City employee files lawsuit, loses job

A city employee filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the city of Gainesville in federal court on Jan. 3 and her position was eliminated nine days later.

Diane Wilson, who had served as assistant finance director, filed suit in the Northern District of Florida this month claiming former City Manager Lee Feldman discriminated against her on the basis of gender during a 2020 reorganization of city staff.

Wilson’s job was eliminated last week during the latest round of city staff reorganization under interim City Manager Cynthia Curry. Curry took over as interim city manager in November, following Feldman’s resignation.

According to the Gainesville Sun, Wilson was informed of the elimination of her position in a memo from current Finance Director Cintya Ramos on Jan. 12.

At the time of the 2020 reorganization, Wilson was the interim finance director. She filed an internal complaint against Feldman, saying he treated female staff differently.

According to the complaint, Feldman directly hired another department’s interim director, who was male, into a permanent position, but made Wilson go through a competitive hiring process.

Ramos, who was an outside candidate at the time, was given the finance director’s job over Wilson. A hiring committee had scored the two women very closely, with Ramos having a slight edge.

An outside law firm investigated Wilson’s complaint along with another complaint against Feldman.

The outside firm said it did not find evidence of gender bias against Wilson, but it did find enough evidence to support that Feldman retaliated against Wilson for filing the internal complaint in choosing to hire Ramos over her.

Despite the outside firm recommending the city commission fire Feldman, the commission voted 4-3 to keep him in November 2020. Feldman submitted his resignation in 2021, which was a year marked with turmoil and turnover, including the resignation of Commissioner Gail Johnson.

In her lawsuit, Wilson is claiming loss of wages, employee benefits and job opportunities as well as damages from mental anguish, embarrassment and humiliation.

She is asking for lost pay, damages and attorneys’ fees. Her lawsuit has not been amended to reflect that her position was eliminated.

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