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July 29, 2017
Bernard Best came to the United Sates from Barbados, where he was a police officer. Once in Atlanta, he trained to become a housing inspector and obtained a job with the City of Atlanta in April of 2013. The City of Atlanta administers a program in the Building Department and elsewhere called the Professional Certification Program. This policy offers incentive pay to employees who obtain additional certifications in their fields. Mr. Best enrolled in the program to improve his earning potential and his skills as a building inspector. He obtained three additional certifications through the program, which, according to City Ordinances, entitled him to an additional $6,000 in annual compensation. However, Mr. Best’s managers refused to approve his new pay.
After several attempts to obtain the City’s compliance, Mr. Best obtained records of employee payments under the Georgia Open Records Act, to see whether he misunderstood how the program operated. To his astonishment, Mr. Best learned through these records that many city employees in the building department were being paid incentive benefits for certifications that did not comply with the law and in some cases, for certifications that had been earned years before the program’s existence. Mr. Best reported the department’s apparent arbitrary award of incentive pay in violation of the City’s ordinances. Within a month of his complaints, he was fired.
Parks, Chesin & Walbert filed suit on Mr. Best’s behalf under the Georgia Whistleblower Act, showing that he was fired because of his disclosure of violations of the Professional Certification ordinance. In the summer of 2017, after the case was scheduled for trial, the City agreed to pay Mr. Best $280,000.
PCW partner Andy Coffman was lead counsel for Mr. Best. The case is Bernard Best v. City of Atlanta.