HEFLIN — A Heflin woman has sued the Cleburne County Commission, alleging racial discrimination kept her from being hired last year as its human resources officer.
The events that led to a different person being hired have been critically questioned by the county’s former attorney and its current county commission chairman.
In her lawsuit, Candi Moman alleges she was not hired for the position because she’s African American.
That hiring process commenced in July 2016 when the county began accepting applications for the position of human resource officer. There were 13 applicants and seven were interviewed, according to the suit.
Then-county Administrator Steve Swafford said the applications would be scored and the highest cumulative score would be recommended for the position. That score turned out to be Moman’s, and Swafford nominated her for the position at the commission meeting on Oct. 11, 2016.
During that meeting, Commissioner Bobby Brooks made a motion to hire Momon but the motion failed for lack of a second. The commissioners then voted 3-1 to hire Kim Brown as interim human resource officer instead, until they could find a permanent one. Brooks was the lone no vote to transfer the responsibilities to Brown.
On March 20, 2017, the commission voted 3-1 to hire Lisa Milinkovich as the permanent human resources officer. The commission 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 African-Americans at the time of the hiring, and the decision to limit consideration to only internal applicants guaranteed that only a white applicant would receive the position.
Attempts to reach Momon and her attorney this week were unsuccessful.
In a written statement Monday, Robertson took note of the three commissioners who skipped Momon’s interview — Emmett Owen, Terry Hendrix and Laura Cobb — and said they’d prevented her from being hired even though she was the top applicant for the job according to the county’s established procedure. He also noted that they’d done so against Ghee’s warning.
“I think the way this process was manipulated by those in power was not only unfair to Ms. Momon but also to county residents,” Robertson wrote. Only he and Brooks attended Moman’s interview.
Asked to comment on the case this week, Owen directed questions to current county attorney Jason Odom, Ghee’s replacement as county attorney.
Odom said Tuesday the county’s insurance firm has hired a Huntsville law firm to handle the case.
“They’re proceeding with getting an answer filed and defending the suit,” Odom said.