Hispanic woman alleges city has 'long-standing' pattern of bias

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MIKE GIFFORD
  • Mike Gifford
You probably remember that Terri Velasquez, the city's chief financial officer, was summarily canned by Chief of Staff Steve Cox in 2011 and in April 2013 collected $250,000 from the taxpayers to settle her case.

Velasquez alleged she was discriminated against because she called attention to what she believed was inappropriate behavior regarding the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights as well as Cox and another firefighter getting paid more than they had coming and keeping the money, until confronted with it. Cox did repay the money.

That case has given rise to another discrimination case filed last May by Candace Zamora Bridgers against the city, Velasquez's successor CFO Kara Skinner and city HR director Mike Sullivan.

Bridgers, a CPA who began working at the city in 1998 and rose to revenue and collections manager, says in her federal lawsuit that things went sour after she gave testimony during an investigation into Velasquez's case in which she vouched for the ill treatment of Velasquez, her boss at the time. She alleges:
Following the removal of Terri Velasquez as head of the Department of Finance, Ms. Candice Zamora Bridgers was illegally targeted as set forth above in this Complaint and terminated from employment on November 15, 2012, effective December 16, 2012. At the time of her termination, job duties had been stripped from Ms. Zamora Bridgers and she held the position of Accounting Manager, which was a demotion.
Bridgers says she filed a discrimination complaint and then was retaliated against. From her EEOC complaint filed in June 2013: "Although I was next in line [after Velasquez was fired] for the Chief Financial Officer position, my employer selected a less qualified non-CPA White female ... Kara Skinner."

Among the abuses, she says, is Skinner required her to change her work hours, "went out of her way to find fault" in her work and demanded that she copy Skinner on all her emails. Others were not held to the same standard, she said.

From the lawsuit: 
In July 8, 2012, Ms. Skinner went to Ms. Zamora Bridgers’ office, closed the door and became verbally abusive to her, speaking loudly and angrily toward her. This situation was not provoked or caused by Ms. Zamora Bridgers.

45. On July 20, 2012, Ms. Skinner made the statement to Ms. Zamora Bridgers that Ms. Zamora Bridgers was not selected or chosen to manage the financial department because she was too tightly aligned with someone who is suing the City or bringing claims against the City. This comment was related to claims made by Ms. Terri Velasquez.
In October 2012, Bridgers filed a claim of discrimination and then was placed on a performance improvement plan for 60 days, but the city fired her before the 60 days elapsed, she alleges.

In another court pleading, Bridgers alleges "the City of Colorado Springs has a long standing discriminatory pattern directed against Hispanics that denies Hispanics advancement opportunities once they hit a glass ceiling." The city, she claims, shows favoritism to "traditional white employees."

The case is in discovery, where statements from potential witnesses are taken and evidence lined up, in preparation for hearings scheduled for early next year.

The city, in a motion filed a week ago by an actual assistant city attorney rather than an outside consulting attorney, seeks to have the case dismissed, arguing as follows, in part:
Because Plaintiff did not file suit until May 27, 2014, any factual allegations in the complaint that Plaintiff was aware of before May 27, 2012 are time-barred for purposes of § 1983 and must be dismissed. This includes the following: (1) Ms. Bridgers being informed that the City was looking to eliminate her position in July 2011 (Doc. 1 at 3 ¶ 5); (2) In August 2011 Ms. Bridgers was told she was not loyal to the City and threatened with termination (Doc. 1 at 3 ¶ 7); and (3) Ms. Bridgers being compelled to transfer to the Auditors’ Office in August 2011 (Doc. 1 at 3 ¶ 8). Because Plaintiff was aware of these actions before May 27, 2012, she is time barred from raising them in this suit. As such, this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and should dismiss these allegations.
We're attaching a sampling of the pleadings that are cited here for anyone who wishes to read the documents.

See related PDF BridgersComplaint.pdf
See related PDF BridgersEEOC.pdf See related PDF BridgersCityDismiss.pdf See related PDF BridgersStatus.pdf
Velasquez now is a top ranking financial official for the city of Aurora, while Bridgers, who made $110,000 when she was fired from the city, is working at Colorado State University-Pueblo with an annual salary of $72,000.

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