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Wrongful termination lawsuit filed against Harrisburg Mayor Wanda Williams

The lawsuit lists several alleged instances where Nathaniel Spriggs claims to feel pressured to create management positions or jobs for Williams' family members.
Credit: Photo via Twitter/@ConorLambPA

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Dauphin County man has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the City of Harrisburg and Harrisburg Mayor Wanda Williams. 

Nathaniel Spriggs alleges in the lawsuit filed on September 20, that Mayor Williams fired him after he objected to her hiring or promoting multiple family members. 

Spriggs, the former Director of Public Works in the Williams administration, was fired from the position on June 21, 2022. He had worked in the position for just under a year, starting in September of 2021.

The lawsuit lists several alleged instances where Spriggs claims to feel pressured to create management positions or jobs for Williams' family members. 

Spriggs alleges that the first incident occurred around November or December of 2021, before Williams took office, when she called and demanded that work be found for her son, Dion Dockens.

According to the lawsuit, Dockens was then an employee within the Public Works Department who had allegedly sustained a non-work-related injury. To get back onto the payroll, the lawsuit alleges that Williams warned Spriggs to "find something [for her son] or I'm going to be very upset." 

Spriggs was allegedly given until the end of the day to re-assign Dockens and did as he was told. The lawsuit alleges that Spriggs reassigned Dockens to the Highway Department, collecting leaf bags, until he was able to return to his actual job. 

The lawsuit then alleges that shortly after Williams' inauguration- around January or February of 2022- she allegedly told Spriggs over multiple phone calls to create management positions for Dockens, Williams' granddaughter, Williams' nephew, and various other members of her family. 

Williams also allegedly told Spriggs to alter the job description for the Sanitation Supervisor position so that it would fit Dockens' qualifications. 

Around February of 2022, the lawsuit alleges that Spriggs was ordered by Williams to discipline an employee for talking about Dockens. The employee was allegedly related to an ex-girlfriend of one of Williams' other sons. 

Williams allegedly insisted that Spriggs discipline the employee immediately, despite Spriggs alleging that he had "no right to discipline that employee, as no work rules had been violated," according to the lawsuit. 

Spriggs claims that he disciplined the employee, who then filed a complaint against Spriggs and the City. 

The lawsuit alleges that in March, Harrisburg was visited by the chief counsel of the State Ethics Commission. Reportedly, the counsel explained that all employees were being put on notice for ethics violations. 

Spriggs alleges that he refused to carry out Williams' demands regarding jobs for her family at that point. 

Around April, Williams allegedly screamed at Spriggs over the phone, asking him why he had not yet promoted Dockens. According to the lawsuit, Mayor Williams stated Dockens was considering moving to Ohio if he was not promoted. The mayor allegedly threatened to fire Spriggs and his entire staff if Dockens moved. 

Spriggs states in the lawsuit that he spoke with City Solicitor Neil Grover regarding Williams' demands. 

It is then alleged that Williams found out about the meeting between Spriggs and Grover. On May 2, Mayor Williams allegedly summoned Spriggs, Solicitor Grover and Human Resources Director Joni Willingham for a meeting.

Allegedly, Grover told Williams that her son could not be promoted as it violates ethics rules. However, Williams then allegedly threatened to fire all three if a solution to promoting Dockens was not reached. 

In May, according to the lawsuit, Williams was angry with Spriggs after he allegedly disciplined an employee, who was the reported boyfriend of Williams' daughter. 

Dockens was also allegedly caught driving a city-owned truck in York without a proper license on June 16, which Spriggs then disciplined and placed him on a one-day unpaid suspension for. 

Spriggs was terminated the following business day, according to the lawsuit. 

According to the lawsuit, the official reason for Spriggs' termination was signing payroll action forms the prior business day. 

Spriggs is looking for compensation for any and all pay and benefits he would have received, as well as compensatory damages for "pain, suffering and humiliation caused by the actions of Williams and the City," according to the lawsuit.

An exact monetary amount is unclear.

The City of Harrisburg has released the following statement regarding the lawsuit: 

On Wednesday, Mayor Wanda R.D. Williams was made aware of a lawsuit presented by a former employee. Mayor Williams looks forward to presenting her side of the story in court. The City of Harrisburg will offer no further comment on this pending legal matter. 

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