Pulaski’s former building inspector, who was terminated in April, has filed a Writ of Mandamus in Pulaski County Circuit Court seeking to force the town to reinstate him with full benefits.
Tom Compton, a 63-year-old, 27-year employee of the town, was terminated April 10, according to the writ. Richard J. Conrod Sr. of Conrod & Company Law Firm in Virginia Beach represents Compton.
The writ contends Compton was terminated in a letter of termination signed by Engineer Bill Pedigo without being given “a full opportunity to be heard on specific and relevant charges” before Pulaski Town Council. The filing “demands” Compton be given “an evidentiary hearing” before the council.
Compton contends in the writ that the termination places the town in violation of the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code because Compton was “replaced by someone (Fire Marshal Todd Garwood) who is not presently certified, and cannot be certified within the requisite one year” cited by Virginia certification standards. He further contends that Garwood will not be able to meet qualification requirements, which state:
“The building official shall have at least five years of building experience as a licensed professional engineer or architect, building, fire or trade inspector, contractor, housing inspector or superintendent of building, fire or trade construction or at least five years of building experience after obtaining a degree in architecture or engineering, with at least three in responsible charge of work. Any combination of education and experience that would confer equivalent knowledge and ability shall be deemed to satisfy this requirement.”
The qualifications go on to say that building officials “shall have general knowledge of sound engineering practice in respect to the design and construction of structures, the basic principles of fire prevention, the accepted requirements for means of egress and the installation of elevators and other service equipment necessary for the health, safety and general welfare of the occupants and the public.”
The writ emphasizes that building officials must have “at least five years” of building experience.
Compton also alleges the town violated the Virginia Administrative Code, Virginians with Disabilities Act and Americans with Disabilities Act by terminating his employment. He points out that he had a stroke April 7, 2012 that left him with “cognitive impairment” that “adversely affects his ability to learn, utilize and manage the ever changing computer technology.”
Compton contends co-workers were advised by superiors or supervisors not to assist him with the computers. He says the stroke rendered him a “person with disability,” thus protecting him from dismissal as a result of that disability. In fact, he contends the disability “requires his employer to make ‘reasonable accommodations’ for his disability, rather than to militate against ‘reasonable accommodations.’”
The writ contends town council has a legal obligation “to prevent and not participate in or facilitate any retaliation against” Compton. Nevertheless, it states, “Upon information and belief, an individual of considerable influence in Pulaski has been displeased with Tom Compton’s enforcement of the building maintenance code against that person’s interests” and “as a result of that displeasure events precipitated this action against” Compton.
“The clear intent of the (Virginia Administrative Code) is that a code compliance officer be free to do his duty without fear of manipulation, potential pressure or reprisal,” the writ adds.
As a result of his firing, the filing states that Compton lost his seniority, employee benefits and compensation. He states that he needs health insurance coverage until he is eligible for Medicare in two years, but the cost of a private policy is cost prohibitive for him and pre-existing medical conditions could prevent him from obtaining coverage.
Compton is seeking reinstatement to his former position and a declaration by the court that his termination was contrary to the authority of the town and its council. He also is asking the court to order that he retain his seniority, receive retroactive pay for the duration of his termination period, recover his court costs and recover any other relief the court may deem fit.
No hearing dates have been set for the case.