The former assistant director of labor relations for Delaware County filed a lawsuit against the county in February claiming he was abruptly and wrongly fired after he investigated allegations that the county’s purchasing director harassed and bullied one of her employees. The complaint also alleges that a third and current employee, whose investigations supported the person making the original allegations against his supervisor, was simultaneously demoted without explanation.
Despite the fact the lawsuit claims three persons were ultimately wronged by the county’s managers, it is only filed by a single plaintiff, Hector Figueroa, who previously served as the county’s assistant director of labor relations at the time of his dismissal in August.
A spokeswoman for the county said the allegations were “without merit” and signaled the county was ready to fight the matter in court rather than settle.
The core matter began with Franklin Fitzgerald, a purchasing agent, who, according to the complaint, claimed he was being harassed and bullied by his supervisor, Lisa Jackson, the county’s purchasing director.
In Figueroa’s telling, Jackson “discriminated” against Fitzgerald “on account of his gender.”
The filing goes on to describe a number of minor investigations into Fitzgerald’s claims, investigations that brought a number of other high-level officials into the scene, like then-Chief Personnel Officer Jamal Johnson.
Figueroa’s complaint says he and Johnson conducted interviews with several other county employees who witnessed interactions between Jackson and Fitzgerald, resulting in Johnson authoring a damning email of the findings.
“Given the responses to the interviews, Franklin Fitzgerald’s account is substantiated — Lisa Jackson’s account is entirely unsubstantiated. Furthermore, the accounts we have about the behavior of Director Jackson are not only alarming, they easily meet the threshold of ‘workplace bullying and retaliation,’” the email by Johnson purportedly said.
That email was only transcribed into the complaint and was not attached as an exhibit to the court filing.
Johnson suggested Jackson be placed on administrative leave for a further investigation, but Figueroa says those findings and recommendations only upset Deputy Director Marc Woolley.
The conflict came to a head on Aug. 23, 2022. According to the complaint, that’s when Woolley fired Figueroa and demoted Johnson.
The account does not specify when or how Fitzgerald separated from the county. Payroll records obtained previously by Broad + Liberty show that of Fitzgerald’s total earnings in 2022, nearly 80 percent of those earnings had already been claimed by the end of July, suggesting Fitzgerald did not last much longer.
Payroll records support the notion, but are not conclusive, that Johnson was demoted. His total earnings for 2022 showed a steep drop after the end of July.
Calls to Figueroa’s lawyer, Noah Cohen of the law firm Weir Greenblatt Pierce, LLP, were not returned. Broad + Liberty was unable to locate contact information for Fitzgerald.
As is always the case with legal complaints, the narrative only tells one side of the story, and is intended to win more than to be fair. Additionally, the county has not yet told its side of the story in the legal reply.
The county declined to answer specific questions about many of the individuals involved in the case, but spokeswoman Adrienne Marofsky said by email, “The County believes the claims in the lawsuit are without merit, and will be vigorously defending the matter in court.”
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use his encrypted email at email@example.com. @shepherdreports