Walden sues Urbana over job

Walden sues Urbana over job

URBANA — Former city accounting supervisor Liz Walden is suing for her job back after she claims she was wrongfully terminated this summer in a controversial move by Mayor Laurel Prussing.

Walden's complaint was filed Thursday in Champaign County, alleging that her status as an at-will employee — one who is appointed annually at the pleasure of the mayor — was not lawful, and she is asking a judge to reinstate her as accounting supervisor with full backpay and benefits.

"As you can see, I am not suing for monetary damages, at this time," Walden said in an emailed statement. "I just want my job back free from political bullying by the mayor. I have no other comment."

Prussing said she is not able to comment on pending litigation against the city.

About 30 city employees must be reappointed annually by Prussing to stay in their jobs — among those are the police and fire chiefs, public works director, comptroller, other department heads and some lower-ranking employees. This summer, Prussing did not submit Walden's name for reappointment as accounting supervisor.

Citing an unblemished work record and her 24 years of experience, Walden publicly pleaded for her job in June. She said she had been given no reason for her dismissal.

In her complaint, Walden cites the political affiliations of herself and her husband, Bruce Walden, whom Prussing did not allow to return as the city's chief administrative officer in 2007. The Waldens are Republicans, according to Liz Walden's lawsuit, and Prussing is a Democrat.

Walden's complaint further alleges that former Comptroller Bill DeJarnette believed Walden was not being reappointed because she "had the wrong last name" and because Prussing believed Walden had been involved in the campaign of an opposing mayoral candidate.

During the same meeting Walden was not reappointed, DeJarnette resigned, citing a "toxic" work environment.

Prussing has the authority to reappoint or not reappoint those 30 at-will employees literally at her will. She is not required to cite any reason for dismissal.

Other city employees are covered by the city's civil service rules, which are overseen by the civil service commission. Walden will argue that her job was unlawfully classified as an appointed position — a move that eliminated certain employee protections provided in the civil service rules and made her subject to the mayor's will.