Burks seeks $1.5 million in suit against mayor, city

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, July 5, 2012

Kenya Burks says she should be paid more than $1.5 million for the trouble she alleges in a federal lawsuit she filed months ago against the city and Mayor Paul Winfield, according to the latest motion and exhibit in the case.

A nine-page supplemental brief filed by attorneys for the mayor’s former chief of staff lists $1,516,000 in damages from back wages, a lump sum equal to five years of her former salary, and compensatory damages of $1 million.

The brief also contains a list of more than 30 elected officials in Vicksburg and Warren County, employees, businesspeople and others whom Burks’ lawyers say can or might be able to vouch for various aspects of a two-year sexual affair she and the mayor had. The list is available for reading at www.vicksburgpost.com.

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The brief is one of two filings by Burks’ lawyers in the past several days.

In the other, her lawyers say Winfield’s request to keep his cell phone and text records out of the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Burks should be denied due to various stall tactics employed by his legal team.

Burks’ lawyers, Nick Norris and Louis H. Watson Jr. of Jackson, claim Winfield’s counsel would work with C Spire Wireless to comply with a June 4 order from U.S. District Court that phone calls and texts from July 1, 2009, to April 18, 2011, should be presented in a closed session.

The brief says cooperation from Winfield’s attorneys came with an understanding that they have a chance to review the records to determine that no text messages were included, then immediately forward the records to the court for its review.

“However, Plaintiff’s counsel has learned today that Defendant’s counsel’s real purpose in ‘helping’ get the records to the Court was actually to delay the Court from having the opportunity to review the records,” read part of the motion. Records from AT&T also have been subpoenaed.

Burks’ suit against the city was filed in February and amended in April to include Winfield’s name individually and in his official capacity as mayor. It asks for a jury trial. The case is before U.S. District Judge David C. Bramlette III of Jackson.

A case management conference by phone is set Aug. 1 before federal Magistrate John M. Roper of Gulfport.

Burks claims she faced a hostile work environment and retaliation because of a consensual relationship with Winfield. Both are 38.

The allegations also include “quid pro quo” sexual harassment, which refers to certain job benefits such as pay raises or promotions being tied to an employee giving in to unwelcome sexual advances.

Winfield has denied claims of sexual relations. He and the city also denied in rebuttals Burks’ claims he became physically abusive with her after she tried to end the relationship and that her job was eliminated because she didn’t initially accept $9,701.59 in back overtime pay.

In a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission four days after the city board nixed her job in a 2-0 vote with Winfield abstaining, Burks said the back pay amounted to a bribe.

The court-ordered time frame for presenting cell phone records covers from two days before Winfield’s public inauguration to the day Burks’ job was ended.

Winfield is represented by attorneys Robert Gibbs and Vikki J. Taylor and the city is represented by attorney Gary Friedman, all of Jackson. The first-term mayor has said the city’s defense costs will be reflected in premiums paid to its insurance carrier and that no city funds will pay Friedman directly.