Fired employee files EEOC charge against Sorrento

Wade McIntyre

Members of the Town Council and Mayor Blake LeBlanc went into an executive session during a special meeting called Monday to discuss the firing of maintenance worker Cornelius Morris and his filing of a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Absent from the session were Sorrento Town Attorney Erin Lanoux. Morris or his attorney, and Councilman Lionel Melancon.

After emerging from the meeting, Melancon said the matter would be deferred to the next council meeting July 6.

Melancon fired Morris, a town employee since January 2003, for insubordination, according to a Louisiana Workforce Commission separation notice by the Town claiming Morris’ disqualification for unemployment benefits.

In a letter to LeBlanc obtained by The Weekly Citizen, Morris on Feb. 23 requested a meeting of the mayor, council, town attorney and police chief with he and the Ascension Parish NAACP.

In another letter to town attorney Lanoux, Morris’s attorney Charles L. Dirks III claimed “that public records are being removed from Sorrento Town Hall.”

Dirks advised Lanoux that if any public records, including phone records were removed, the EEOC could view the removals as an attempt by the Town to obstruct justice.

Mentioned in the letter were all records for the Town and Chief of Police Earl Theriot, all personnel files for all employees, all checks written on Town accounts, all applications for employment for any openings or positions, and any official postings or advertisements by the Town seeking applications for employment.

“I am putting your client on notice, through you, that many of the public and non-public records in the Town’s possession will be evidence in the EEOC proceedings,” Dirks wrote in the letter to Lanoux.

In response to Morris’s charge, LeBlanc filed an affidavit with the EEOC on June 11. He said Morris brought a third party vendor to the Town sewer ponds without permission to do so, claimed that Morris had relieved another maintenance employee of his duties for three consecutive days due to rain, and said Morris had not cut the grass after being told to do so as part of regular duties.

LeBlanc also described a “legal or ethical” issue he had with Morris over the purchase of sewer man-hole covers for the town.