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Cleburne commission agrees to settle lawsuit over hiring

Cleburne County Commission

Ryan Robertson, chairman of the Cleburne County Commission, speaks at a commission meeting on Monday.

HEFLIN — The Cleburne County Commission on Monday night to agreed to settle a federal racial discrimination lawsuit that its then-attorney had tried to warn members against more than two years ago.

The commission’s vote on a resolution agreeing to the settlement at Monday night’s meeting was unanimous. The county’s new attorney declined to disclose the amount of the settlement.

Candi Momon, a Heflin woman, sued the commission in 2018, alleging that she was not hired as the county’s human resource officer because she’s African American.

Cleburne County attorney Jason Odom read the resolution after a brief executive session; the resolution stated the county’s insurance carrier has successfully resolved the litigation between Momon and the commission.  

According to court documents, the parties had discussed a potential settlement in mediation on April 10. Attorneys told a judge in a filing on June 21that they’d reached an agreement, but that the agreement would require the commission to approve it in a vote. That vote took place Monday night.

           On March 20, 2017, the commission voted 3-1 to hire Lisa Milinkovich as its human resources officer. The commission had limited applications to those who already worked for the county, prompting then-county attorney Doug Ghee to caution commissioners that he could find no legal authority for setting that limitation.

“Another collateral problem that may open us up to a serious lawsuit is the fact that if we limited applications to internal only, we are excluding any minorities from being considered, really from even applying,” Ghee’s statement read. “This is because we have no minority person (i.e. black, Hispanic, Asian) on our internal workforce.”

Momon’s complaint stresses that the county did not employ any blacks at the time of the hiring, and the decision to limit consideration to only internal applicants guaranteed that only a white applicant could receive the position.

Odom said the settlement between the parties contained a provision requiring the strictest level of confidentiality and would not comment other than saying, “Glad it’s over.”

Kim Brown, Cleburne County’s chief financial administrator, declined to comment on the settlement. 

In other business the commission voted unanimously on the following items:

— Awarded a bid of $183,355 to Cowin Equipment for an asphalt distributor used for road maintenance. 

— To transfer ownership of a portable light tower to the Micaville Volunteer Fire Department. The light tower had previously belonged to the now-dissolved Cleburne Search and Rescue. The light tower had originally been procured by the Cleburne County EMA through an emergency preparation program. 

— Awarded Ingenuity Software the contract for the probate’s office motor vehicle tag, business licensing, probate case and real estate recording software. Probate Judge Ryan Robertson said the software will cost $40,000 per year for a contract lasting three years. If both parties are content after three years it can be reinstated. 

The commission also transferred property it owns to the Abernathy Volunteer Fire Department for a new fire department building.

Justin Johnson, Abernathy Fire Chief, said the fire department is using the old Plainview school which is old and “falling in.”

​Staff writer Bill Wilson: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @bwilson_star.