Burks seeks to add Winfield, individually, to lawsuit

Published 11:45 am Friday, April 13, 2012

Kenya Burks, the former chief of staff for Vicksburg Mayor Paul Winfield, has asked a federal court to add his name to her sexual harassment lawsuit against the city.

Adding Winfield’s name individually and in his official capacity as mayor, as an amended complaint states, furthers a claim that the first-term mayor violated Burks’ right to due process under federal civil rights and constitutional laws.

“Clearly, there will be no delay or injustice to the Defendants by allowing Plaintiff to amend his original Complaint,” reads a motion filed this week by Burks’ attorneys.

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In the amended suit, Burks, 38,continues to allege that she was subjected to a hostile work environment and retaliation because of a consensual sexual relationship with Winfield, 37. The sharper definition of “quid pro quo sexual harassment” was added to her list of allegations. It refers to the legal description of when job benefits such as pay raises or promotions are tied to an employee giving in to unwelcome sexual advances.

In a formal response March 14 to the suit Burks filed Feb. 1, the city argues her suit is without merit and she’s not entitled to any damages.

The city denied claims that Winfield became physically abusive after she tried to end the relationship and Burks’ claim that her position was eliminated because she did not initially accept $9,701.59 in back overtime pay. In a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Burks said the back pay amounted to a bribe.

Winfield has denied that he had sexual relations with Burks.

Meanwhile, the two sides are awaiting a decision from U.S. District Judge David Bramlette on whether three full years’ worth of Winfield’s personal cell phone records may be presented in the case. The city and Winfield, through his personal attorney and brother, Michael Winfield, have said the request is a “fishing expedition” and without merit because he was not mayor until July 2009. Burks has claimed the records could show Winfield had at least two extramarital affairs and show a pattern of adulterous behavior.

Burks was Winfield’s chief of staff from July 2009 until her position was eliminated April 18, 2011, on a 2-0 vote of the city board. Winfield abstained from the vote.

Gary Friedman of the Phelps Dunbar firm in Jackson represents the city. Louis H. Watson Jr., P.A., also of Jackson, represents Burks.