September 21 — A deputy director of the Lexington Parks Department has been suspended for making several inappropriate remarks about religion, employee clothing and the LGBTQ community, according to documents obtained by the Lexington-Herald-Leader.
The city’s human resources department corroborated six violations against Chris Cooperrider, who has worked for the parks since 2009. Two were for violating harassment policies and four were violations of city policies regarding professional behavior, according to a report. September 2 note obtained by the Herald-Leader. through an Open Records Act application.
Cooperrider is appealing the 48-hour suspension, according to the documents.
“We will vigorously defend the allegations: they are false and politically motivated,” said Chris Wiest, counsel for Cooperrider. Wiest of Northern Kentucky represents U.S. Representatives Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky, Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia and Ralph Norman, RS.C., in a lawsuit against the mask mandate of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Wiest has also filed various lawsuits challenging the state’s COVID restrictions
In addition to the suspension, Cooperrider was ordered to take additional harassment training.
“The substantiated allegations include inappropriate remarks regarding religion, the LGBTQ community, COVID policy and employee clothing,” the city’s memo reads. “Mr. Cooperrider has also been found to have engaged in conversations with staff which may be intended to manipulate, intimidate and / or threaten the employee’s ability to promote within the classified public service system in the future or to make things difficult with regard to the work environment, as well as conversations involving the occupation of a position for the purpose of promoting a particular employee. “
This is not the first time that Cooperrider has been accused of making inappropriate remarks to his subordinates.
Prior to his employment at Lexington, Cooperrider was a Parks and Public Works Supervisor in Mentor, Ohio.
In August 2008, Cooperrider and the town of Mentor were sued unsuccessfully in federal court by a former part-time park worker, alleging, among other complaints, gender discrimination.
The lawsuit was filed by Claudia Unger, who was a part-time maintenance and garden warden for the parks department, according to court records and media.
After giving birth in January 2004, Unger claimed she applied again for her job, but Cooperrider, her supervisor, told her she should “stay home and have more babies.” necessary and she was not rehired until April or May, according to the complaint filed with the U.S. District Court in Ohio. Cooperrider also reportedly told her that she would not be eligible for benefits full time and would have to work at Starbucks if she wanted benefits.
The lawsuit said that although she was a seasonal employee, Unger often worked 11 months a year. She was denied full-time union status, according to the lawsuit.
Unger filed an unfair labor practices complaint in August 2007. In September, she was told she would be fired by the city, court records show.
A U.S. District Court judge ruled in the city’s favor in 2009 and dismissed the case, court records show. Unger was a part-time seasonal employee and therefore was not eligible for union status under state rules, the judge wrote. The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals finally upheld the decision in 2010.
According to a November 2008 Willoughby, Ohio News-Herald article on the lawsuit, Cooperrider retired from the department in November 2008.
Officials in the town of Mentor, Ohio did not immediately respond to a phone call or email regarding Cooperrider’s departure from his job in the town.
When applying for the City of Lexington, Cooperrider said he left the mentoring position to “achieve personal growth”. The city’s request also asks if a potential candidate has been fired or forced to resign in the past 12 months. Cooperrider checked “no”.
It is not clear whether the city was aware of the claims against Cooperrider when he was hired in January 2009 under the administration of then-mayor Jim Newberry. There was no other disciplinary action in Cooperrider’s personnel file.
Susan Straub, a city spokesperson, said the city is not commenting on personnel matters.
Cooperrider is the father of Andrew Cooperrider, the owner of Lexington Brewed Coffee who was one of four men who unsuccessfully attempted to file a petition to impeach Governor Andy Beshear over his COVID-19 tenures. Andrew Cooperrider recently announced that he will run for Senator Alice Forgy Kerr’s Lexington Senate seat. Kerr has announced that she will not be running again.
This story was originally posted on September 21, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.