Ex-city planner files discrimination claim

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Former City Planner Andrew Smith has filed a complaint against the City of Natchez for racial discrimination, City Attorney Everett Sanders said Monday.

Mayor Phillip West fired Smith in June after he said he received complaints about Smith&8217;s job performance from co-workers and the public.

Smith filed his complaint through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission a little over a month ago, West said.

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Attorney Sanders said the complaint alleges Smith&8217;s firing involved racial discrimination.

&8220;The City of Natchez doesn&8217;t discriminate,&8221; Sanders said. &8220;We don&8217;t feel that his claim that he was dismissed on the basis of race has any merit.&8221;

West said the allegations are simply not true.

&8220;It&8217;s a frivolous charge, that was my initial reaction,&8221; West said. &8220;I&8217;m a black mayor, and I&8217;m the one who fired him. He&8217;s trying to give the public the impression he was somehow done wrong.&8221;

Smith is also black.

The city is in the process of filing a response, Sanders said, which is part of the EEOC&8217;s investigation. If they find in favor of Smith, it could give him backing in court.

&8220;I think the reason he&8217;s going through that process is he doesn&8217;t have to pay any money to get someone to investigate it for him,&8221; West said.

West said he had no regrets about firing Smith.

&8220;In order to work for the City of Natchez under me, you must have a certain amount of integrity and ability to work with people,&8221; he said.

Smith could not be reached for comment Monday.

The board of aldermen and mayor are looking at potential candidates to fill the job of city planner.

They finished the interview process and have narrowed the selection down to three candidates, West said.

&8220;Before the week ends, we&8217;ll get together and talk about it and see what the next step should be,&8221; West said.