Fired Parks director seeks settlement

Former Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation Director Angela Parker alleges that she was fired in violation of state whistle-blower protections and because of her race, and her attorney is asking the city of Pine Bluff to pay Parker $60,000 and preserve her city retirement benefits to avoid legal action.

In an Oct. 31 letter — a copy of which was obtained by The Commercial (Click here to read it in PDF format) — Parker’s attorney outlines her potential legal case as well as a settlement offer.

The letter is addressed to Parks & Recreation Commission Chairperson Kami Hunt and City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott, and states that the commission and the city are the two entities being targeted by Parker’s legal counsel.

“We believe … that Ms. Parker is the victim of unlawful retaliation in violation of the Arkansas Whistle-Blower Act…and wrongful termination based on Ms. Parker’s race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Little Rock attorney John D. Coulter says in the letter. “This letter is an effort to resolve these claims before Ms. Parker files a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or a lawsuit in state or federal court.”

Parker is white.

Hunt said Friday evening that the commission will discuss the issue and potential next steps during its Nov. 25 meeting.

“I tried to organize a special meeting to discuss this sooner but we couldn’t find a date that everyone could agree on,” Hunt said.

She said all of the commissioners have confirmed that they will attend the Nov. 25 meeting.

“Several of the commissioners have not been able to read the letter yet,” Hunt said. “So this meeting will be the first time a lot of us get to hear the whole situation.”

Coulter says in the letter that legal action can be averted if the commission and the city agree to several terms.

“She [Parker] will agree to execute a standard release of claims in exchange for the following from the city and the commission,” Coulter says. “(1) a lump sum payment to her in the amount of $60,000; (2) full protection and preservation of her retirement benefits; and (3) the right to start receiving retirement benefits on August 1, 2017. The lump sum payment represents approximately one year of Ms. Parker’s total compensation.”

Coulter attempted to make the case in the letter that it is a reasonable offer in part because of the difficulty Parker would have in finding employment in the same or a similar field in south central Arkansas.

Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth declined comment.