Youngstown pays $24K in legal fees for dismissed lawsuit

By David Skolnick


The board of control paid $24,069 to its insurance company to cover legal costs related to a dismissed lawsuit filed by a secretary claiming racial and disability discrimination by the city.

The lawsuit, filed in April 2011, was dismissed this past January by Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Debra J. Byrd, a secretary in the prosecutor’s office, has a year from the dismissal date to refile it if she chooses.

At Thursday’s meeting, the board approved the $24,069 payment to HCC Public Risk Claim Service Inc., the city’s liability insurance company.

As part of the city’s policy, it must pay the insurance company’s legal fees, said Law Director Anthony Farris, a board of control member. HCC hired Reminger, Attorneys at Law, with an office in Youngstown, to represent the city in the Byrd case, Farris said.

Byrd had contended in the dismissed lawsuit that the city wouldn’t accommodate her work schedule while she was being treated for cancer because she’s black.

She also contended the treatment was in retaliation for her support of Bassil Ally, who reached a settlement with the city in October 2011 in a federal religious- and ethnic-discrimination lawsuit. The settlement with Ally included a $110,000 lump-sum payment to him, a $4,000 annual pay raise and a promotion from assistant city prosecutor to senior prosecutor.

Ally, a Muslim, sued the city in May 2009 contending he was harassed by co-workers because of his faith and Middle Eastern descent.

The fallout from that settlement and a subsequent in-house investigation led to the city firing then-Prosecutor Jay Macejko and Bret Hartup, an assistant city prosecutor, in April 2012.

Among the evidence in the investigation was an April 2009 text message on Hartup’s cellphone that made derogatory references to President Barack Obama. Macejko insisted he never sent the text.

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