A former city employee has filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit against Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and businesswoman Joy Rohadfox, claiming they conspired to have him fired after he complained of improper use of city equipment and a conflict of interest by one of Rohadfox’s employees.
That employee, Sharon Rohadfox, is a sister-in-law to Joy Rohadfox — CEO of Rohadfox Construction Control Services Corporation — and is a former employee with the Atlanta Department of Watershed Management.
After Rohadfox resigned from her position with Watershed in July 2012, she was retained through September as a part-time city employee to continue her work procuring the extension of a sanitary sewer federal consent decree.
To that end, she maintained use of a city computer, phone and email, officials said.
Jomo “Joe” Reynolds, who filed the federal lawsuit last week, says that is a conflict of interest. City officials say the arrangement is legal.
The city has yet to receive the lawsuit.
“Mr. Reynolds’ lawsuit has no merit whatsoever. If and when he decides to serve the complaint, the City of Atlanta will vigorously fight these baseless claims,” said spokeswoman Sonji Jacobs in a written statement.
Reynolds was hired in September 2012 by the water department and within weeks of employment became concerned about Sharon Rohadfox’s work with the city, according to the lawsuit. Because she had access to the city’s email server and databases, Reynolds believes Rohadfox Construction had a competitive advantage over other vendors, according to the suit.
Rohadfox Construction is part of joint venture known as BGR, comprised of five firms providing architectural and engineering services for the city. The group has collectively been awarded more than $6.5 million in task orders since earning the contract under former mayor Shirley Franklin, according to city officials, though it’s unclear what portion went specifically to Rohadfox.
After complaining to the human resources department about Sharon Rohadfox’s employment and use of equipment, Reynolds was fired, according to the suit, which also names Human Resources Commissioner Yvonne Yancy as a defendant.
The suit contends Reed called for his firing at Joy Rohadfox’s request, an accusation both the mayor’s office and her attorney deny.
“To the best of my knowledge, everything my client did and her sister-in-law did was ethical and above board,” said Darryl Cohen, who represents Joy Rohadfox. “It was not hidden from anyone. There were no backdoor politics.”
Sharon Rohadfox could not be reached for comment. And Reynolds, who worked for Rohadfox Construction prior to joining Watershed Management, referred comment to his attorneys.
“From our perspective, he was recruited over a six-month period of time, and within 28 days, he was fired for no reason other than saying something (about Rohadfox’s work),” said Reynolds’ attorney Joseph Conoscienti.
City officials have yet to offer a reason for his client’s firing, Conoscienti added: “There’s nothing they have ever divulged or revealed to us or him.”
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Staff writer Ernie Suggs contributed to this article.