Yarber, Council defending lawsuit

Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber

From staff reports

Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber
Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber

The City of Jackson and Mayor Tony Yarber will have separate counsel to address a sexual harassment federal lawsuit filed by Kimberly V. Bracey Aug. 25, against the defendants.

Bracey, the former executive assistant to the mayor who was hired April 24, 2014, has accused Yarber of sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and allowing a sexual hostile workplace. On Aug. 30, Yarber was absent from a special City Council meeting set to address the lawsuit. After back-and-forth questions from City Council members to James Anderson Jr., special assistant to the city attorney, the council members went into executive session to discuss the matter. Two hours later the council members came out of the session and revealed they would seek separate counsel on behalf of the city.

Yarber released a statement following the meeting saying, “This is now a legal matter. My private legal counsel will respond accordingly. I was unable to attend the meeting today as I had a conflict. We will continue to work with the Council on these and other issues. Indeed, now our focus is on crafting a budget and taking the necessary steps to keep Jackson on path to fiscal resiliency.”

In the lawsuit, Bracey alleges that she and Yarber had a consensual sexual relationship from May 2014 until July 2014 while she was separated from her husband. The lawsuit goes on to state that Bracey’s sexual relationship with Yarber ended in July 2014 when the plaintiff reconciled with her husband. Bracey claims Yarber forced her to continue the sexual relationship or face termination. According to the lawsuit, Yarber subjected Bracey to inappropriate sexual comments about other women. The suit also details campaign fundraisers for Yarber held in New Orleans and Atlanta. Bracey was required to attend in which strippers were present. The plaintiff alleges she chose to refuse further advances of harassment in April 2015. Bracey was terminated by Yarber April 27, 2015 for unauthorized use of city equipment for personal use, but the plaintiff believes she was actually terminated for refusing the alleged sexual advances from Yarber. In the lawsuit, Bracey claims that when she and Yarber had consensual relations, she lived with City Attorney Monica Joiner. Bracey claims Joiner was pursuing a sexual relationship with Yarber at the time. On Aug. 30, Joiner was also absent from the City Council meeting. She reportedly was attending a city bond closing. During the meeting, Ward 4 Council Member De’Keither Stamps said, “I think it’s a slap in the face for their presence not to be here.” In the city’s initial response last week of the lawsuit, a statement from Sheila Byrd, director of communications, called the suit “a vicious and scandalous lawsuit filed by a former disgruntled employee.”

Bracey is seeking reinstatement or future wages in lieu of reinstatement, back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney fees, costs and expenses and any other relief to which she may be properly entitled. Bracey’s attorneys are Louis H. Watson Jr. and Nick Norris.

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