One of the key allegations that city officials cited when recommending termination of the city’s longtime parking administrator boiled down to a jotted note, a Civil Service Commission hearing officer learned today in an administrative hearing.
The former parking director, Zepporiah Edmonds, is asking the commission to overturn the city’s effort to fire her; she retired before the city took action. She worked for the city for more than three decades.
Her superiors contend that she didn’t fulfill a request by the Office of Inspector General, which was looking into allegations that some parking-control officers retaliated against people who complained that the officers were warming chairs in coffee shops when they should have been writing tickets.
The Office of the Inspector General employee who wanted parking citation data and a roster of parking control officers jotted down his request two years ago on a piece of paper he handed to Edmonds.
Investigator Eduardo Hernandez testified today that he never got the information.
He said he was informal in making the request because Edmonds had cooperated with investigators previously. However, he said the incident led to “an unofficial Zepporiah rule” within the Inspector General’s Office, which means they now make all requests in writing or via email.
During testimony, he repeatedly said that Edmonds’ failure to delegate when she was out sick was uncooperative.
Edmonds’ lawyer, Dominic Varrecchio, asked why the Inspector General’s Office didn’t look to her boss Mark Jernigan, the director of Public Works, when Edmonds didn’t respond, noting she was on sick leave at times.
Hernandez said Jernigan was copied on monthly follow up emails he sent to Edmonds because he had not received the requested information.
Varrecchio asked Hernandez if he believed Edmonds willfully obstructed the investigation.
“That’s not a simple yes or no answer.”
Hernandez was one of four people to testify in the nearly six-hour hearing. The hearing was a continuation of previous testimony, and it will continue at a later date.
Jernigan’s recommendation to fire Edmonds hinges on four main points, which also include retaliating against a co-worker and going above her supervisory capacity by settling an employee suspension.
Edmonds has accused Jernigan, along with other top city officials, of colluding to get rid of her after she blew the whistle on what she saw as a bid-rigging scheme in 2012.
In testimony Thursday, former Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant, who was Jernigan’s boss, said he trusts Jernigan’s judgment and supports the termination recommendation. He said obstructing an IG investigation would “absolutely” be a fireable offense.
Varrecchio asked if anyone had presented Grant with evidence Edmonds obstructed the investigation.
“No evidence,” Grant said.
Grant, who now serves as the head of the Sewerage & Water Board, offered advice in his short testimony.
“If you’ve gotten to the point where you can get your [retirement] benefits, it might be time to move on,” Grant said. “This is a fast-moving, trying-to-be progressive government.”
Shortly after, Varrecchio asked Grant if he knew whether Edmonds used an email auto-reply feature while out sick and whether employees should use one when they’re out of the office. “I don’t even know what it is,” Grant said.
Edmonds former supervisor, Richard Boseman, who now works elsewhere in city government, called her an “excellent employee.”
Linda Copeland, an administrator working under Jernigan, also testified. She described her working relationship with Edmonds as “difficult.”
Copeland said Edmonds overstepped her role when negotiating two weeks of back pay for a suspended employee. She said she and Jernigan did not find out about the settlement until told by a Civil Service Commission lawyer.
But Boseman, who previously held Edmonds’ position, said that type of action was routine when he was there.
Regarding retaliation, Copeland said Edmonds discovered another employee’s complaint about Edmonds and reassigned her. Under questioning by Varrecchio, Copeland said that the move happened in the same timeframe asmany other reassignments Edmonds made and that it was common for employees to change positions within the department.
When asked if Edmonds’ termination recommendation letter was justified, without pause, Copeland said “yes.”
She said Edmonds didn’t live up to Jernigan’s expectations.
Asked how she knew that, Copeland said, “I can only conjecture.”