BURLINGTON, Vt. – Former Burlington International Airport Director Gene Richards is suing the city, claiming he was denied access to documents that detailed the allegations that led to his termination last month.
In a 10-1 vote, City Council fired Richards on Sept. 10 after an independent investigation found that he allegedly verbally abused airport employees. The investigation also found that Richards used the airport’s gas facility to fill up his personal car nearly 60 times.
The lawsuit claims that one week before Richards was fired, his attorney Rich Cassidy submitted a public records request for a full and unredacted copy of a confidential investigation memo. It never came.
Cassidy argues in the suit that because Richards was never given access, he wasn’t able to defend himself properly in the hearing.
“Richards did so to the best of his ability, but, lacking knowledge of the specific allegations, could only assert that he was sorry if his conduct had been offensive to some employees,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit claims that, before he was fired, Richards had a tense meeting in Mayor Miro Weinbergers’ backyard in which the mayor told Richards he was hurting “the party” and “the administration”, promising to “embarrass” and “ruin” him if he didn’t resign.
Weinberger did not respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit argues Richards should either get his old job back or a proper post-termination due process hearing, along with damages for lost income and attorneys fees.
A statement sent by Samantha Sheehan, Communications Coordinator for the Office of Mayor Miro Weinberger, is below:
“The City is aware of the filing by Mr. Richards but has not been served or asked to waive the service of process requirement. The City disputes the substance and supporting statements of the appeal and at the appropriate time and manner will reply through counsel.
The Mayor stands by his decision to seek termination, which was considered and delivered by the City Council. This most recent action by Mr. Richards further confirms that he believes himself to be above accountability and immune to the consequences of his behavior. It marks his apology to the public as hollow.”
A request for comment was sent to Gene Richards and Attorney Rich Cassidy for this story, but neither were available.