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Tuesday, July 29, 2014     Volume: 15, Issue: 20
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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on May 7th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 9 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 9

Ex-jail project manager sues county for alleged wrongful termination

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

Grady Williams—employed by Santa Barbara County for 11 years, and who filed a lawsuit against the county on March 29 for alleged wrongful termination­—will be reinstated to work under the General Services Department on May 12.

Williams was terminated from his position as program/business leader of the North County Jail project in July 2013. The stated reasons were twofold: He was placed under investigation for identifying himself as a professional engineer, and he was accused of lying during an internal investigation into the matter.

Though Williams does have a professional engineer’s license, it’s from the state of Washington, not California; therefore the county alleged Williams “knowingly and willfully” violated the business and professions code. Williams said he’s used the term “P.E.” during his tenure with the county because he was directed to do so by his superiors.

He appealed the termination decision to the Santa Barbara County Civil Services Commission, and, in November, the commission decided in his favor. The commission said Williams’ dismissal was unjustified and ordered the county to re-instate him to his position “with full back pay, benefits, and interest.”

The county has appealed that decision and asked for a stay of the commission’s decision as well, but has since withdrawn its request for a stay. Williams is suing the county because he believes he was fired because he has cancer.

“It certainly wasn’t because of the P.E. thing behind my title,” Williams said.

He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010, but didn’t notify the county of his condition until 2013. In the meantime, he went through treatments and worked on the jail project more than full time. He said he was notified that he was being investigated for misconduct after he requested “reasonable accommodations” for dealing with his cancer.

General Services Director Matthew Pontes said he was unable to comment on the issue because litigation is ongoing and the case is still open, but he did say that the jail project hasn’t skipped a beat since Williams’ termination and has met all its deadlines.

Pontes said general services was reinstating Williams to his position as program/business leader and just finished the recruitment process for hiring a permanent North County Jail project manager. Pontes wasn’t certain what Williams’ new position would entail.

“We’re defining the scope of all of his work right now,” Pontes said. “I look forward to everyone getting back to work.