CHARLESTON – The former director of a state anti-poverty agency has promptly filed a lawsuit contesting her recent termination.

Kelly C. Davis filed suit against her former employer, the Governor's Office of Economic Opportunity, in Kanawha Circuit Court on Jan. 21. In her complaint, Davis, 45, of Buckhannon, alleges she was wrongfully terminated from GOEO in November after voicing concerns about misuse of funds.

According to her suit, Davis "[d]uring her employment" with GOEO, "performed her duties in a satisfactory manner and met [their] reasonable expectations." Despite that, she was "willfully, maliciously and unlawfully terminated" on Nov. 10.

No details are given in the suit as to when she began her employment, her duties or job title.

However, according to The Charleston Daily Mail, Davis was hired in 2009 as GOEO's deputy director, and chief monitor. Because the job required she conduct inspections of agency funded projects across the state, Davis was allowed to work out of an office in Buckhannon.

In December 2009, Davis became the acting director following the abrupt resignation of Ed Harper, who'd been the agency's director since 2006. Harper's resignation came in the midst of a lawsuit Fifth Third Bank filed against him, Apostolic Life Cathedral, a Guyandotte church where Harper serves as pastor and a Tennessee man, Mark Manuel, in U.S. District Court accusing them of filing fraudulent documents to obtain a loan.

According to The Charleston Gazette, Davis served as acting director until Sept. 20, 2009, when then Gov. Joe Manchin appointed Julie Alston to fill Harper's vacancy. Manchin lauded the "wonderful job" Davis did as acting director saying he was "very proud of her leadership and commitment to the organization."

Prior to being appointed to GOEO, Alston served as co-CEO of Roark-Sullivan Lifeway Center, a homeless shelter in Charleston.

According to the state Auditor's Office, Davis' salary for 2009 was $35,000.

In her suit, Davis alleges she was fired in retaliation for expressing concerns over how GOEO's allocation of grant money may be in violation of both federal and state law. The suit provides no specifics of how grant money may have been misused.

According to its Web site, GOEO administers money received from various federal agencies though the Community Development Block Grant to provide job training, housing assistance and weatherization assistance for those with low- or fixed-incomes.

Nevertheless, Davis maintains she suffered not only "lost wages and benefits," but also "indignity, embarrassment and humiliation" as a result of her termination.

Davis seeks damages in the amount of the state's liability insurance coverage which is $1 million, plus interest, attorney fees and court costs. She is represented by Mark A. Atkinson with the Charleston law firm of Atkinson and Polak.

The case is assigned to Judge James C. Stucky.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 11-C-127

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