DiCamillo sues city of Belen over termination

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A former high-ranking city employee, who says he was wrongfully terminated, is suing the city of Belen and City Manager Mary Lucy Baca.

Albuquerque attorney E. Justin Pennington recently filed a lawsuit in the 13th District Court on behalf of Andrew DiCamillo, the city of Belen's former planning and zoning director, who was fired in June 2012.

The city terminated DiCamillo following a March 2012 argument with City Manger Mary Lucy Baca. Immediately after the argument, the city placed DiCamillo on administrative leave until he was officially terminated three months later.

DiCamillo alleges breach of contract and deprivation of property and liberty rights without due process of law.

The lawsuit claims that when the city fired DiCamillo, after five years of service, it violated the city's Merit System Plan. The plan outlines protocols for hiring, promoting and firing city employees.

Under the plan, department supervisors must give employees, who survive the probationary period, a written termination notice that specifies the reasons for termination.

But according to the lawsuit, the notice of intent to terminate DiCamillo received was vague and unspecified.

Once an employee is served with a notice of intent, the city must give the employee an opportunity to request a hearing to provide reasons why the person should remain in the job.

One of DiCamillo's chief complaints is that the city scheduled his hearing, contrary to the merit plan, without telling him, according to the suit. The plan calls for all parties to agree upon the time, place and date of the disciplinary hearing.

DiCamillo contends that when the city officials scheduled the hearing without his knowledge, they deprived him of an opportunity defend himself against the recommended termination.

In addition to violating the rules for a disciplinary hearing, the lawsuit alleges the city manager failed to provide DiCamillo with a written copy of the final decision within five days after the hearing. DiCamillo alleges he never had a chance to attend the hearing, which interfered with his ability to appeal the termination.

Last month, the city of Belen filed a notice of removal to have the case removed from the state's 13th Judicial District Court to the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico.

In court documents filed last month, the city's attorneys cite DiCamillo's claim that the city's violation of his 14th Amendment rights as the reason for the move.

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law to all persons, a protection the lawsuit said was violated when the city failed to follow proper protocols for terminating DiCamillo's employment.

Camillo and his attorney are asking the court to order the city of Belen to reinstate his employment and to award his client court cost, attorney fees and any other relief the court sees fit.

City officials declined to comment on a pending legal case.