Resources Manager Brenda Richardson to complain that he had been fired for being a “whistleblower”, but she said that the claimant would be disregarded as a disgruntled ex-employee. Two hours after speaking with the claimant, Richardson phoned him and stated she had spoken with City Manager Toby Cotter and they requested him to come back and make a formal report about his whistleblowing and termination.
On Dec. 19, 2017, Richardson called the claimant around 8 a.m. and told him Cotter and Bullhead City Police Chief Brian Williamson requested him to come into human resources immediately to make the report. The claimant was interviewed by Richardson and provided several photos that showed Carley and other employees removing the steel rods from the city, as well as played the audiotape where Carley threatened to fire the claimant. Richardson told the claimant had he provided such information before being fired by Carley he would not have been fired, but that it was too late now to do anything about it now. The claimant recorded this conversation.
It further states in the documents, that Nesbitt is reportedly seeking lost wages for being required to report to work on certain days prior to the start of his shift, lost wages for being fired, a reduced standard of living and loss of benefit for his family, embarrassment and humiliation from being fired.
On March 1, Carley and two other Bullhead City employees, Mark Perry and Melissa Solano were indicted by a Mohave County grand jury for the alleged theft of city property. A search warrant executed back in December 2017 on the defendant’s homes reportedly uncovered the stolen items from the city.
All three have pled not guilty and no charges involving weapons were filed by the Mohave County Attorney’s Office. Solano, who is the court administrator for the Bullhead City Municipal Court, has been on paid administrative since the indictment. Carley and Perry resigned from their positions in December 2017 after reportedly learning of an internal investigation.
Public Work’s Director Pawan Agrawal, who oversaw Carley and the department, was fired from his position in February, however the reasoning behind his firing was not made public.