Former Ford official sues Mayor Greg Fischer, college president - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Former Ford official sues Mayor Greg Fischer, college president for defamation

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LOUISVILLE, KY., (WDRB) -- The former regional director of corporate and government affairs for Ford Motor Co. has filed a lawsuit against Mayor Greg Fischer and the president of Simmons College, claiming he was fired after the two men made defamatory statements about him.

The lawsuit, filed by Jay Morgan on Dec. 16 in Jefferson Circuit Court, alleges that he was fired in March after both Fischer and Simmons College president Kevin Cosby separately contacted Ford saying Morgan was promising that "Ford would fund a Ford worker training facility in Louisville."

Morgan, who denies making such a promise, claims the men made these false statements to remove him from the project and put a halt to a proposed Ford training facility in Louisville's West End.

The suit also accuses Fischer of threatening to call Morgan's superiors during a December 14, 2012, meeting. Fischer wanted to drop West Louisville as a potential location for the proposed training facility and asked Morgan questions about his relationship with Metro Councilman David James, the suit claims.

Morgan claims Fischer said of James, "you cannot trust him and should not be working with him," according to the suit. After the December 2012 meeting, Morgan said his supervisor at Ford told him Fischer had made "very serious" derogatory accusations about Morgan's work and conduct in Louisville as the Ford representative.

"He (Morgan) felt blind sided," said attorney Shane Sidebottom, who is representing Morgan. "He worked for a year to bring a training facility to west Louisville and thought everyone was on board."

Sidebottom said Fischer decided he wanted to move the training facility to east Louisville instead. Sidebottom said he is unsure why Cosby allegedly decided against the project.

Claims made in filing a lawsuit present only one side of the case.

Fischer and Cosby dismissed the allegations against them in separate statements Tuesday. Fischer called them "outrageous" while Cosby said they are "absolutely false and offensive."

"My team worked hundreds of hours trying to land a significant federal grant to support worker training in Louisville," Fischer said. "In fact, JCTC and Simmons College submitted a joint application, which was unsuccessful with the US Department of Labor. We continue to work on this important initiative."

Cosby said: "My team and I attended multiple meetings and spent several months working towards a workforce training initiative, that could benefit West Louisville, with the mayor's office, Councilman David James, JCTC and major employers to include Ford, UPS and GE."

Cosby added that Simmons will "continue to partner with JCTC, our other college partners, our elected officials and major employers to meet the workforce training and educational needs" of west Louisville.

A Ford spokeswoman didn't immediately return messages to her work and cell phone. 

At that time he was fired, Morgan had worked with Ford for more than 23 years, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is requesting a jury trial as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

Morgan said his work in Louisville started in October 2011 and that in January 2012, Fischer, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and Ford president Mark Fields met to discuss the newly formed Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement initiative and workforce education and training issues in Louisville, according to the suit.

Morgan said he worked closely with Fischer to develop a plan to locate state and federal funds to establish an education and training facility in Louisville.

In June 2012, according to the suit, Morgan met with James, who recommended Simmons College as a partner in the project. Morgan recommended the partnership to Fischer in a meeting with the mayor and his staff, the suit claims.

James declined to comment until he has had a chance to review the lawsuit.

After that meeting, a Ford employee was "hounded" by one of the participants in the City Hall meeting who "strongly criticized" Ford for partnering with a "two-bit black bible college," according to the suit, which does not name the person who allegedly made that statement.

The lawsuit claims Morgan set up meetings with Fischer, Cosby, James and an assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor who said the proposed training facility in West Louisville would be eligible for up to $15 million in federal grants and additional funds.

Fischer originally agreed with putting the training facility in West Louisville – allegedly saying it would "help my re-election" – and his team identified eight acres of West End land.

In early December 2012, Simmons College told Fischer's work team the college would not be able to purchase the property but would still be interested in working on the initiative, according to the suit.

As new sites were discussed, with James part of the talks, Morgan received an e-mail from Fischer to meet, where the mayor began asking about Morgan's relationship with James, the suit claims.

Last month, Jefferson Community & Technical College, which was originally approached about the idea, announced it was seeking state grant funds to a training facility in east Louisville, according to the suit.

"This was close to being a done deal," Sidebottom said. "For some reason Metro government pulled up at the last minute and wanted it in east Louisville"

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