City of Mount Pleasant sued by former City Manager
On July 23, former City Manager Michael Ahrens filed a class action lawsuit against the City of Mount Pleasant, alleging that his termination in June 2019 was conducted without legitimate, non-discriminatory reason and was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The lawsuit states that on June 19, 2019, Ahrens informed City Council members via email of his recent cancer diagnosis and that his condition would require months of treatment and possible surgical procedures. On June 26, Mayor Tracy Craig informed Ahrens that he had been asked by several Council members to place an executive session on the July 2 Council agenda to discuss Ahrens’s employment with the city, the suit alleges. At the conclusion of this executive session, there was to be an action item to consider Ahrens’s employment contract.
On July 2, Council members voted 3-2 to terminate Ahrens’s contract. “The City of Mount Pleasant terminated Plaintiff from the position of City Manager because of his actual or perceived disability in violation of the ADA,” the lawsuit states. According to the ADA, from the moment of Ahrens’s cancer diagnosis, he was considered an individual with a disability. The ADA’s definition of a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Ahrens maintains that he was “regarded by the City of Mount Pleasant as having such an impairment.”
The lawsuit asserts that Ahrens is a “qualified individual with a disability,” meaning that with reasonable accommodation, he can perform the essential functions of City Manager. “The unlawful employment practices described above were intentional and were committed with malice or with reckless indifference to the federally protected civil rights of Plaintiff,” the suit states.
Ahrens states his dismissal from employment with the City of Mount Pleasant has caused and will continue to cause significant damage to his wellbeing, both monetary and mental. The suit declares that Ahrens has suffered “pecuniary losses, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-pecuniary losses,” as well as extreme emotional distress and public humiliation due to the actions of the City Council.
Ahrens is seeking judgement against the City of Mount Pleasant for “actual damages, including lost wages and benefits (both back pay and front pay), in amount to be determined.” Ahrens also requests compensatory damages, pre-judgement and post-judgement interest at the maximum legal amount, costs of the suit, including attorney’s fees, and the award of further relief, including injunctive relief and reinstatement.
The trial will be held in the United States District Court, and Ahrens has demanded a jury. The Tribune attempted to reach Ahrens’s attorney, William Hommel, for comment but was unable to make contact.