Fired city clerk suing GR for $1 million

A file photo of Lauri Parks.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A former Grand Rapids city clerk has filed a $1 million lawsuit against the city.

Lauri Parks is suing the city and Mayor George Heartwell for $1 million, according to a federal court document.

The details of the suit haven’t yet been filed with the court, but a docket sheet shows Parks is representing herself and is suing for employment discrimination.

Federal court documents for the suit initially showed Parks was suing for $1 billion — a number either erroneously entered by Parks or her attorney. However, on Tuesday, that number was changed to the actual amount — $1 million. United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan clerk Tracey Cordes told 24 Hour News 8 it’s not unheard of for mistakes to be made on filings, and it happens from time to time. However, in this case, that mistake got a lot of public attention.

Parks — the granddaughter of the city’s only African-American mayor Lyman Parks — was fired in October 2013. City commissioners cited a number of complaints and poor job performance over a number of years. The city hired a private coach to help her, but officials said they didn’t see enough improvement.

“We’ve never done that for anyone else, any appointed city official at any point that I’m aware of in the history of this city. So I would like to say the city commission went out of it’s way to try to ensure that Lauri Parks would succeed as the city clerk,” Mayor Heartwell said in November 2013.

Parks was given two options: She could either leave and receive six months’ salary or take another job at the city that paid close to $80,000 per year, which was a step down from the $95,000-per-year city clerk position. She did not stay on with the city.

Supporters of Parks said at the time that her dismissal was discriminatory. The mayor denied that.

“At no time was Miss Parks’ race or gender a factor in the commission’s decision,” Heartwell said in November 2013.

The city commission appointed Darlene O’Neal to replace Parks as city clerk. She is also African-American.

The city’s statement, sent in an e-mail to 24 Hour News 8 also states the city has not received a lawsuit at this time, if it does, the city will have no comment as it will be considered pending litigation.

24 Hour News 8 was unable to reach Parks and Heartwell for comment Monday. However, Tuesday morning, Grand Rapids Communications Director Steven Guitar released the following statement:

“The City of Grand Rapids has not yet received a reported lawsuit filed by former City Clerk Lauri Parks. If it does, however, the City will have no comment on this matter of pending litigation. The City of Grand Rapids firmly believes that it did everything possible to ensure that Ms. Parks would succeed as the city clerk prior to the decision last year not to reappoint her to a new term of office. The City will review the suit when received and respond appropriately.”


***Editor’s note: Tuesday morning, court documents changed the requested amount in the lawsuit from $1 billion to $1 million. We have updated our story to reflect that change.

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