The fired director of the York City Human Relations Commission has filed a civil suit against the agency's acting chairman, alleging a series of Sunshine Act violations she says began the day she was placed on paid administrative leave.
Stephanie Seaton is asking a York County judge to nullify decisions made during meetings she claims did not comply with the law's requirements.
The complaint, filed March 8, names Ralph Serpe as the defendant.
Serpe said Wednesday morning the complaint was "an attempt to intimidate the volunteer committee members and prevent them from voting to terminate her."
"The commission has always followed the rules of the Sunshine Act in its committee and public meetings, in all of its meeting," he said. "The commission did not violate the Sunshine Act. We have followed legal counsel's advice through this entire process."
He said Seaton filed the suit because she didn't want to be fired, though she had previously admitted her reports were "inaccurate and misrepresented."
The commission couldn't make good decisions based on bad information, so Seaton was fired, he said.
Serpe said it's time for the commission to move past the emphasis on internal workings and focus on its goal to end discrimination.
The board: Serpe is officially the commission's secretary/treasurer, but he has acted as its chairman since former chairwoman Dolores Abreu resigned in December. The commission is a quasi-independent city department with volunteer supervisors and paid staff authorized to investigate allegations of discrimination in the city.
Seaton was the commission's executive director until Monday, when five commissioners voted to fire her.
Her allegations begin with a Nov. 19 meeting, the day she was placed on paid administrative leave following a closed-door executive session called to discuss personnel issues.
When the meeting resumed in public session, Seaton alleges, Serpe said the commission had voted unanimously to place her on administrative leave. Then, he adjourned the meeting.
That, Seaton claims, violates a section of the Sunshine Act that requires all votes to be cast in public.
Seaton is also alleging the commission has used its committee structure to deliberate and decide official business outside of public view and has failed to maintain accurate and up-to-date minutes since Nov. 8.
She is asking a judge to issue a declaratory judgment that Serpe "has engaged in a pattern to obviate the requirements of the Sunshine Act," levy appropriate fines and direct the commission to conduct future meetings according to the law.
-- Staff writer Christina Kauffman contributed to this report. Erin James may also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.