GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The lawsuit filed by former Grand Rapids City Clerk Lauri Parks isn’t the blockbuster it appeared to be in the beginning.
Officials with the U.S. District Court clerk’s office told 24 Hour News 8 either Parks or her lawyer mistakenly added too many zeros to the damage claim when initially filing the suit, and the $1 billion lawsuit is now a $1 million lawsuit.
As for the players, Parks isn’t talking, the city isn’t talking, and neither is Mayor George Heartwell, who has been named a defendant.
“On matters of pending litigation, I don’t have any comment. ” Heartwell said following a city commission committee meeting Tuesday.
Court records obtained by 24 Hour News 8 provide insight into why Parks is suing the city after commissioners fired her in 2013.
Parks says her civil rights were violated.
The nine-page filing with the U.S. District Court outlines her accomplishments as city clerk, including increasing voter registration, improving service at the clerk’s office and diversifying her staff.
“Defendant City of Grand Rapids, through its agents, representatives and employees, treated (the) plaintiff differently from similarly situated non-minority employees in the terms and conditions of employment, based on unlawful consideration of race,” wrote Parks’ attorney in the court filing.
Parks is also claiming she was the victim of gender discrimination, saying that if she was a white man, she’d still be city clerk.
She was fired after receiving multiple poor performance reviews and before she was let go, the city hired a private coach to help her improve.
However, her reviews continued to show unsatisfactory performance.
“Too little progress has occurred to address concerns to justify reappointment,” wrote Second Ward Commissioner Ruth Kelly during an October 2013 review.
“Unfortunately, she’s over her head,” wrote then Third Ward Commissioner James White during that same review.
Parks’ only supporter on the commission at the time was Third Ward Commissioner Elias Lumpkins.
“Earlier in the year, we agreed to a process that I thought was fair, however, there were no concrete details as to what improvements were needed,” Lumpkins wrote.
Parks was fired on a six-to-one vote.
The granddaughter of Grand Rapids’ first and only black mayor, Lyman Parks, Lauri Parks was named to the job in March 2008. There were questions raised about her appointment early on.
The vote by the city commission to appoint Parks was not unanimous, and some on the panel questioned Parks’ lack of experience.
Six years later, the city is facing a civil rights lawsuit that could cost taxpayers $1 million.
Heartwell was among those supporting the appointment. Tuesday, 24 Hour News 8 asked him if he had any regrets about that support.
“I’m not going to go anywhere with respect to anything that might be used in the lawsuit,” he said.
A number of phone calls and visits to Parks Grand Rapids home also went unanswered.