Alexandria, VA

During a City Council meeting last night, the city moved to settle on a discrimination case involving the Alexandria Fire Department reprimanding and disciplining a captain requesting medical leave to handle a disability.

Last December, EMS Captain Michael Cahill — who has worked for the Alexandria Fire Department since 1994 — filed a lawsuit against the city alleging that he faced discrimination and retaliation as a disabled person requesting medical leave.

The lawsuit said that Cahill’s disabilities include post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, both of which had a substantial impact on his activities. Cahill’s son also suffers a congenital heart condition. As a result of both his disabilities and his son’s, Cahill said his use of sick leave began to increase around January 2018, before which he said it was rarely used.

By July, Cahill said he received a disciplinary memorandum accusing him of an excessive level of unscheduled sick leave and ordering him to produce doctors’ notes “each time [he] utilize[d] sick leave of any type.” Cahill said during this time, he had a positive/high leave balance and had never taken more than one day of sick leave in a row.

Cahill said in the suit that he had a balance of 800 hours of sick leave and had only taken 511 hours, while still working 1,888 hours.

Throughout late 2018, Cahill listed instances of paperwork he submitted to his commander to be filed with Human Resources that never arrived at that office, and said no action was taken on leave requests because the reasons were listed as “too vague.”

When Cahill challenged disciplinary action taken against him, the suit says the hearing officer ruled in Cahill’s favor and ordered that Cahill’s leave be restored, but the lawsuit says the AFD never restored those hours.

“Mr. Cahill submitted his medical leave paperwork on August 6, 2018, yet he was forced to wait an entire six months before his medical leave was finally approved on January 15, 2019,” the lawsuit said. “AFD’s actions in this regard were unlawful, especially in light of the fact that AFD failed to engage in any timely interactive process.”

In another scenario, Cahill says he requested four hours of leave to take his son to a cardiology appointment but later canceled the leave when AFD could not find a replacement. But while Cahill worked those hours after AFD canceled the leave, the lawsuit says Cahill was never paid for that work despite proof that he was on duty from two incident reports.

“Mr. Cahill considers AFD’s unwillingness to pay him for the hours he worked after canceling the leave as retaliatory,” the lawsuit said.

The City Council entered into a closed session at the beginning of yesterday’s (Tuesday’s) meeting and emerged unanimously agreed to direct the City Attorney to enter into settlement agreements for the lawsuit.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Morning Notes

City Faces Dozens of Lawsuits — “Between 2014 and 2019, 101 lawsuits were filed against the city, and 20 of those cases are still active, according to data the Alexandria Times acquired through the city… Over the last six years, the city has faced 37 claims cases, 20 land-use cases, 15 civil rights cases, 12 employment cases, 11 real estate assessment cases, two FOIA cases, two mandamus cases and two procurement cases.” [Alexandria Times]

Restaurants That Locals Still Miss — “When you talk with locals about restaurants they miss, there’s usually at least one place they can name… We’ve received nearly 40 responses covering Old Town and other areas of the city. Places mentioned by multiple people included Austin Grill, Overwood, Mango Mike’s, Flying Fish and Geranio.” [Patch]

New Bank Branch Opens in Carlyle — “Bank of America celebrated its latest Alexandria location with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday morning inside the newly opened financial center in the heart of Alexandria’s Carlyle neighborhood. The location, at 415 John Carlyle St., is Bank of America’s 10th financial center in the Alexandria/Springfield market and fourth in Alexandria proper.” [Alexandria Living]

GW Middle Students Try Meditation — “Middle school can be a stressful environment, so… at George Washington Middle School, some teachers are starting class with meditation. The lights are dimmed, soothing music is turned on and teachers guide the kids to breathe, settle in and focus on something positive.” [WTOP]

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Morning Notes

Huge Fire South of Alexandria — “A large fire in Fairfax County destroyed an unfinished development of apartments and retail stores Saturday, shutting down traffic along Route 1 for several hours while firefighters battled the blaze and thick black smoke that could be seen for several miles.” Alexandria firefighters, along with firefighters from other nearby jurisdictions, responded to the scene as mutual aid. [Washington Post, NBC 4, Twitter]

Views of the Fire from Around the City — Smoke from the South Alex fire could be seen from around the city and beyond. Here are some of the views.

T.C. Williams Lights Trial Delayed — “The trial to determine whether Alexandria City Public Schools can add lights to T.C. Williams High School’s new football stadium has been postponed from Feb. 24 to June 8, Lars Liebeler, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said… Residents from six of the neighboring households filed an original complaint in August 2018.” [Alexandria Times]

History of the Oakland Baptist Church — “Longing for their own church, they organized themselves and built Oak Hill Baptist Church in 1888. The men would leave work on their day jobs, go directly to the building site of the church, and start working. They would continue building the church after work on the weekends week after week until the church was finished.” [Zebra]

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A lawsuit to try to prevent the owners of a late-18th century home in Old Town from demolishing parts of the historic property has been thrown out, but the plaintiff in the case has filed an appeal.

The house at 619 S. Lee Street has been owned by various local dignitaries over the years, from former mayor and editor of the Alexandria Gazette-Packet Edgar Snowden to Hugo Black, a member of the Supreme Court from 1937 to 1971. Black notably wrote the majority opinion in a decision justifying the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, filibustered an anti-lynching bill while a U.S. senator, and was at one point a member of the KKK.

