SCHENECTADY COUNTY -- Angelica Morris is suing Schenectady County, seeking reinstatement as executive director of the county Human Rights Commission after being fired from the post in February.
Morris' suit, filed in state Supreme Court in Schenectady on Wednesday, asks that a judge void the commission's February vote to fire her, as having taken place at a meeting held in violation of the state's Open Meetings Law. She also seeks a public "name-clearing hearing."
The commission "unlawfully terminated (Morris) and then publicly smeared (Morris') name and reputation with false public statements contemporaneous with her termination to make her unemployable," according to the lawsuit, filed by attorney Kevin Luibrand of Latham.
Luibrand said on Friday that a person who works in public employment can be terminated without the government employer giving a reason, "but if the government states a reason and it's a negative reason, then they are entitled to a hearing to clear their name, and it's a full evidentiary hearing."
Luibrand said such hearings aren't held very often.
Morris, who had an association with the commission for 15 years, was fired by letter on Feb. 18, charged with insubordination and failure to adhere to requests from commissioners, failure to abide by commission by-laws, and failure to perform her duties, among other things.
While the lawsuit says the statements were "false and defamatory," they have received wide public exposure from articles about her firing that appeared in both the Daily Gazette and Times Union newspapers, and the articles remain available on the internet. Their availability interferes with Morris' ability to get another job, the lawsuit says. Luibrand said she remains unemployed.
Morris, of Rotterdam, served as executive director of the county Human Rights Commission for seven years, and before that was a member of the commission for eight years. She previously worked as an executive assistant to former Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton.
Schenectady County Attorney Chris Gardner said Friday that the county had yet to be served with any legal papers, and he would need time to review them. Regarding the firing in the past, Gardner has said the county plans to fully defend itself, though he noted the decisions on hiring and firing are up to the commission.
Morris has also filed a $1 million notice of claim against the county, preserving her right to file a second lawsuit, one that would seek damages from the county over her firing and for defamation. That lawsuit has yet to be filed.
Morris earned about $70,000 annually at the time of her dismissal. The Human Rights Commission has yet to fill the vacancy.