The town of Chapel Hill fired former sanitation workers Kerry Bigelow and Clyde Clark , who are also known as the Sanitation 2, in October 2010. The town said it received complaints from residents about threatening behavior and unsatisfactory job performances from the two employees beginning in July 2010.
During a press conference last week, Alan McSurely , the attorney representing the Bigelow and Clark, said the town left biased information posted on its website for more than a year.
The town began posting all related documents to the case on its website after a state law mandated municipalities provide written, public notification outlining the basis for terminating an employee.
“What the town has done is to pollute the jury pool,” McSurely said.
Bigelow said he would prefer to settle with the town, but he will go to court if it is necessary.
“We want Chapel Hill to do the right thing,” Bigelow said. “We want them to reinstate us, compensate us for the pain and suffering and also for the legal fees that we’ve had to pay our lawyers.”
In May 2010 , Chapel Hill hired Capital Associated Industries , a nonprofit employers association, to conduct the investigation into the allegations regarding Bigelow and Clark. At first, Chapel Hill placed Bigelow and Clark on administrative leave, and they were fired in October 2010 .
“We were working,” Bigelow said. “We were challenging the system. We were writing grievances. We talked to the mayor. I mean, we were doing everything properly and correctly. And they just — they fired us.”
Dan Hartzog Jr. , an attorney at Cranfill, Sumner & Hartzog LLP, represents the town in the trial. Hartzog refused to comment prior to the press conference last week.
“Ethics rules prevent me from commenting on the case,” Hartzog said.
Hartzog could not be reached for comment this weekend.
In May 2013 , the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Bigelow and Clark have a viable wrongful discharge claim against the town. The N.C. Supreme Court refused to further hear the case in September .
Now, the case sits in a new discovery phase. The Chapel Hill/Carrboro chapter of the NAACP, which has worked on behalf of Bigelow and Clark throughout the trial, has requested new documents from the town as the group tries to build a better case for wrongful termination .
The case could set a precedent making it more difficult for circuit courts to dismiss claims about constitutional rights in the early stages of litigation, said Trey Allen, a UNC professor of public law and government .
Assistant city editor Holly West contributed reporting.