The owners of the house won approval from the City Council earlier this year to demolish parts of the home, including a curved wall built in the late 1800s that the owners said was causing damage to the main building, according to the Alexandria Times. The changes to the home were opposed by a group of Old Town residents at every step of the process, arguing the changes were not in keeping with the historic nature of the home.

Yvonne Callahan, former president of the Old Town Citizens Association and one of the opponents of the demolition, filed a lawsuit against the City of Alexandria challenging the decision.

On Nov. 7, court records show that the case was dismissed with prejudice by the court, with Judge Lisa Kemler arguing that the topic had been fairly debated with enough time for public input and that — like with the lawsuit concerning the slaughterhouse — the parties involved in the lawsuit were unable to show that they were sufficiently aggrieved by the city’s approval of the demolition.

As of Nov. 26, an appeal of Kemler’s decision was already filed to the Supreme Court of Virginia.

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Morning Notes

Slaughterhouse Lawsuit Dismissed — “Alexandria Circuit Court Judge Lisa Kemler ruled on Nov. 27 to dismiss a lawsuit filed against city council’s decision to approve a live poultry butcher shop at 3225 Colvin St. The hearing was in response to a complaint filed by 10 plaintiffs… Kemler ruled to dismiss the case, concluding that the alleged harms were ‘too speculative.'” [Alexandria Times]

Photos With Santa and AFD — “Get your holiday pictures taken with Santa! @IAFFLocal2141 Helping Hands Fund will host its Photos with Santa event at Fire Station 201 (317 Prince St.) from 11am to 3pm Sunday, Dec. 8 and again on Sunday, Dec. 15. Photos are $10 & proceeds benefit the IAFF Local 2141 Toy Drive.” [Twitter/@AlexandriaVAFD]

Potomac Yard Resident Makes Nat’l Hockey Team — “Charlie is now legally blind – his vision having deteriorated as a result of a genetic condition known as Retinitis pigmentosa – but his career as an athlete has never been better. As of this year, Charlie is one of six new players to join the USA National Blind Hockey Team.” [Alexandria Times]

Credit Union Moves to New HQ — “The Alexandria-based U.S. Senate Federal Credit Union is growing, again, and moving its headquarters. Wednesday morning, the credit union hosted a the groundbreaking ceremony for its new Bertie H. Bowman Building at 1310 Braddock Place, just a few feet from the Braddock Metro station.” [Alexandria Living]

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Morning Notes

Chicken Butcher Suit Costly for City — “The city of Alexandria has paid an outside law firm $49,573 so far to help it fight an ongoing lawsuit about a halal chicken butchery that’s scheduled to open in an industrial area of the city.” [Washingtonian]

Alexandria Winter Shelter Now Open — “The City’s Winter Shelter at 5701-D Duke St. will open today at 7pm, and transportation is available. Please share with anyone who needs a safe and warm place to stay.” [Twitter]

T.C. QB Leads Team to Playoffs — “You could say T.C. Williams High School senior Robert Longerbeam has had a good fall. As quarterback of T.C’s football team, he has led the Titans to the state playoffs, breaking several school records along the way. He was also T.C.’s homecoming king.” [Alexandria Times]

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Pending litigation for a halal slaughterhouse in Alexandria just off Duke Street has put plans to open early next year on the chopping block.

Saba Live Poultry overcame a series of hurdles this year, starting with approval from the City Council in March in spite of backlash from neighbors and most recently a lawsuit from nearby businesses, which was dismissed.

But the landlord for the property and Abdul Alyamami, an agent for Saba Live Poultry, said the judge’s ruling in the lawsuit is being disputed and has stalled work on converting the industrial property to a slaughterhouse. The complaint was amended to address the grounds of dismissal, according to WUSA 9.

Opposition from neighbors ranged from concerns about the smell from the slaughterhouse to its impact on property values for other nearby businesses.

Alyamami said the owner of Saba Live Poultry was ready to immediately start work on the property but said that while the appeal is being considered no work would be done. While the project initially had a goal to open in January, Alyamami said when the slaughterhouse will open is entirely up in the air and dependent on when the court returns with a ruling on the appeal.

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Morning Notes

Suit Filed Over Chicken Slaughterhouse — “The drama over the halal poultry butcher shop coming to Alexandria did not end when city council approved the business’ special use permit on March 26… About a month after the SUP approval, 10 businesses and residents filed a lawsuit against the City of Alexandria and the Alexandria City Council over the decision.” [Alexandria Times]

FBI Releases 2018 Crime Stats — “In Alexandria, violent crime fell from 262 to 260. That includes four murders and nonnegligent manslaughters, down from six in the previous year. Alexandria had 2,482 property crimes total in 2018, the same number reported in 2017.” [Patch]

Saturday: Hispanic Heritage Fiesta — “Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with music, crafts, food, dance and face painting! All ages. Children under age 8 must remain with their adult at all times.” [Alexandria Library]

Update on First Phase of VT Campus — “Virginia Tech is looking to start building the first part of its $1 billion innovation campus — a 300,000-square-foot academic building — by August 2021… The design for the school is expected to be finished by September of next year. The estimated total cost for the building: $275 million.” [Washington Business Journal]

Sentencing for Robbery Suspect — “A man involved in an armed burglary and robbery at a veteran’s home in Alexandria has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.” [Patch]

Chamber Fetes Top Local Businesses — “The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce held its annual Best in Business Awards, presented by Burke & Herbert Bank, at The Westin Alexandria last night to recognize and celebrate the city’s top businesses.” [Alexandria Times]

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