Catlettsburg’s recently fired city clerk has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and its mayor, Pauline Hunt, alleging she was wrongfully terminated.

In the suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Ashland, Susan Spencer claims she was fired because of public comments she made about the city’s missing financial records and that her right to free speech, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, was violated as a result.

Spencer also alleges the city violated her right to due process by letting her go without a per-termination hearing and it broke state law by firing her in retaliation for reporting the missing records to the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives.

Following her firing, Spencer told The Independent her letter of termination stated she was being dismissed because of complaints Hunt had received about her from “most departments and the city’s independent auditors.”

However, in the lawsuit, Spencer claims her firing, which came a month after Hunt was elected mayor, was “unrelated to her work performance,” but was solely the result of her actions regarding the missing records. Spencer pushed for a full-scale investigation and an audit of the city’s books, neither of which was done.

Spencer was hired by the city in May to work as a deputy city clerk under Hunt, who had served as the city’s clerk and treasurer for more than three decades. Hunt subsequently retired from her position in July 31 to run for the office of mayor, which Don Wellman resigned from in January after coming under fire for handing out thousands in cost-of-living adjustment bonuses for himself, city council members and city employees.

In her lawsuit, Spencer claims there were tensions between her and Hunt following her hiring as deputy clerk. She alleges she was given a desk in the lobby of the clerk’s office and “was not involved in the paying of invoices or other duties that would normally be assigned to the assistant clerk.”

Also, Spencer said she was instructed by Hunt to not speak to any of the people who came to see Hunt.

Spencer also claims in the suit that she found “many inconsistencies, overpayments and accounts that could not be accounted for” when she reviewed the city’s financial records, along with “improper invoices that had not been paid to insurance companies.”

When questioned about those issues, Hunt tried to place the blame for them on Spencer, the suit states.

Spencer contacted the Department of Libraries and Archives about the missing financial records on Aug. 2, the suit states.

Hunt has repeatedly denied that she had anything to do with the records going missing and has maintained they were taken as part of an effort to discredit her and to thwart her mayoral bid.

Spencer’s suit seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages against Hunt “for her blatant indifference to the plaintiff’s constitutional rights,” a jury trial, court costs and attorney’s fees.

Hunt and City Attorney Jeremy Clark both declined Monday to comment on the suit, citing a city policy of not discussing pending litigation.

Claims made in civil lawsuits state only one side of an issue.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.

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