Judge Franco files discrimination complaint over residency inquiry

Kansas City Municipal Judge Elena Franco has filed a discrimination complaint against the city, City Manager Troy Schulte and Court Administrator John Franklin.

Franco alleges that a city investigation last year into her residency was in fact retaliation for her opposition to a prosecutor’s office restructuring, and that since she returned to court after a suspension last summer, the retaliation has continued.

The allegations are contained in a filing with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, obtained by The Kansas City Star. Such filings are frequently precursors to the filing of a lawsuit.

Franco’s attorney, Mark Jess, declined comment Tuesday on the complaint. City Attorney Bill Geary also declined comment.

In her complaint, Franco noted that she was questioned by a Star reporter in October 2010 about whether she met the city charter requirement that she reside in the city. At the time, she gave Schulte documents proving that she has a residence within the city limits and other documents showing her husband has a separate residence just outside the city limits.

She also gave Schulte copies of the relevant case law on residency and said he assured her she had nothing to worry about.

Franco stated that in the spring of 2011, she began questioning a restructuring of the city prosecutor’s office that she felt was discriminatory because it would get rid of several long-term and older prosecutors.

She stated that she later learned that the city tracked her movements during the summer through a private investigator and through camera surveillance of her home and her husband’s home.

In late August, she was suspended without pay or benefits on the allegation that she had violated the city’s residency requirement.

In September, however, the Municipal Judicial Nominating Commission found Franco had not violated the city’s residency rule, and she was reinstated to the court with back pay. But she alleged that the retaliation continued against her because, among other things, she was denied access to emails and the court’s shared computer server.

“The city’s investigation of me and its suspension of me without pay or benefits (while simultaneously leaking the suspension to the press in an effort to embarrass and humiliate me) were in direct retaliation for my opposition to what I reasonably believed to be illegal discrimination and/or other illegal activity,” she said in her complaint.