By Josh Brokaw
Attorneys for Karen Baer, the suspended director of Tompkins County’s OFfice of Human Rights, filed suit against Tompkins County last week.
The suit, filed under New York’s Article 78 law that provides a method to challenge the decisions of governmental bodies, asks a judge to declare the Tompkins County Legislature’s decision to suspend Baer in October 2017 null and void.
Baer’s complaint, reproduced below, claims the Tompkins County Legislature’s executive session on October 3, 2017, where legislators voted 14-0 to suspend Baer, a “deliberate violation” of New York’s Open Meetings Law.
“[T]he evidence presented during the three-day hearing revealed that the County has engaged in a systemic effort to hide its treatment of Ms. Baer from public scrutiny and criticism,” the suit reads. The judge should overturn the Legislature’s action of suspending Baer because their action of October 3 was a violation of law, the suit states.
Baer’s attorneys have made a request the court delay any hearing until a date no earlier than June, so that if they if the county legislature does decide to finally terminate Baer, they can consolidate the cases. Tompkins County’s attorney in this case, John McCann, has requested that the judge deny the request for a delay.
The officer who heard the case, Murry Solomon, will make a recommendation to the Tompkins County Legislature’s members about whether they should follow through on terminating Baer.
In an opinion piece published on February 8, members of a new group called ACTION (Activists Committed to Interrupting Oppression Now) urged the county legislature to dismiss the charges against Baer and reinstate her as director of the Office of Human Rights. Currently, county attorney Jonathan Wood is the acting director of the Office of Human Rights;’ Dr. Rev. Kenneth Clarke is serving as a special advisor to the office.
Update, February 9: Your reporter originally wrote “Currently, an interim director, Dr. Rev. Kenneth Clarke, is heading the office [of human rights]” in the last sentence of this story. That has since been corrected.
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TruthSayers reporter/founder Josh Brokaw has spent at least 30 hours so far requesting and reviewing documents, attending hearings, and writing stories on the Karen Baer case. TruthSayers has no advertisers, no grant funding, no golden goose funding sources. Someday, we aspire to pay our reporters at least minimum wage, like all the corporate outlets. Today, you can pay Brokaw part of that minimum wage.
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Featured Photograph: Karen Baer, left, addresses the Tompkins County Legislature in October 2017 while Lansing legislator Mike Sigler looks on. Josh Brokaw/TruthSayers