Former recreation director Tom Beck suing city

 Former Augusta Recreation, Parks and Facilities Director Tom Beck is suing the city under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, claiming that commissioners fired him last spring for protecting an employee’s right to compensation while calling it “time card fraud.”

In a called meeting April 23 eight commissioners, acting upon the recommendation of City Administrator Fred Russell, voted to terminate Beck with cause for mislabeling an employee’s four days of compensatory time as time worked.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Richmond County Superior Court by attorney J. Michael Brown, claims the commission and Russell were retaliating against Beck for protecting former operations manager Melinda Pearson’s right to use accrued leave she had earned before going on extended family medical leave.

Beck acknowledged to commissioners that he had recorded the compensatory days off as days worked in accordance with “standard process for our department for years and years and years.” He said the practice likely developed because of the long workdays sometimes required of recreation managers.

Pearson was later demoted to an hourly position.

The only commissioner to vote against firing Beck, Grady Smith, said the circumstances did not warrant termination of such a longtime employee.

Beck is seeking reinstatement, lost wages and benefits as well as interest, attorney’s fees and damages, including punitive damages, of an unspecified amount. He had been employed with recreation since 1977 and last year received a 15 percent raise in conjunction with a reorganization of city departments that brought his salary to $100,000.

City officials said Monday that they were unaware of the suit’s filing.

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