After seeing "Potkay claim" listed on the agenda of New Berlin Common Council Meetings in March and April (under the heading of "closed session" ), I made an inquiry about it.
The multi-page records that I obtained from the City Clerk's office a few months ago confirmed my suspicions that the claim had been filed by Tamara Potkay, the former City of New Berlin Human Resources Director.
Those records include:
- NOTICE OF INJURY and CLAIM (dated Feb. 19, 2014) which contends that Mayor Dave Ament, contrary to federal constitutional law, state statutory law chapters 62 and 66, and local chapter 11 of New Berlin Municipal Code law, terminated the civil service protected employment of Ms. Potkay on January 24, 2014, without cause and without lawful authority to the detriment of Ms. Potkay. It alleges "that over the course of time since he was elected Mayor in April, 2013 Mr. Ament has harassed Ms. Potkay and attempted to unduly burden her duties and eliminate or diminish her civil service position without reason or cause and in violation of the law. "
- SUMMONS IN A CIVIL ACTION, which communicates a lawsuit has been filed by Tamara Potkay against Dave Ament, individually and in his official capacity as Mayor of New Berlin and he must respond or a judgment by default will be entered against him for the relief demanded in the complaint
- CIVIL ACTION ( file date Feb. 19, 2014, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN)
Plaintiff: Tamara Potkay
Defendants: Dave Ament, individually and in his official capacity, and the City of New Berlin
The suit alleges that Ms. Potkay was denied her due process rights. It argues that termination of Ms. Potkay's employment by Mr. Ament constitutes violations of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the provisions of Wisconsin Statutes 62.09, 62.11 and 66.0509, and the provisions of 11-1, 11-4c, 11-5, 11-7, 11-11, 11-12 and 11-13 of the Wisconsin Municipal Code.
The lawsuit seeks several remedies:
- a temporary restraining order prohibiting the Mayor from filling the vacancy created by his termination of Ms. Potkay
- a temporary restraining order prohibiting the elmination of the Director of Human Resources position and returning Ms. Potkay to that position
- preliminary and permanent injunctive relief prohibiting the elimination of the position from the classified serivice of the City of New Berlin and reinstating Ms. Potkay to the position of Director of Human Resources of the City of New Berlin
- Reimbursement for all allowable costs and reasonable attorney fees
The lawsuit alleges that on January 24, Mayor Ament informed Ms. Potkay at their regularly scheduled update meeting that he had decided for business reasons "to eliminate the position of Director of Human Resources effective immediately" and she was being laid off from employment with the city effective that day. The elimination had not even been presented for consideration to either the City of New Berlin Civil Service Commission or the City of New Berlin Common Council.
It also conveys:
"Mr. Ament was elected Mayor in early April, 2013. He was supported in his election campaign by former City of New Berlin Mayor Telesfore Wysocki. During his time in office as Mayor (2001-2005) Mr. Wysocki attempted to suspend, discipline, and reduce the pay of Ms. Potkay, who prevailed in contested legal proceedings against Mr. Wysocki resulting in full arbitral relief, including back pay and attorney fees, to Ms. Potkay and expensive legal costs to the City of New Berlin caused by the recalcitrant behavior of Mr. Wysocki. As soon as Mr. Ament took office as Mayor in April, 2013, he commenced efforts to isolate and diminish Ms. Potkay in her position as Human Resources Director, despite the fact that he had no cause to do so."
The follow-up to this has been intriguing----
On July 29, 2014 the Common Council held a meeting specifically regarding "Tami Potkay v. City of New Berlin". After their Closed Session discusssion, they convened into Open Session to pass a resolution reaffirming the Mayor's job description for HR Director and City Clerk.
Then in early August, we learned from a New Berlin NOW news article that Tamara Potkay "Wins Court Ruling".
New Berlin NOW reports:
" A temporary injunction and a temporary restraining order were granted in United States district court requiring Tamara Potkay to be allowed to return to work as the New Berlin director of human resources. "
"Due to the court orders, she was reinstated Wednesday, July 30. But Mayor Dave Ament directed that she must work from home. Ament was unavailable to explain why. But in documents filed with the court, the city claimed that city hall had been reorganized with offices and staff being moved around and it would be hard to have Potkay come back."
Needless to say, this arrangement is unacceptable to Ms. Potkay. Her attorney will likely pursue a legal challenge to the mayor's action.
Gregg Gunta, attorney for the city, maintains that having Ms. Potkay work from home does not violate the judge's order. The order doesn't say anything about where Potkay was to work or about what duties she was to perform, he says.
So, that's the City's response and stance. Oh, my.
Not only does the mayor's action seem awfully petty and vendetta-like, but how can requiring Tamara Potkay, the City's reinstated Human Resources Director (by court order), to work from home rather than at City Hall, be the most efficient use of her professional skills and services or the best use of taxpayer dollars?