City refuses to pay attorney fees in spycam case

J.R. Harris says his pursuit of legal fees for his wrongful termination from the Charlottesville Fire Department wasn’t about the money, but about what took place.
Photo: Martyn Kyle J.R. Harris says his pursuit of legal fees for his wrongful termination from the Charlottesville Fire Department wasn’t about the money, but about what took place. Photo: Martyn Kyle

A personnel appeals board gave Charlottesville Fire Department mechanic J.R. Harris the job back from which he was fired last October, along with back pay and benefits. The city declined, however, to cover the $16,000 he spent on attorney fees to get reinstated.

Human Resources Director Galloway Beck said that’s because there’s no legal authority for the city to reimburse employees for personal legal expenses—even if the city’s actions caused the employee to require a lawyer.

“We’re considering litigation options now against the city and conspirators,” said Harris’ attorney, Janice Redinger, who maintained that he was fired because of fabricated excuses about his work performance and a bottle alleged to be alcohol that was found in his desk, leading Deputy Chief Emily Pelliccia to get the police to put a hidden camera in his office.

Harris returns to work March 23.