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Sonya Brooks and Karen Human didn’t go quietly when they got laid-off from the Roane County Ambulance Department in January 2011.
They showed up at the following month’s County Commission meeting, and Human had some strong comments about then ambulance director Gloria Wright.
Over a year later Brooks and Human are still sore with some people for losing their jobs.
The two are suing Wright, County Executive Ron Woody and Roane County Government in Circuit Court.
The ambulance department was facing a bleak financial future in January 2011, including a budget that projected it would have around $18,000 at the end of the fiscal year.
Brooks was the billing supervisor and Human was a billing clerk. Wright said she laid them off to try and help the ambulance department’s financial situation.
Brooks said the job loss was going to devastate her financially and she feared losing everything. According to court records, she later found employment at Jerry Duncan Ford making $15,000 a year after taxes. Human found work at Walgreens making $21,000 a year after taxes, according to court records.
Woody, who as county executive is ultimately responsible for what goes on in the ambulance department, said he supported Wright’s move to get rid of Human and Brooks.
“I said, ‘If you think this is the best thing we need to do, you write me a recommendation,’” Woody said in January of last year. “I accepted her recommendation.”
When Human spoke at the following month’s commission meeting, she described a hostile work environment.
“We had to endure countless secretive meetings that we did not know nothing,” she said. “Continual whispering about us, even heard conversations through the walls.”
Earlier this year Brooks and Human each filed a civil warrant against Roane County, Woody and Wright in General Sessions Court.
The warrants alleged “wrongful dismissal, loss of wages, court cost for $24,999, whistleblower and civil rights.”
Judge Jeff Wicks signed an agreed order in April transferring the case from Sessions Court to Circuit Court. The case is still pending, though Wright’s attorneys have asked that it be thrown out.
A few months after giving Human and Brooks their pink slips, Wright was demoted from her position as ambulance director. She declined the county’s offer to take a lesser position.
Woody said Wright’s departure was treated as a combination of termination and retirement.