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Thursday, March 3, 2005 11:58 pm

Sue city

The city of Springfield has filed a defamation suit against a former employee, Sarah Gripper, in response to her lawsuit against the city.

Gripper worked as a grants technician in the public works department from 1995 until Sept. 30, 2003, when she was laid off because the grant that funded her job had expired, according to the city. Gripper, however, claimed that other grant-funded employees were given positions elsewhere in the city or that new funding was found when their grants expired.

She filed suit in federal court six months ago, alleging racial discrimination and retaliation. According to her complaint, a white male supervisor twice called her a “stupid black bitch.” Gripper, who is African-American, reported this insult to human-resources staff and other city officials, according to the complaint.

The city denied the allegations and filed a counterclaim accusing Gripper of making false statements, knowingly and with malice, causing the city of Springfield to suffer “damages to its reputation.” The counterclaim does not specify what Gripper said, when she said it, or to whom she made the allegedly malicious statements.

Corporation counsel Jenifer Johnson declined to comment on the city’s counterclaim, saying only that such vague pleadings are allowed in federal court.

On Feb. 8, Judge Richard Mills denied the city’s motion to dismiss Gripper’s case. The case is expected to go to trial in 2006.

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