Attorney speaks on lawsuit surrounding Pullen's resignation

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by Adam Walser

WHAS11.com

Posted on September 4, 2012 at 6:15 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 5 at 7:14 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- An abrupt resignation from the director of Metro Louisville's Public Works department is uncovering new problems in an already troubled department.
 
Our I-Team has been reporting on issues involving the department for the past several months but a lawsuit filed by a subordinate may have been the final straw for the embattled director.
 
“We look at this as a textbook case of gender discrimination,” said attorney Nick Nasier.
 
Naiser says his client, Paula Wahl, was repeatedly passed over for more than 18 months for the County Engineer position...all because she is a woman.
 
“They did not want her to be the full County Engineer. They did not want her to receive the same pay and benefits as previous male county engineers,” said Naiser.
 
In the lawsuit filed last week, Wahl says Public Works Director Ted Pullen, who was in charge of appointing the position, "Has a history of gender based discrimination and harassment and is currently being investigated by the equal employment opportunity commission.”
 
Pullen resigned late Friday afternoon, two days after the latest suit was filed.
 
Last November, we reported on ongoing issues at Public Works.
 
“If you were not in the good ol' boy system, you were gone,” said former employee Greg Kent at that time.
 
Included in the report were complaints by former employees, who alleged racism, sexism and nepotism within the department.
 
“They are continually hiring their own, their friends,” said another former Public Works employee.
 
Last year, Mayor Greg Fischer to conducted an audit, which uncovered 95 problems within the department.
 
The biggest of those was safety.
 
Two employees were killed on the job during Pullen's tenure.
 
Worker's comp claims at Metro Public Works were up to 600 percent the industry average.
 
“Any fatality is too many, but what we really need to focus on are those day to day.. Someone hurts a hand, somebody strains a back,” Pullen said shortly after the report was released in July of 2011.
 
Butch Konermann was run over by his own tow truck less than six weeks after Pullen announced a renewed focus on safety.
 
An investigative report indicated the truck "never should have been on the road", due to a lack of maintenance by the Public Works department.
 
“They've got third world safety procedures going on,” said Butch’s brother Paul Konermann.
 
Pullen gave no reason for his abrupt resignation.
 
We were unable to reach him today, and didn't hear back from the Public Works Department Spokesperson.
 
Attorney Naiser says his client is glad Pullen is gone, and hopes the lawsuit will help bring about positive change at the department.
 
“She'd like to see a culture change. Something where it's appropriate for women to be appointed and promoted as they should be and not discriminated against on the basis on gender,” Naiser said.
 
Mayor Fischer's spokesperson Chris Poynter would not comment on Pullen's resignation except to say that former codes and regulations director Bill Schreck has agreed to serve in the position for the next three months while a  search is conducted for Pullen's replacement.

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