Belinda Kimball, who worked for the city of Pueblo for 14 years, is suing her former employer and Mayor Nick Gradisar for damages. She alleges that she was discriminated against and passed up for the city clerk job shortly after she filed complaints about another employee.
The Colorado Civil Rights Division said that Kimball "submitted sufficient evidence" to support her claims against the city of Pueblo and sent her a right to sue letter on June 27. Kimball's lawsuit was filed in district court on July 27.
The city's director of public affairs, Haley Sue Robinson, rejected Kimball's claims in a statement issued to Chieftain newspartner KRDO News Channel 13.
"The City of Pueblo normally has limited comment with regard to ongoing litigation matters, however the City denies Ms. Kimball's claims that it discriminated or retaliated against her during her employment with the City," Robinson told KRDO.
Prior to her resignation in July 2021, Kimball had worked as the deputy city clerk since October 2019. She had reported another employee in the clerk's office, who is not named in the lawsuit, for allegedly discriminating against non-white customers and coworkers multiple times between November 2019 and February 2021.
Although the employee is not identified in the lawsuit, a report filed with the Colorado Civil Rights Division identified him as Daryl Payne, KRDO reported.
Among the alleged incidents of discrimination mentioned in the lawsuit was an incident in August 2020, when Kimball claimed she was called back to work on her lunch break after Payne allegedly declined to help a customer of Asian descent.
The lawsuit says Kimball sent an email to Gradisar in February 2021 outlining "unlawful discrimination" and detailing her previous efforts to alert management of Payne's "discriminatory behavior."
A week later, Gradisar called Kimball to say that he did not think that the actions discussed in her message were "inappropriate" and that he did not take any action to address her concerns, the lawsuit claims.
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In the city's position statement in response to the CCRD investigation, the city said Stoller had "good leadership skills" and did not identify her "alleged qualifications," the lawsuit says.
A month after Kimball's phone call with Gradisar, the then-city clerk resigned. The city did not use a competitive hiring process to find her replacement, the lawsuit alleges, and appointed Marisa Stoller to the job.
Stoller, who had a job with Pueblo County as an economic development specialist, did not have the same qualifications and experience as Kimball, according to the court document. Kimball filed a charge of discrimination with the Colorado Civil Rights Division on April 29, 2021.
Kimball had to train Stoller for the job in April and May which was "incredibly offensive" and led to "significant stress and anxiety" that led Kimball to take a leave of absence of unspecified length, the suit claims.
She sought a demotion to a vacant position in the human resources department similar to the job she worked before being promoted to deputy city clerk, but the request was denied. The lawsuit alleges that co-workers told Kimball that Gradisar was frustrated about the CCRD report.
Kimball resigned on July 29, 2021, because "the work environment had become intolerable due to the continued discrimination and retaliation," the lawsuit says.
Anna Lynn Winfrey covers politics for the Pueblo Chieftain. She can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter, @annalynnfrey.
This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: Former employee suing city of Pueblo and mayor for alleged retaliation